Study Says Yoga May Reduce Testosterone By 29% In Women With PCOS

mbg Editorial Assistant By Abby Moore
mbg Editorial Assistant
Abby Moore is an Editorial Assistant at mindbodygreen. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin and has previously written for Tribeza magazine.
Woman Practicing Yoga - Warrior II

As many as one in 10 women of childbearing age in the U.S. suffer from polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The health issue is caused by an imbalance in reproductive hormones, and while there is currently no cure, there are a variety of treatment options. In fact, new research suggests mindful yoga might be one way to manage symptoms.

A study published in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association found mindful yoga practices might help ease symptoms of PCOS, reduce androgen (a group of male sex hormones, which includes testosterone) levels, and improve feelings of depression and anxiety.

What did the researchers find?

Researchers from the Department of Biochemistry at the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine studied 31 women with PCOS between 23 and 42 years old. The participants were split into two groups: One engaged in mindful yoga over the course of three months, while the other group received no intervention. 

After practicing yoga for at least one hour, three times a week during the three-month period, the women's hormones changed significantly. "There was a significant decrease in free testosterone (29%) for participants in the mindful yoga group," the study said, "and DHEA levels also trended lower."

Along with reducing heightened androgen levels, the sessions decreased depression for the participants by 55% and anxiety by 21%. According to the study, "Some participants reported an improvement in their acne, as well as a shorter menstrual cycle length after the yoga intervention."

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Why does this matter?

Common symptoms of PCOS, according to the CDC, include irregular periods or no periods; higher than normal levels of male hormones that may result in excess hair on the face and body, acne, or thinning scalp hair; and multiple small cysts on the ovaries. 

Reducing androgen levels, including testosterone and DHEA, is helpful for managing those symptoms, according to a news release on the study.

"There are effective pharmacologic options for managing PCOS," says Diana Speelman, Ph.D., lead author of the study, according to the same news release. "However, they come with the potential for some significant side effects."

Based on this research, a regular mindful yoga practice may be a viable natural, lower-risk option for managing PCOS. "Yoga has so many benefits," Speelman says. "One of its best qualities is that it is accessible to such a wide array of ages and fitness levels."

Bottom line.

While the study was on the smaller side and the topic could benefit from additional research, it shows promising results for yoga as a complementary therapeutic option for women with PCOS.

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The group who engaged in mindful yoga took a three-hour mindfulness course before beginning. They learned breathing exercises, slow walking meditations, positive self-talk, tapping, guided imagery, and appreciative inquiry. If you're interested in adding the practice to your routine, it may help to first learn the basics of mindfulness with a meditation or breathing course.

Of course, always consult your doctor before changing your PCOS treatment plan. 

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