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Endocrine System, Aging and Spine Health

Entries in balance (2)


Hormones and health

Where does the Endocrine System fit in to this theme of aging and healing? Consisting of several glands that secrete hormones into the blood to promote the body’s homeostasis (balance), the Endocrine System is all about hormones that stimulate growth and development, promote water retention, raise or lower blood glucose and promote sodium retention.

What are the endocrine glands and are they affected by my yoga practice? I’ll touch on stress, metabolism, energy, bodily fluids, happiness and strength.

Connects, oxygenates, regulates

Pituitary Gland - lying on base of the brain, it’s the master gland as it controls the release of hormones from other glands. It’s vital to our wellbeing and also connects to the Hypothalamus (not an endocrine gland) which bridges the Nervous System to the Endocrine System, harmonizing together.

Thyroid Gland - in the neck, relates to metabolism (the body’s use of nutrients) for the entire body’s cells, stimulating the enzymes which deal with the oxygen and heat in cells and blood vessels/blood pressure. When out of balance, iodine (essential trace mineral) is low in the diet, and also causes metabolic rate to slow down—causing weight gain, fatigue, weakened immune system, anxiety and depression. Its other function is to increase calcium deposit into the bones. Iodine-rich foods include sea vegetables, cranberries, yogurt, beans, strawberries, potatoes, cheese. (My yoga stabilizes my thyroid as my metabolism is high, immune system is good since I haven’t been sick in years, and it keeps anxiety in check—which I notice most if I don’t go).

Pancreas - lies beneath the stomach in the abdomen and handles digestive functions. Produces insulin, a hormone needed to regulate the amount of sugar in blood. During digestion, glucose moves in the bloodstream, the pancreas releases insulin, and then the body has energy. If the blood glucose level is low, the pancreas triggers stored glucose release from the kidneys into the urine, expelling more water, resulting in excessive thirst. Hypoglycemia occurs when blood sugar gets too low. (In 2nd series several poses put pressure on this and other organs, making proper digestion a mandatory part of a daily Ashtanga practice. I drink more water as needed as a balancing act.)

Adrenal Gland - lies on kidneys. Complements the sympathetic nervous system (physical performance “fight or flight” response), regulates mineral balance, energy balance and sexual characteristics. Electrolytes are regulated. Metabolism of proteins and fats are handled. Maintains anti-inflammatory properties such as cortisone.

Ovaries - Daily strenuous yoga practice changes the menstrual cycle while challenged day after day. This happened to me in the first few months of practicing Mysore every day. It’s important to pace yourself, and because the practice continues each day to the same level as the day before, it’s best to only add on new poses once you’re feeling really physically competent, pain free and energetic.

Pineal Gland - secretes melatonin, needed for regulated daytime and nighttime (sleep). A good night's sleep is imperative to a healthy Ashtanga yoga practice.



Stay in balance

I feel dramatic physical changes when I’m psychologically disrupted (starting with my mind's thoughts). When this happens—sometimes brought on by my intensive yoga poses that release trapped energy—my body reacts by changing its release of hormones.

Intuitively, staying in balance is imperative (physiologically, psychologically, spiritually). I feel the innate ability to balance myself out no matter what.

Mysore Ashtanga releases toxins

It’s a trickier task with my Mysore yoga as I go everyday regardless, and do the same sequence each day. This is my practice of subtle balance (no pun intended). If I’m tired, I go slower; if I’m heated, I cool off; if i’m in pain, I don’t go as deep into aggravating inflamed body parts; if I'm emotional, I prepare myself during heart-opening poses (backbends) by noticing what’s happening.

After yoga, I take good care of my state of being (to balance out) with either rest, epsom salt bath, private seclusion, warming/cooling foods/liquids, writing, etc.

Energy redirected to overcome imbalance

Stress can be defined as the Nervous System’s "fight or flight" system recruiting the body’s energy stores to overcome imbalance with hormones. The subtle body has its own way of disrupting the field—one being the loss of the spirit connection.

Yin and Yang are Traditional Chinese Medicine’s interdependency of opposites. There cannot be activity without rest.

Ashtanga yoga cleansing is challenging

Just knowing that my Mysore practice is training my entire system to integrate its teaching and balance out makes me smile. Sometimes sleeping it off is the best way to counter balance stress and fatigue (as toxins) as they cleanse their way out of my system after yoga. Also, learning to balance the right and left sides of the brain. And keep going to yoga.

“Do your yoga, and all is coming." ~Pattahbi Jois