By Helena Lucas
Yoga practice aims for internal balance. Fundamentally this involves optimisation of your endocrine system. Yoga postures and breathing techniques, in conjunction with meditation practices and chanting, stimulate your endocrine glands to enhance their functioning. This is achieved by internal massage on muscles and spine, by internal massage through sounds, by improving circulation, by stimulation of body areas which have connections to specific organs as demonstrated through reflexology techniques, focusing on chakras, and exercising the triple warmer muscles of your thorax.
Your endocrine system consists of glands that release chemical messages called ‘hormones’ to regulate your organism’s functions. Hormones are involved in growth and development, tissue function, metabolism (affecting weight regulation and hunger), and in your mood. They play a role in your experiencing relaxation or stress, pleasure or frustration, and fear or joy. Scientific experiments prove the relationship between our moods as reaction to external stimuli or circumstances, as with film themes, and hormone secretion. We know that hormonal imbalances affect our mood, and thus our decision-making, in undesirable ways. Consequences of our day-to-day choices will inevitably amount to change the direction of our lives. In this light, Yoga’s beneficial effect on our endocrine system is of paramount importance to all regardless of age or gender.
Your body ‘chakras’ or energy foci keep close relation with your internal glands that constitute your endocrine system. Yogis understand that when the pineal gland and the pituitary gland (or hypophysis) receive sufficient energy, they will channel impulses from the other endocrine glands in synchronicity to optimise rhythms for good health. Your pineal gland corresponds to your ‘third eye’ and is linked to your developing transcendental wisdom. Yoga meditation techniques powerfully stimulate this gland. Your pituitary gland, at the base of your brain, relates to inspiration and intuition. Its functioning is enhanced by The Archway yoga posture. A very pleasant practice to promote emotional balance through your endocrine system is the Kundalini Yoga Sat Nam (True Self) meditation exercise using breathing and chanting techniques.
Your thyroid gland, found below your larynx, or below Adam’s apple in men, is responsible for your body’s energy burning rate, and for your body’s sensitivity to other hormones. It produces the thyroid hormones Thyroxine (T4) and Triiodothyronine (T3), involved in regulating your metabolism, and in the growth and rate of function of other bodily systems. It is controlled by the hypothalamus and pituitary gland. In Yoga, it is connected to your chakra visshudda, which relates to your communication skills. Your thyroid’s functions are directly linked to your mood. When this gland becomes overactive (hyperthyroidism) or underactive (hypothyroidism) we experience undesirable effects. Excessive thyroid hormonal secretion produces nervousness, irritability, excessive hunger, palpitations, laboured breathing and an abnormally fast digestion. An underactive thyroid results in our apathy and tiredness. The inverted yoga posture Head Stand greatly enhances the functioning of your thyroid gland by bringing an increased amount of blood to your throat area, resulting especially helpful in execution with the Breath of Fire in Kundalini Yoga. The Throat Lotus Kriya combines exercises with powerful yoga breathing techniques to work your thyroid and parathyroid glands.
The thymus gland, also part of your endocrine system and located under your breastbone, has a central role in keeping a strong immune system. In Yoga, it is connected to your anahata chakra, relating to your capacity for loving and opening up to others. The Throat Lotus Kriya also stimulates this gland. Your adrenal glands, sitting above your kidneys, release hormones in conjunction to stress due to our fear or frustration, and also when hipoglucemia occurs. This results in the hyperactive state of ‘fight or flight’. If we don’t respond to this state through movement as intended by its bodily mechanism then we enter a state of stress. These glands of your endocrine system are connected to your manipura chakra relating to power-seeking, perseverance and will-power. The Camel yoga posture enhances blood flow through your suprarenal glands.
Your gonads secrete sex hormones and affect your vitality.They connect with your svadisthana chakra in relation to pleasure, creativity and joy of life. Yoga exercises and meditation are of help to men and women experiencing changes in hormonal levels due to aging. Women dealing with the perimenopause or menopause find relief from stress, and production of stress hormones by their bodies is reduced. Yoga’s inverted postures, as the Downward Facing Dog, direct blood towards our pineal, pituitary, thyroid and hypothalamus glands. This can help stabilise severe hormonal fluctuations. It is important here to note contraindications to yoga’s inverted postures for people with high blood pressure, hyperactive thyroid, Graves disease, glaucoma, and detached retina. If this includes you, please be sure to consult with a professional for evaluation and advice.
The invaluable benefits to be experienced through our mood and stability by engaging in yoga practice are not to be dismissed by anyone who wishes to enhance their well-being. This holds regardless of your present condition. You will undoubtedly enrich your life through these simple techniques, be it to elevate your wellness to an even higher level, or to mark the start of a rising stage that promotes healing and comfort. Whatever your situation, yoga will lead your way to unprecedented well-being.