Yoga and the Adrenal Glands

Let's use our yoga practice to learn a little more about anatomy. I must confess, I was never that interested in science when I was younger. As I have gotten a little older, experienced a few personal medical challenges, noticed subtle changes each year and the desire to learn has been ignited. Practicing yoga since I was 41 has made a significant impact on my physical, emotional, mental and spiritual well-being. Six years later, I am in the best shape I have ever been...ever. So, with that said, let's see what is going on with this ancient practice of yoga.

Last article gave a synopsis of the seven chief glands. To keep it simple, (good philosophy, by the way) the first gland to be addressed is the adrenal gland. The adrenal gland is right above each kidney. Their primary function is to release hormones in response to stress. These stress hormones are cortisol, epinephrine and aldosterone. Cortisol and epinephrine get the heart to beat faster, gets the digestive system to slow down and gets the body in a "fight or flight" mode. The aldosterone hormone affects the density of the plasma. This density or lack of affects your blood volume and blood pressure. Pretty critical function for a pair of glands that collectively weight 7-10 grams!

Like everything in the body, nothing is an isolated part. All parts are intertwined in their function. The adrenal glands work in conjunction with the pituitary gland and hypothalamus. Imagine...you have a constant communication of chemicals being exchanged from your head down your back and back up again! They literally affect how you feel physically, mentally, and emotionally.

So, what does yoga do for your adrenal glands? In a nutshell, it gets you to relax. Poses that are especially beneficial are the ones that put some pressure on those glands. Cat/Cow not only gives your spine a good movement of the vertebrae; but, also gets you to do a little "squeezing" of the top of those kidneys. Poses that involve twists give the glands and kidneys a good "squeeze". These squeezes help facilitate the movement of sedentary stuff in the organ.

Imagine a glass of tea that you stirred some sugar in. As the swirling settles down, so does the sugar that did not get absorbed. The same principle applies here. Keep adding sugar and it builds up on the bottom. Think of the kidneys...you would not want residue of what you ate to just build up. Build up of residue causes eventual problems. Yoga stirs things up and moves it out.

http://youtu.be/4YJDDPxNThs

The link listed above is a sample of some moves to practice to help those adrenal glands and kidneys get cleaned out. It is beneficial to drink several glasses of water after a practice that works those glands. Giving the kidneys water helps them flush things out faster. Another interesting fact is that the blood pressure is affected because of the fluid that is eliminated during urination. It is, of course, impacted by numerous factors; however, it is interesting to observe that once you urinate, you can actually feel the internal pressure reduce. Makes sense...the bladder just got smaller.

Yoga practiced with a focus on breathing and taking your time has a cumulative effect on the adrenal glands. If you are a stressed out person (don't worry, you're not alone!), it is time to slow it down. When you take time to breathe and truly experience the moment, the adrenal glands stop releasing those hormones that keep you on edge. For example, when you do a forward fold and breathe, you just turned off the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) and ignited the release of calming hormones. The body truly "listens" to what you want to feel. Breathe shallow, feel tense. Breathe fully, feel calmer.

We cannot control a lot of things that happen in life; but most of us can control how we breathe. Conscious slow breathing gets those adrenal glands to stop telling the other parts to be on edge. It gives the message that it is safe to just be. Reverse the overload of cortisol and adrenaline and the rest of the body and mind will adjust and enjoy. Do it long enough and do not be surprised that you have lower blood pressure, better metabolism, and deeper sleep.

Just practice with intention to breathe and be present. Do not let yourself get distracted by poses that appear daunting. Just do the poses that are right for YOU. After all, it is your practice to learn...you reside in your body, so you know it best. Give it the air, movement, and love it needs. The rest will fall in place.
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