The thought of yoga typically implies the strengthening of muscles, becoming more flexible and making the exterior of the body fit. It can do that; however, do you think that is all that really needs some attention? Take your concept of fitness a little deeper. You will learn the fitness of even the smallest of “parts” make an impact on the bigger “parts” of the body. These little “parts” are your glands and they play a BIG role in how you feel and function.
First of all, what is a gland? The definition is: “An organ or group of specialized cells in the body that produces and secretes a specific substance, such as a hormone.” Translated, the glands in the body release the chemicals that get other internal parts to work at the optimal level. Unhealthy glands, such as the thyroid, have a major effect on your overall well-being. The practice of yoga actually gives it some attention that it needs to function better.
Consider your glands your body’s overall energy system. There are seven glands that have significant power in how well your body functions. Consider them the coaches of the various special teams (0rgans) that play 24/7 so you can just be. The physical twists, inversions, and focused breathing that you do during a yoga practice have a very positive impact on them. Show these “coaches” some love and they can make the whole “team” play to win!
Considered the “head coach” by most is the hypothalamus. This little piece in your brain does A LOT. It controls your autonomic nervous system. This system is what controls functions below the conscious level such as heart rate, blood pressure, hunger, thirst, body temperature, alertness, digestion and sleep. It gives signals to next important coach…the pituitary gland.
The pituitary gland is another small piece (like the size of a pea) that is instrumental in releasing 9 hormones essential for well-being. In addition to other functions, it helps with water regulation in the body, growth, and the process of childbirth. If you are stressed, this gland tells the adrenal glands to release cortisol and adrenaline. The purpose of this is called the “fight or flight” mode which helps you respond to an emergency quickly. Unfortunately, staying in a stressed mode releases too much of these hormones. We are designed to live in a state of homestasis or balance. Being overloaded with anything will have a negative impact. Yoga practice helps you find balance.
Moving down to the throat is your thyroid and parathyroid glands. These glands stimulate the metabolism and energy levels in the body. They help keep the cholesterol in balance, increase calcium in the bone to prevent osteoporosis. A large portion of the hormones produced help the spleen, liver, and kidneys. Working that gland can help you keep a good flow of energy vs. feeling lethargic during the day.
The adrenal glands are located right above your kidneys. They regulate salt levels, carbohydrate metabolism and sexual functions. It releases the hormone cortisol. Like stated earlier, too much of something is not good. Too much cortisol in the body also causes weight problems, high blood pressure, insulin problems, dehydration of cells and sleep disorders…just to name a few issues.
The practice of certain yoga moves ignite the release of the “relaxing” hormones to overcome the onslaught of “stress” hormones. Calmness enables your body to work better. Just like you interact with others better when you’re not stressed out, the body’s glands and organs function better when they are not overloaded with cortisol and adrenaline. Too much cortisol over time has very adverse effects on the entire body and mind.
Lastly, the neuroendocrine glands of the pancreas play a key part. They help control blood sugar and the function of the cells of the digestive tract. The pancreas is right near your liver and gall bladder. They all work very hard to clean out what is not good for the body. Give those glands and organs a few twists and good oxygen so they can get “cleaned”. Now, don’t assume you can still eat a lot of unhealthy food and clean it out with a few yoga practices! A healthy lifestyle while off the mat is imperative.
When you think of your single body as a group of collective team members, you start to understand the interconnectedness of the body’s parts. If one “team member” is not feeling well, it impacts the whole “team”. Everything you do, consume, and even think ultimately has an effect on the internal. Integrate the practice of yoga in your life and you will quickly notice some positive changes.
Do it long enough and you will wonder how you lived without doing it.
Sasangasana – Hare pose
- Stimulates all organs and glands of the body.
- Nurtures the nervous system, brings blood to the brain.
- Helps with depression, improves memory and focus, helps headaches.
- Improves the immune system.
- Maintains mobility, strength and flexibility of the spine.
- Strengthens the heart and arteries.
- Improves posture.
- Relieves tension in the upper back and neck