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Endocrine System, Aging and Spine Health

Entries in thyroid gland (1)


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.