Your Hormones on Yoga
This blog is the first in a series on the endocrine system and the positive effects Yoga has on it. After listening to an interview with gynaecologist and author Sara Gotfried MD, I was stunned to learn how women of all ages are often not heard by doctors when they describe symptoms. Most doctors write off things like cramps, weight gain, and hair loss as part of being a woman, so pop a pill and move on.
I read Dr. Gotfried’s book, The Hormone Cure, and decided it was time to become more attune to the glands at work when practising Yoga and be sure to incorporate poses (asanas) that massage the six glands offering stimulation and vitality.
Women in particular, have to take care of the endocrine system before, during and after the reproductive years and having your hormones on Yoga is an excellent, natural approach. This week, I’ll give a brief overview of the function of the glands that make up the endocrine system. Then, over the next six weeks, I’ll share some Yoga postures to massage and stimulate these glands.
The endocrine system is a network of glands that make and release hormones into the body. We need hormones for all kinds of reasons such as breathing, regulating mood, metabolisation, reproducing, building muscle, and the list goes on and on. Here’s a quick run-down on the glands’ basic functions:
Hypothalamus – Has a regulatory role along with the pituatary. It regulates weight, hunger, thirst, sex drive, mood, body temperature and sleep. What on earth does it NOT regulate?
Pineal – Releases melatonin so your body knows when it’s time to go to sleep.
Pituitary – This is the grand-daddy of hormones and has a big job. It influences other organs of the body and regulates overall well-being. In addition, it produces growth hormones as well as prolactin, oxytocin and many more. The pituitary also directly controls the thyroid as well, regulates estrogen, produces cortisol and helps to maintain healthy muscles and bone mass. Think of it as Hormones HQ.
Parathyroid – Made up of four small glands situated behind the thyroid that control calcium and phosphorus levels in the body.
Thyroid – Governs how the body will use energy, produce heat and consume oxygen as well as controls metabolism. If this is out of balance you may feel sluggish and heavy.
Thymus – Helps the body develop a healthy immune system as well as develop during puberty.
Adrenal – Produces androgens and cortisol. Helps with stress response, fat distribution and promotes healthy gastrointestinal and cardiovascular function.
Kidneys – Although this is a major organ it still has a secondary endocrine function to produce the hormones renin and erythropoietin which controls blood pressure and stimulates bone marrow respectively.
Pancreas – Produces insulin and glucagon. It helps the body maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
Ovaries/Testes – The ovaries produce eggs and the sex hormones oestrogen, testosterone and progesterone in females. The testes produce sperm and testosterone. We often think these hormones are only linked to reproduction but they also play a role in bone health and mood.
Keep a look out for the next instalment of Your Hormones on Yoga and take your hormone health to a new level.
Research on gland function was found at the Hormone Health Network website.