Yoga is for everyone!
It has been getting some attention in the media and especially among the supplement companies, eager to make a fortune by exploiting our fear of death and aging. They call it the "youth hormone", because it helps to shrink fat cells and maintain lean muscle, it facilitates blood flow and collagen production, giving one a youthful glow. It boosts the mood and gives us greater energy and an improved sex drive. How much would you pay to have all that?
How about, nothing at all! Below is a FREE, EASY, DO-IT-YOURSELF RECIPE FOR A BETTER HORMONAL BALANCE. Just like the ads for the supplements say, in combination with diet and exercise, you really have a chance to feel your best!
Ancient Yogis have known all along that there are glands in the the brain that produce substances that are vital for a long and healthy life. Pituitary glad is especially important, as it is considered "the Master Gland" that sends signals to many other glands in the body, telling them what to secrete, when, and in what amounts. For example: the pituitary gland tells your adrenal glands to secrete the hormone cortisol, too much of which has been linked to the harmful abdominal fat.
Together with pineal and hypothalamus glands, they form a knot at the base of the scull, which the Yogis called "the Lake of the Mind". The lake is full at birth with the "nectar of life", or Amrita. It drips slowly, drop by drop, nourishing us, sustaining us, providing us with radiant vitality. When all of it is gone, we die.
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Often we waste the life-giving nectar by restricting circulation to these glands: we slouch, we allow stress to build up to the point that our neck and shoulders are in knots, our breathing is shallow in the upper chest, binding us further by overly relying on the auxiliary breathing muscles in the neck. Our neck alignment, with the head forward, shoulders slouched, jaw tense, eyes straining over the steering wheel or into a computer screen create such tension in this important area that these glads are often cut off from the rest of the body and we begin to experience the effects of hormonal imbalance - lack of restful sleep, dry, dull skin, slowed metabolism, compromised immunity, low energy...
The Western approach to this kind of imbalance is to treat the symptom. Here, take an injection! Or how about a pill? Prices for treatment range from $100 a month to $1500. Dr. Oz on his show advertizes products that promise to raise the levels of HGH up to six times. He is very excited about it, naturally, because if you cannot be a part of the solution, there is money to be made by prolonging the problem.
The truth is that if you manage stress, if you watch your posture (in your daily life and in your Yoga practice), if you practice gentle inversions daily (such as the ones suggested below), the circulation to your glands will be humming perfectly well, and your body will produce everything it needs - for free. Here are some things and poses you can try in your daily routine that relieve tension and increase circulation to the brain:
Bride Pose is a gentle, easy to do inversion, and the variation offered here is especially good for hormonal balance. As the pelvis lifts on an inhale, one arm goes overhead, while the head turns to the opposite side. Make sure that when you lift the pelvis, your neck doesn't lose its natural, neutral curve, and you turn your head to the side in a relaxed way, without cranking it further than the most natural degree for you. Exhale to come out.
A mild twist, such as the one on the right, will begin to pump circulation all through the rest of your body - don't forget to turn your head in the opposite direction of your knees. Keep your legs together as you twist, and lengthen the exhale. Inhale back to center.
Apanasana, or knees into chest is a wonderful completion to this short sequence, as it helps to detoxify the body as well as relieve stress. Inhale legs away from you, exhale them back into chest. Lengthen your exhale to your comfortable maximum, and wait for a short, natural pause at the end of the exhale.
Downward Dog is, of course, another great pose for hormonal balance - it is usually not too strenuous for the average practitioner, and with proper shoulder and neck alignment it facilitates blood flow to the brain. I have a detailed tutorial on how to do Down Dog, so you can get all the benefits.
Finally, let's not forget about Legs up the Wall, (or Legs up a Chair), also known as Viparita Karani. It is my go-to pose before bed to restore balance, relax and detox for a more restful sleep. Elevating the pelvis on a folded blanket encourages the blood and lymph to flow. Position arms away from the body to open the armpits, but keep elbows below heart level for a calming effect. Lengthen the pause after the exhale to your comfortable max.
Soft breathing as you do these poses is essential - as the breath passes along the back palate, the gentle, steady vibration and temperature shifts (cool on the inhale, warm on the exhale) stimulate the tissues in your back palate, behind which our glands are located.