A little-known benefit of yoga is that it regulates our hormones. Hormones can become imbalanced in the face of mental and physical stresses such as fatigue, anxiety and insomnia. The physiology is simple: We have an autonomic nervous system with two main branches – one which alerts the fight-or-flight response (sympathetic) and one which is calming (parasympathetic).
Yoga poses and Pranayama stimulate the autonomic nervous system, sending messages to the brain. The brain then alerts the endocrine system (responsible for communication with the glands and organs) to release hormones into our blood to bring about equilibrium.
Some poses can actually directly help organ function. As we stretch the fascia, muscles and soft tissue around the targeted area, these can be lengthened or shortened. This can create a mild form of compression and expansion on some organs and stimulate their function. And through the deep, internal concentration of yoga (directing the awareness to the body) and correct breathing, we draw a flow of energy into these areas.
You could almost call your yoga practice a reset button, but this doesn't happen in just one class. A regular practice is needed to achieve the desired effect. Over time, the practice is an aid to regain balance in the body and hormones, and to steady the mind.
The following two poses are beneficial:
Paschimottanasa l Seated Forward Bend
Helps to stimulate the thymus, thyroid, kidneys and pancreas.
Salamba Sarvangasana l Supported Shoulder Stand
Stimulates the vagus nerve. Helps to slow the heart rate, calm the mind, stimulate the thyroid and improve digestion.
Please note: All yoga poses should be done under supervision until you become proficient. There are contraindications for all poses. Please ask your teacher for guidance and advice.
Yoga Teacher Training
Don is running a 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training course in February 2017. To find out more, visit elixr.com.au/schoolofyoga