Everyone has days when they feel a little off. We wake, we stretch, and we feel like something just isn’t right. While our symptoms might be non-specific, the pain and distress they cause are definitely real.
Since our bodies are a masterpiece of various cooperating systems, it’s no surprise that when something goes out of alignment, it affects everything. In this case, the problem could be a hormone imbalance. Our bodies regulate hormones through the endocrine system, a complicated network of glands responsible for secreting hormones that affect our growth, metabolism, and nervous systems. Of the many glands that make up this system, there are four that play a large role in our well being. They include:
The Pituitary Gland
This gland is located behind the eyebrow center, over our third eye. This gland is in charge of sexual development and reproductive functions.
The Thyroid Gland
Because the thyroid governs how hormones are released and absorbed throughout the body, doctors are most likely to blame it for imbalances. It’s located behind the collar bone and is also charge of how our bodies use energy and metabolize nutrients.
The Adrenal Glands
These are located above the kidneys and are in charge of producing sex hormones and the stress hormone cortisol.
These reside in the pelvic region and are responsible in producing female hormones.
Signs of imbalance can include:
- Unexplained weight loss or gain
- Loss of muscle mass
- Unusual or increased cravings
- Irregular digestions
- Mood swings or anxiety
- Slackened libido
- Insomnia or irregular sleep patterns
- Increased fatigue
Stress, poor diet, and unhealthy habits can all take a toll on our endocrine system. And while some problems do need to be evaluated by a medical professional, yoga is a great non-invasive method to try and regulate hormones naturally. Through a series of different poses, compressions, and stretches, yoga can help stimulate and awaken different parts of the body. For best results, it’s important to stimulate each of these four glands in turn.
Five Poses to Regulate Your Hormones Naturally
For the pituitary gland, Tree Pose is a great way to bring awareness into the mind and stimulate the pituitary gland. It opens the hip flexors, strengthens the feet, and improves respiration as well. Standing at the top of your mat, bring your hands to heart center, palms together. Slowly lift your right knee until the thigh is parallel to the floor, bringing your foot to rest, sole side down, on the inside of your opposite leg. The foot should be either above or below the knee, never on the joint. Lengthen your spine and root down through the four corners of your foot. Take a few deep breaths, either keeping your hands in prayer or raising each arm up over your head, before lowering back down to standing. Repeat with the other leg.
Like its inverse, Camel Pose, Rabbit Pose stretches the spine and stimulates the thyroid gland. It feeds the nervous system with fresh blood and oxygen while aiding in digestion and balancing blood sugar levels. To start, take a seat on your heels and breathe deeply. While exhaling, reach back and grasp the heel of the foot with the back of your hands facing out. Slowly begin tilting forward, rounding your back until your forehead touches the ground as close to your knees as possible. Begin to lift the hips, rolling your body upward until your elbows lock and your seat is elevated. Hold for five breaths before lowering back down and sitting up one vertebrae at a time.
While this pose might be considered simple, the benefits are anything but. It opens the hips, lengthens the spine, and promotes a sense of grounding and inner calm. This seated position is great for the adrenals and as a starting point for meditation. For this pose, come into a seated position on the floor. Bring one leg in and then the other so that feet are placed directly below the knees. To draw in energy, place the hands palm-side up on the knees signifying that you are willing and “ready to receive.” For a more grounded pose, place the hands palm-side down. Breathe deeply, clear the mind of all thought, and bring awareness into your body.
From Easy Pose it’s a simple transition to slide the crossed legs apart until the soles of the feet are touching. Grasp the feet with both hands and slowly pull them toward you. Take deep breaths and press the knees and thighs towards the floor with gentle pressure, stopping if the feeling becomes too intense. This pose also serves to stimulate the adrenals as well as open the hips.
Cat and Cow Pose
Both of these poses are wonderful ways to strengthen the spine, stimulate the internal organs and soothe the adrenal glands and ovaries. Beginning on all fours, place your hands and knees on the mat, hip width distance apart with toes untucked. Keep your spine neutral and breathe in a few breaths. On an inhale, drop your belly and lift your gaze towards the sky, making sure not to strain your neck too high. On your next exhale, slowly tuck your chin towards your chest, lifting your back towards the sky and scooping your tailbone under. Round that back! Spread your fingertips wide actively press your fingertips into the earth. Feel the energy build and radiate through your body as you repeat the pose for at least five rounds.
Tell us about your favorite pose to find balance in the comments below.
Nicole McLaughlin is a freelance writer living and working in San Diego. She focuses on healthy living, recipe development and exploring the role mindfulness plays in leading a balanced life. Sea salt and chocolate are her weaknesses, as is the promise of a good time. For more of her musing on life, the universe and everything creative, follow her on Instagram.