Balance Those Hormones!

The endocrine system is a complex system made up of several major glands – pineal, pituitary, parathyroid, thyroid, thymus, adrenal, pancreas, ovaries and testes. The word endocrine originates from the Greek words “endo” and “crinis”, which mean “to secret inside”. In simple terms, the endocrine system involves secretion of chemical messengers called hormones into the blood stream, and it is the main controller of important body processes like metabolism, heart rate, mental and physical growth, mineral balance, mood, sleep and reproduction.

It is a delicate system that requires constant fine-tuning and any upset in the balance (too much/little hormones) can result in disease development. For example, imbalance of thyroid hormones can lead to problems in heart rate regulation and digestion, while imbalance of mood hormones like serotonin can lead to mood disorders like depression. What is more commonly seen in today’s world is a dysregulation of pituitary and adrenal gland hormones, where an excess secretion of cortisol results in problems like stress, anxiety and insomnia.

Here are some simple ways on how yoga can help support the endocrine system:

1. Pranayama
Pranayama, which means “to extend the vital life force,” is a practice made up of several different types of breathing techniques. It focuses on lengthening the breath, which increases oxygen supply to the lungs and circulatory system. This in turn increases the amount of oxygen-rich blood that is sent to the major glands and organs in the body. The practice of pranayama is especially beneficial for stressed individuals, as it activates the parasympathetic nervous system and counters the effect of stress hormones, allowing them to feel more relaxed.

2. Yoga Nidra
Yoga nidra means “yogic sleep”. In the practice, one enters a state of deep relaxation while maintaining consciousness. When practised correctly, it can release muscular tension, reduce stress and strengthen the endocrine system as a whole.

3. Asana
The practice of asanas (yoga postures) can also help to support the endocrine system. For example, sirsasana (headstand) and standing forward bend can help improve the function of the pituitary and pineal gland by increasing blood flow to the brain, while poses like Sarvangasana (shoulder stand) and halasana (plow pose) help to improve the function of thyroid and parathyroid gland. Balasana (child’s pose) helps to soothe the adrenal glands, which in turn relieves stress and anxiety, and hip-opening poses like Eka Pada Rajakapostasana (pigeon pose) can help to regulate the production of sex hormones by stimulating the reproductive glands.

All in all, a regular yoga practice can help to boost our overall well-being by supporting the endocrine system. Do note, however, that the effect of yoga alone may not be drastic enough to correct hormonal imbalances and hence, one should still seek medical help if he/she has been diagnosed with hormonal disorders.

Li Xin
200hr YTT (Weekend Batch)