Effects of Yoga on The Hormone System (Endocrine)
The endocrine system is made up of glands that produce and release hormones into the bloodstream. These hormones regulate many vital bodily functions like metabolism, growth, sexual function, sleep, mood, and stress response. The main endocrine glands are the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, thyroid, adrenals, pancreas, ovaries, and testes.
Yoga and meditation can have profound effects on hormone levels and endocrine system functioning. Regular yoga practice is an excellent way to balance hormones naturally and promote overall health.
Young woman practising yoga in the nature
How Yoga Affects Hormone Levels and Endocrine Function
Yoga lowers cortisol (the stress hormone) - Cortisol is released by the adrenal glands in response to stress. Chronically elevated cortisol can lead to high blood pressure, lowered immunity, anxiety, depression, weight gain, and more .
Yoga lowers cortisol levels by reducing perceived stress and inducing relaxation. Studies show cortisol decreases acutely after yoga classes and is lower overall in regular practitioners .
Yoga increases GABA (primary inhibitory neurotransmitter) - Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) reduces neuronal excitability and induces calmness.
Low GABA is linked to anxiety and depression. Research indicates yoga significantly increases GABA levels, which contributes to reduced stress and anxiety .
Yoga may increase melatonin (the sleep hormone) - Melatonin regulates circadian rhythms and improves sleep quality. One study found melatonin levels increased after yoga due to stimulation of melatonin secretion by the pineal gland . More research is still needed.
Yoga balances thyroid hormones - The thyroid gland regulates metabolism by secreting thyroid hormones T3 and T4. Both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism cause adverse symptoms. Studies demonstrate that yoga may help normalize thyroid hormone levels in both hyperthyroid and hypothyroid patients .
Yoga may boost growth hormone production - Human growth hormone (HGH) has anti-aging properties and helps build muscle mass. One study found increased HGH levels after yoga practice. However, more studies are needed to confirm the effects of HGH .
Yoga regulates reproductive hormones - Estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, and others influence reproductive health and sexuality. Research shows yoga can improve conditions like PCOS, menopause, and erectile dysfunction - indicating hormonal balancing effects .
Yoga helps manage diabetes by improving insulin and blood glucose levels - The pancreas produces insulin which allows cells to utilize blood glucose. Yoga has clinically significant benefits for diabetics including reduced fasting blood glucose, HbA1c, and medication needs .
Key Benefits of Balanced Hormones and Endocrine Function
- Increased energy and vitality
- Better mood and lower anxiety
- Reduced inflammation and oxidative stress
- Improved metabolism and body composition
- Enhanced libido and sexual functioning
- Deeper more restful sleep
- Higher immunity and reduced illness
- Slowed aging process and increased longevity
- Overall greater sense of health and wellbeing
Young woman practising yoga in her garden
How Different Yoga Practices Affect Hormones
Asanas (Yoga Poses) - Specific asanas can stimulate glands and increase circulation to endocrine tissues. Inverted poses appear especially beneficial for the thyroid and pineal gland. Twists massage the organs and glands. Backbends activate the adrenals.
Pranayama (Breathwork) - Deep nasal breathing balances the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems to modulate stress hormone secretion. Specific pranayamas like nadi shodhana purify the energy channels connected to the glands.
Meditation and Relaxation - Meditative components induce the relaxation response which decreases cortisol and catecholamines. Holding yoga postures causes sustained muscle relaxation and psychological calmness.
Chanting and Mantras - The vibrations from chanting mantras during yoga stimulate glandular secretions. Certain bija mantras like "yam" "ram" and "ham" can energize specific chakras linked to the endocrine glands.
Beginner-Friendly Yoga Poses and Sequences to Balance Hormones
Here are some beginner-friendly yoga poses and short sequencing recommendations to rebalance hormones and energize the endocrine system:
Mountain Pose (Tadasana) - Stand tall with feet together and palms in prayer position. Fix your posture and engage core muscles. Take deep breaths. Helps relieve stress and fatigue.
Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) - Hands and feet on the floor with hips lifted up in an inverted "V" shape. Stretches shoulders and hamstrings. Stimulates thyroid and pineal glands.
Bridge Pose (Setu Bandhasana) - Lying on back, press feet down and lift hips up into a bridge. Stretches chest and neck. Activates thyroid and parathyroids.
Fish Pose (Matsyasana) - Lie on back and lift chest using elbows. Arch neck and open throat. Stimulates thyroid, parathyroid and pineal glands.
Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana) - Sit with legs extended. Bend forward from the hips reaching for toes. Calms the mind and reduces stress.
Twisted Chair Pose (Parivrtta Utkatasana) - Chair pose with added twist. Massages abdominal organs and adrenal glands. Improves digestion.
5 Minute Beginner Yoga Flow
Mountain Pose (Tadasana) > Downward Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) > Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana) > Half Lift > Chair Pose (Utkatasana) > Standing Forward Bend > Downward Dog > Repeat 2-3x and end in Mountain Pose.
Intermediate Hormone Balancing Yoga Sequence (25 minutes)
Cow Face Arms (Gomukhasana Arms) - Interlace fingers behind back, lift chest, and sit tall. Opens shoulders and stimulates thyroid.
Bridge Pose (Setu Bandhasana) - Lying back with knees bent, push hips up, and hold bridge. Activates thyroid.
Fish Pose (Matsyasana) - Arch back with head on floor, lift chest up supported by elbows. Expand throat.
Legs Up the Wall (Viparita Karani) - Lay on back with legs resting up wall. Calms nervous system and mind.
Reclined Bound Angle (Supta Baddha Konasana) - On back, soles of feet together and knees out wide. Releases hips and emotional tension.
Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana) - Forward fold with legs extended to grab toes. Stretches adrenals and kidneys.
Twisted Root (Muladhara Chakra) - Cross shins sitting. Twist torso and wrap shoulder behind you grabbing thigh. Massages abdominal organs.
Seated Spinal Twist (Ardha Matsyendrasana) - Sitting cross legged, twist upper body hooking elbow outside knee. Stimulates digestion.
Finish with Savasana (Corpse Pose) - Lie on back completely relaxed. Reduces cortisol and calms entire body.
Young woman practising Matsyasana yoga
Yoga Poses to Target Specific Glands and Hormones Hypothalamus & Pituitary
- Headstand (Sirsasana)
- Plow Pose (Halasana)
Thyroid & Parathyroids
- Camel Pose (Ustrasana)
- Fish Pose (Matsyasana)
- Lion's Breath (Simhasana Breath)
- Stimulating Kapalabhati Pranayama
- Bridge Pose (Setu Bandhasana)
- Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II)
- Bow Pose (Dhanurasana)
- Abdominal Twists
Ovaries & Testes
- Bound Angle Pose (Baddha Konasana)
- Butterfly Pose (Badhakonasana)
In summary, yoga and meditation have significant beneficial effects on the entire endocrine system and hormone levels. The stress and anxiety-relieving qualities of a regular yoga practice help balance key hormones like cortisol, GABA, melatonin, thyroid hormones, growth hormone, reproductive hormones, and insulin.
Different yoga poses, pranayamas, and techniques stimulate the glands and endocrine tissues to enhance functioning. Even beginning with gentle, restorative practices can start to shift the body into greater hormonal equilibrium and improved energy.
Yoga serves as a holistic pathway to optimize endocrine health, slow aging, reduce disease risk, and cultivate a sense of well-being.
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