Yoga and Hormone Health : The Hormone Connection

One of the main saboteurs of health is stress. Stress works in conjunction with cortisol to create deleterious effects of the body. When one is stressed, a message is sent to the brain to flood the body with cortisol. High levels of cortisol in turn increases cravings for carbohydrates and sweets, creating weight to be gained around the mid-abdominal area. Cortisol can also lower the much talked about: growth hormone. As cortisol levels increase, the message is sent to the hypothalamus to inhibit the release of growth hormone, a very important hormone that helps regenerate and renew all the cells in the body. Low growth hormone levels can cause thin, sagging skin, loss of muscle strength, thinning bones and make you feel like you’ve "lost your edge."

The Cortisol Nutrition Hormone Connection

Poor nutrition can also cause high levels of cortisol which in turn can deplete levels of progesterone. Consumption of too many refined foods consisting of white sugar and white flour cause insulin levels to spike. This causes a cascade of reactions: blood sugar levels plummet, existing cortisol is mobilized and used, progesterone is used to make additional cortisol and progesterone levels are depleted. One of the most common hormonal deficiencies we see in women over and over are very low levels of progesterone.

How Yoga affects hormones

As one can see, cortisol can have a widespread impact on the body. Yoga has a profoundly relaxing effect on the body and therefore, naturally lowers elevated cortisol levels. Yoga is strangely paradoxical in that while it strengthens and provides excellent conditioning it also relaxes. It creates an "inner fire" of energy that provides mental clarity as well as relaxation.

The What and Why of Pranayama

"The yogin attains direct knowledge of the pulsation of his own life, the organic energy discharged by inhalation and exhalation. Pranayama is an attention directed upon one’s organic life, a knowledge through action, a calm and lucid entrance into the very essence of life" Mircea Eliade

Each pose in yoga is performed in conjunction with the breath. Various breathing techniques called pranayama are used to accomplish this. It takes effort to inhale; one is actively using the abdominal and intercostal muscles; exhale on the other hand is passive. This symbolizes the fact that effort must always be balanced with surrender.

The one obstacle that stands in the way of realizing our true inner nature is our own free will. We must learn to surrender our own free will (the ego) to the will of our higher being; our higher selves. This higher self yearns to express itself but is constantly being silenced and hypnotized by the anodynes of pop culture. Media, radio, and mass consumerism vie relentlessly for the attention of our ego selves. The result is disintegration of the mind leading to, a fractionated faculty lacking clarity, peace, and wholeness. Yoga and Pranayama are the perfect vehicle then, for accessing deeper and deeper levels of clarity and the ascension of awareness that accompanies this most heightened, exalted state.

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