Yoga Poses To Heal The Adrenals
The adrenal glands are two small glands that sit on top of the kidneys.
Each adrenal gland weighs approximately the same weight as a nickel, about 5 grams. These tiny glands are responsible for secreting our stress hormones.
Because both holistic practitioners and medical doctors agree that stress is the No. 1 cause of all illness, taking care of your adrenal glands is one of the most important things you can do for your overall physical and mental well-being.
During normal conditions, these two glands produce between 35 to 40 mg. of cortisol, a steroid hormone, on a daily basis. Usually our cortisol level goes up in the morning, reaching a peak about 8 a.m., and slowly decreases throughout the day. We make a major down shift in cortisol levels about 4 o’clock in the afternoon, which is why many of us need a snack and a break in mid afternoon, and our levels usually drop way down before bed.
In addition to cortisol, the adrenal glands also produce norepinephrine (noradrenalin) and epinephrine (adrenalin).
Along with our stress hormones, the adrenal glands also make androgens. The most well-known androgen is testosterone, the male sex hormone. Androgens are the original anabolic steroids and precursor of all our estrogens, the female sex hormones. For most women, the adrenal glands are the primary source for testosterone, which gives both men and women our sex drive.
After menopause, when the ovaries are curtail their production of estrogen, the conversion of adrenal-derived testosterone to estrogen becomes an important source of female hormones.
Therefore, maintaining healthy adrenal function is essential for hormonal balance as we age.
There are three stages of adrenal stress – alarm, adaptation and exhaustion.
Initially, when we are stressed, the adrenal glands overproduce cortisol and adrenalin. As stress becomes prolonged, our bodies switch from overproducing stress hormones to under producing stress hormones, going into a state of prolonged fatigue.
Cortisol counteracts insulin, the sugar-balancing hormone. When we are stressed, the body generates glucose from non-carbohydrate sources in a process called gluconeogenesis. Therefore, keeping our stress hormones under control is an essential step in maintaining a healthy weight.
Signs of adrenal problems include impaired energy production, insulin sensitivity drops, reduction in glucose utilization and in amino acid status due to enhanced gluconeogenesis, increased bone loss, osteoporosis, fat accumulation at the waist, increased protein breakdown, salt and water retention, general immune suppression, increased rates of infection and reduced vitality.
The vertebrae in the spine that correspond to the adrenal glands include T12, L1, L2, L3, L4 and L5. In the body, the adrenals are located at the level of the 12th thoracic vertebrae. Therefore, back bends and any yoga poses that stimulate the lower back, such as twists, will help to restore the adrenals.
In the endocrine system, the adrenal glands are governed by the hypothalamus and secondarily by the pituitary. Therefore, all the yoga poses that balance the brain, such as the inversions headstand, shoulder stand, dolphin and legs against the wall pose, are also very important for balancing the adrenals.
It is believed that the HPA axis – the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis – is involved in the neurobiology of all mood disorders, including depression, anxiety, insomnia, post-traumatic stress disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder and alcoholism.
Therefore, a yoga practice that balances the brain and adrenal glands can go a long way to overcoming not only stress but severe mental illness.
I created this sequence of yoga poses to help you balance your adrenal glands. It takes about an hour.
Yoga To Heal The Adrenals
Yoga sticky mat
2 yoga eggs (www.threeminuteegg.com)
Mexican yoga blanket for shoulder stand
2 metal chairs
1. Simple sitting (Sukhasana), eyes closed, drawing the attention inward, focusing on the breath. 1 minute.
2. Extended child (Utthita Balasana) to Cobra (Bhujangasana) vinyasa flow to warm up the spine, 1 minute.
3. Belly twist (Jathara Parivartanasana), knees bent, 1 minute.
4. Simple leg lowering (Urdhva Prasarita Padasana) 5 repetitions to
Leg lowering (Urdhva Prasraita Padasana) to Plow (Halasana), vinyasa flow, 5 repetations.
5. Fish pose (Matsyendrasana), 1 minute. To see the video, please click this link.
6. Pelvic lifts (Kandharasana) with yoga eggs at feet and between the knees, 1 minute, to Bridge (Setu Bandha) 1 minute.
7. Head to knee pose (Janu Sirsasana) 1 minute each side to Forward Fold (Pascimottanasana) 1 minute.
8. Dolphin (Makarasana) 1 minute to Headstand (Sirsasana) 1 minute.
9. Set up two metal chairs facing each other with a Mexican blanket folded as a shoulder stand support in between them. Alternate between Bridge (Setu Bandha) on chair to Shoulder stand (Sarvangasana) to Plow (Halasana) 10 minutes.
10. Supported fish (Matsyendrasana) 7 minutes. To see the video, please click this link.
11. Legs against the wall pose (Vipariti Karani) 7 minutes.
Corpse pose (Savasana) 10 minutes.