Your endocrine system consists of glands that secrete various hormones that affect metabolism, growth and sexual development and functioning. A number of factors influence your endocrine system, including exercise, stress and relaxation. Yoga may support the healthy functioning of your endocrine system, reduce the stress response of your adrenal glands and encourage the secretion of certain hormones.
Endocrine System and Stress
Your endocrine system plays an important role in your overall well-being, immune functioning, stress response, metabolism and growth. Your adrenal glands are the primary gland responsible for secreting stress hormones, like cortisol, and impacting the part of your nervous system that handles your stress response. Your body reacts to stress and fear with the "fight-or-flight" response. During this response, your adrenal glands secrete cortisol and adrenaline to prepare you to take action or to flee. Chronic stress can cause your adrenal glands to produce too much cortisol and adrenaline and lead to health conditions like heart disease, sleep problems and depression, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Yoga and Your Hormones
Although yoga probably will not significantly affect functions of the endocrine system like growth and metabolism, it may have a beneficial effect on your stress response. Relaxation techniques like yoga may reduce the secretion of certain stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline and increase secretions of melatonin, a hormone synthesized by your pineal gland responsible for feelings of well-being. In particular, restorative yoga postures practiced in a warm, dark environment can help turn off your adrenal glands, calm your mind and help you recover from chronic stress, according to yoga instructor Roger Cole in an article for Yoga Journal.
Research published in the July 5, 2004, issue of the "Journal of Complementary and Alternative Medicine" found that study participants who regularly participated in a three-month structured yoga practice consisting of meditation, asanas and pranayama experienced an increase in plasma melatonin levels. Another study, published in the December 1, 2005, issue of the "Medical Science Monitor," found that emotionally-distressed women who participated in a three-month intensive yoga program experienced a reduction in salivary cortisol levels, improvements in perceived stress and improved feelings of physical well-being.
Specific restorative poses may reduce over-stimulation of your adrenal glands and promote stress relief. Cole recommends a series of restorative yoga postures, such as Supported Sukhasana, Viparita Karani, Supported Setu Bandha Sarvangasana and Savasana. If you think you may be suffering from adrenal fatigue caused by chronic stress, consult your doctor. In an article for My Yoga Online, Valerie Balandra, a board certified psychiatric nurse practitioner, explains that a simple blood, urine, or saliva test can determine the functioning of your adrenal glands. Your doctor can then advise you about your treatment options.
- Mayo Clinic: Stress: Constant Stress Puts Your Health at Risk
- Brain World: The Pineal Gland: A Link to Our Third Eye
- Yoga Journal: Treating Adrenal Exhaustion
- Journal of Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Effects of Hatha Yoga and Omkar Meditation on Cardiorespiratory Performance, Psychologic Profile, and Melatonin Secretion
- Medical Science Monitor: Rapid Stress Reduction and Anxiolysis Among Distressed Women as a Consequence of a Three-Month Intensive Yoga Program
- My Yoga Online: Adrenal Fatigue
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