Sometimes in a regular yoga class, my instructors would say something vague and abstract in the middle of a pose, for example in fish pose- “this activates your thyroid gland”. I always had doubts if their claims were valid until I began learning about the effect of yoga on our endocrine system.
It all begins with pranayama. When we inhale, we supply oxygen from the lungs which is carried to the blood, improving the circulation between our brain and hypothalamus-pituitary glands- which forms the control centre for all the glands that work throughout the body. No wonder “pranayama” literally translates to “energy” and “expansion”.
Largely speaking, there are 7 hormone producing glands in the body- adrenal cortex, pituitary gland, hypothalamus, pancreas, thyroid, parathyroid, testes/ovaries. The function of each gland is to regulate bodily functions such and growth, metabolism and sexual responses.
So the benefits of yoga are not just limited to stretching and strengthening. For every gland, there are various asanas that will work to stimulate them. Some examples are:
1. Shoulder stands and plough pose will be beneficial if done at bedtime because these activate the pineal gland which produces melatonin, the hormone that makes us drowsy.
2. Fish, wheel and shoulder stands stimulate the thyroid gland which is just under the throat. The functions of the thyroid hormone are quite numerous- brain development, reproductive tract and regulation of metabolic rate.
3. Shalabasana, child pose and cobra are especially beneficial for ladies as these asanas stimulate the ovaries which release estrogen and progesterone, among other hormones. These are imperative for a healthy pregnancy, promotes growth, preserving bone mass and elasticity of connective tissues.