Hormone Balancing 101
By Lizzie Brown, Yoga Wake Up CEO
Yesterday Yoga Wake Up released its first new content of 2020 and it is a series of three sessions, covering morning, afternoon and bedtime, with Yoga Wake Up instructor and movement therapist Emilie Perz. We're thrilled Emilie came to us with this series idea, because it's a new area for Yoga Wake Up to cover and one of incredible importance and scope.
We are ALL subject to hormone imbalance. After speaking more with Emilie on the topic, we agreed that many of us, myself included, don't think much about the effects outside forces have on our hormones. Here we are exposing ourselves to life's daily stressors, possibly concerned with exercise and healthy eating but through the lens of weightloss or better overall health. It's highly likely most of you haven't thought much about your hormones...ever!
So we wanted to start at the beginning with a 101: All About Hormones, specifically, the ones covered in Emilie's new content. So without further ado, below are the basics on a few of the most important chemical messengers traveling throughout us, what biological processes they're responsible for and how we can make their job easier, thus making us feel a lot better as we navigate this thing called life!
First things first, what are our hormones responsible for?
Perhaps it's better to ask, what aren't they responsible for? In her series, Emilie covers dopamine, the neurotransmitter in the brain responsible for making us feel motivated. Dopamine delivers a sense of satisfaction in our mind after accomplishing a task. It also is released when playing sports, learning something new, finishing a task or project, or getting the big promotion you wanted at work.
Also critical for our wellbeing, is the stress hormone, cortisol. Yes, you read that right. We need cortisol, which is produced by the adrenal glands, because it helps control blood sugar levels, regulates metabolism, helps to reduce inflammation, and assists with memory formulation. In women, cortisol also supports the developing fetus during pregnancy.
When we wake rising cortisol levels energize us, and similarly, at bedtime, melatonin kicks in to helps us relax into a sleepier state. Ideally, cortisol is high when melatonin is low – and vice-versa – leading to a balanced sleep-wake cycle, a concept you may recognize as our circadian rhythm.
Finally, Emilie discusses the hormone estrogen. Produced in the female ovaries, estrogen is crucial to the reproductive function and cycle of a woman, but also plays a very important role in our mood and emotional wellbeing.
It's all about Balance.
Balancing our bodies from the inside out is key for optimal wellbeing. According to Emilie, when our hormones are in balance they are sending clear messages throughout our system and we feel energetic and happy.
"Regrettably, modern life stressors can inhibit our hormone functioning properly and leave us feeling sluggish, moody and overweight," Emilie explains. "Giving love to our hormones is crucial for our overall longevity."
Make things easier on your hormones, and easier on you!
There are many habits we can adopt to improve or ward off hormone imbalances, and it may come as little surprise to you that research points to yoga and meditation as helpful methods for staying in balance.
Both yoga and meditation impact our ability to manage and adapt to internal stress, Emilie says.
"By managing our stress adaptability we are able to keep our body in a more optimal state of functioning without putting unnecessary wear and tear on ourselves."
She continues, beyond a regular mindfulness practice, studies that show that mindful walking, HIIT intensity workouts and other movement can also have tremendous benefits on our nervous system.
"It's not about how often or for how long you practice these activities," Emilie says. "I think the biggest takeaway here is to remember that mindful movement has a significant impact on our body and mind connection. So don't worry about duration but simply remember to do it and fully plug into the experience of doing it while you are."
"I think the biggest takeaway here is to remember that mindful movement has a significant impact on our body and mind connection. So don't worry about duration but simply remember to do it and fully plug into the experience of doing it while you are."
And when in doubt, Breathe!
Your autonomic nervous system is a delicate balancing act between your sympathetic nervous system and your parasympathetic nervous system. Both networks involuntarily react to the environment around you, for example, a traffic jam or a big presentation, or simply thinking about something stressful.
Your sympathetic nervous system is responsible for how your body reacts to danger and is responsible for the fight or flight response. While your parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for maintaining homeostasis, which is your body’s built-in stability monitor. You need both systems to run properly.
Deep breathing acts as a regulator, activating your parasympathetic nervous system making sure things are balanced. It works to relax you and helps conserve and restore energy.
The single best thing you can do when anxious, nervous, upset, overwhelmed, or generally stressed is to take a deep breath to help bring the body back into a state of being, Emilie assures.
"The second we get upset our body goes into fight mode and everything starts to work unnecessarily hard," she says. "Being able to mitigate those reactions before they occur is optimal in balancing hormones."
"The single best thing you can do when anxious, nervous, upset, overwhelmed, generally stressed is to take a deep breath to help bring the body back into a state of being."
Something else she recommends? "Mindful eating!"
"I use to teach this technique in my annual detox retreats and it's life changing! Most people eat aimlessly and never realize that the way we nourish ourselves impacts our bodies on a cellular level. The quality of your nutrition isn't simply about what you eat but how you actually eat it! Learning chewing techniques and being present and expressing gratitude for your food can have a huge affect on our ability to satiate ourselves, thus creating more balance in the body from the inside out."
Thanks to Emilie, who is experienced in yoga, anatomy and physiology, and more importantly, who works closely with doctors and physical therapists everyday through her work with UrbanMed, we are now being called to address our hormonal imbalances.
We encourage you to set aside a day to try all three of her sessions and see how you feel when you add them to your daily routine. We'd love to hear from you too! Follow Emilie on Instagram and feel free to reach out to us anytime at email@example.com.