Yoga for Hormonal Balance & Vitality
As a practitioner offering The Arvigo Techniques of Maya Abdominal Therapy©, I have worked with numerous clients who are struggling to find solutions to their chronic reproductive health problems. I am ever more inspired to empower people first with understanding how the body is affected by stress. Then I can provide holistic solutions for preventing and addressing these common health concerns to help these clients make lasting lifestyle changes, enjoy increased energy and vitality, and avoid future surgical and medical interventions.
Here are some interesting facts:
80% of women report having period pain at some point in their life, often from their very first period.
1 in 10 women have suffered from endometriosis between the ages of 15 and 45.
Possibly as many as 80% of women report having uterine fibroids.
$5 billion dollars is spent a year on hysterectomies.
A stark 50% of men are diagnosed with having an enlarged prostate by the age of 60.
Infertility is an estimated $2 billion industry annually in the United States.
So what is going on with people’s reproductive health and how can practicing yoga make a difference?
In our culture many people are stressed and the hormonal system that regulates the quality of our reproductive health is directly affected by how we manage our daily stress. This delicate system, known as the HPA (Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal) axis is in charge of detecting both external (our environment) and internal stressors (our past experiences and thoughts). When danger is perceived, a stress response is activated. Our autonomic nervous system is ignited and the immediate sympathetic response prepares the body for action. In a healthy system, once the stress has passed, the body regains homeostasis, but when we remain stressed for prolonged periods of time, this negative feedback loop begins to malfunction, causing the adrenals to continue producing stress hormones which the pituitary can no longer down-regulate. When we remain in a constant hyper-aroused state, the HPA-axis dysfunctions, interrupting the proper balance of hormones that is vital for the optimal functioning of both the female and male reproductive health systems. In women this can cause severe PMS, irregular and painful periods, problems with ovulation, and more chronic issues. In men, this hormonal disruption eventually leads to low libido, erectile dysfunction, and poor sperm motility and morphology. Both men and women can begin to experience symptoms like high blood pressure, fatigue, depression, anxiety, insomnia, food cravings, brain fog, and addiction to substances such as caffeine and alcohol. Finally, chronic stress decreases our immunity, causing increased sensitivity to certain foods and increasing our inflammatory responses which in turn continue to activate the stress system. Now you can clearly begin to see why stress is so destructive and can lead to so many serious health issues.
So how can yoga help? By bringing our awareness back into our bodies and slowing our heart-rate with attention to the breath, we can begin to break the chronic sympathetic stress response. Slow gentle breathing in restorative postures invites the body to unwind and eventually the parasympathetic (resting and digesting) nervous response kicks in to counteract the negative effects of HPA-axis dysfunction. Circulation returns from the periphery to the core, bathing our abdominal organs and our heart with fresh nourishing oxygenated blood, which promotes detoxification and cellular regeneration.
Inversions are particularly helpful for bringing circulation to the vital glandular system including the thyroid gland, the pituitary gland, and the hypothalamus— considered the master gland since it is responsible for maintaining the body’s dynamic state of homeostasis. Improved circulation to these vital endocrine glands promotes healthy secretion and circulation of hormones. In addition, going upside-down also optimizes the position of the uterine organs helping correct issues that are caused by the incorrect alignment. It is important to practice inversions in a way that is safe with the guidance and instruction of a teacher. There are many restorative alternatives that allow practitioners to stay in the poses for a prolonged period of time, thus allowing the health benefits to go much deeper. Some of the best poses to practice include Sirsasana (headstand) and Sarvangasana (shoulder stand). Beginners can start by bringing their legs up the wall with a bolster placed under the hips in Viparita Karani. Taking a supported version of Setu Bandha (bridge pose) can also be beneficial.
Here are some other useful tips that help regulate stress:
Don’t skip breakfast and eat high protein meals.
Try to sit while you eat, avoiding other distractions.
Eat lots of dark leafy greens like kale, broccoli, and chard which provide magnesium, potassium, calcium, and chlorophyll– all calming to the nervous system.
Replace coffee with green tea which is easier on the adrenal glands and high in phytonutrients.
B complex vitamins help reduce the hypersecretion of stress hormones. Food sources include: meat especially organ meats, seafood, egg yolks, whole grains, oats, broccoli, sweet potatoes, and nutritional yeast.
Vitamin C can help lower stress hormones and increase our immune response.
Magnesium aids sleep, helps with many enzymatic process such as muscle relaxation, and is extremely beneficial for PMS symptoms.
EPA /DHA protects our cells from stress and boosts mind and mood.
Herbs such as lavender, lemon balm, rhodiola, holy basil, licorice, ashwagandha and American ginseng & milky oats nourish the nervous system and help with stress.
Avoid blue light exposure from screens which interrupts our circadian rhythm and leads to cortisol release in the evening hours.
Mindset and gratitude: Reframe stressful situations and notice the things that are going really well, even just the beauty around you, for example, the sky while you drive and the sound of the birds outside of your office…
Meditating just 5 minutes each day can significantly lower stress.
Do something active that you love— dance, ride your bike, walk, yoga!
Now that you understand more about how chronic stress affects all aspects of our health and well-being, including the reproductive system, I hope that you feel encouraged to make choices that will help you break the cycle. Once you begin to regain energy and clarity from lowering stress, you will be inspired to keep going. Please keep in mind that even 5 to 15 minutes of restorative yoga and meditation a day can make a huge difference in your life. By making this commitment to bring balance into your life now, you can enjoy lasting health for years to come.
Yoga for Hormonal Balance & Vitality
by Zhenya Novareign