Many studies have shown that yoga has calming effects on our nervous systems, hormones and psychological wellbeing, creating a blissed out feeling that lasts well past the end of a 45 minute class.
That calming effect reduces the levels of cortisol (stress hormone) in our bodies and takes us out of the flight or flight, stressed state. You know, that frenzied feeling where your never ending to-do list keeps cycling around in your head and you’re doing too many things at the same time.
For women especially, studies show that yoga can improve the pre-menstrual luteal phase (i.e. the time when PMS symptoms usually take place), reducing feelings of anxiety, depression and increasing feelings of relaxation and calm.
Because yoga is so beneficial in reducing cortisol levels, it can have a positive effect on reducing how we cope with stress on an ongoing basis.
When we get stressed, our cortisol levels increase, we go into a fight or flight state (think clammy hands, dry mouth, rapid heartbeat and sweating) and this gives our brains a signal that it should make less progesterone and oestrogen.
When you’re in the fight or flight state, your brain is thinking – she’s stressed, she’s making loads of cortisol, she’s not going to be procreating any time soon, so I don’t need to make as much oestrogen and progesterone. And this leads to hormone imbalance because your body isn’t making the right levels of oestrogen and progesterone to keep the reproductive system, moods, energy, bones and skin in balance.
Our bodies desperately want to be in equilibrium and want to get us back to a calm, restful state as much as possible. Modern life makes this hard, so this is where yoga comes in. The combination of dynamic movement and breathing regulates the breath, calms the mind and take the nervous system back to a state where you feel on an even keel.
Breathing helps and there are quite a few specific poses that have a positive effect on the endocrine system – these are the organs and tissues that make hormones; the thyroid, the adrenals, the reproductive hormones and of course, the brain.
What’s your favourite calming yoga pose?
Mine is shavasana!
Le’Nise Brothers is a nutritional therapist, women’s health, hormone and menstrual coach, yoga teacher and founder of Eat Love Move.
Le’Nise works primarily with women who feel like they’re being ruled by their sugar cravings, mood swings and hormonal acne & bloating.
They want to get to grips with heavy, missing, irregular & painful periods, fibroids, PMS, PCOS, endometriosis, post-natal depletion and perimenopause.