Our endocrine system controls the way our body functions. It produces hormones that travel to all parts of your body to maintain our tissues and organs. Every hormone that is released into our blood and is transported by our blood has a specific instruction, meant for only a few cells: the target cells. These target cells have receptors who can ‘read’ the messages when they arrive.
It can take a while before the effects of these messages are noticeable. But the effects will last for days.
Hormones take care of:
- Responses to stress and injury
- Growth and sexual development
- Body energy levels
- Internal balance of body systems
- Bone and muscle strength
Our endocrine system is made of
- Hypothalamus – part of your brain that controls hormone production by releasing different chemicals to the pituitary gland. The hypothalamus is the connection between the nervous system and the endocrine system. It regulates the activities of the nervous and endocrine system.
- Adrenal glands – influence the way our body uses energy, they also release a hormone called adrenaline; bringing us in the fight or flight modus. In our stressed society we are too often in this fight or flight modus; wearing out our adrenal glands and we suffer from adrenaline fatigue; feeling tired all the time.
- Ovaries – produce oestrogen and progesterone in women, and also release egg cells
- Pancreas – releases the insulin our body needs to metabolize sugar; problems with the pancreas can lead to diabetes
- Parathyroid – located behind the thyroid gland, they are essential for proper bone development
- Pineal gland – connects the endocrine system with the nervous system; produces several important hormones, including melatonin, important to sleep/wake cycles and sexual development
- Pituitary gland – likely the most important gland in our body, it is crucial to growth, mental development and reproduction; influences or controls the rest of our endocrine system in combination with our hypothalamus. It is located just behind your ‘third eye’ and an important focus point in yoga.
- Testes – produce the hormone testosterone; in men, testosterone maintains sperm production and bone mass
- Thymus – crucial to normal immune function
- Thyroid gland – located in the front of our neck, it releases hormones that control our metabolism and govern the way our body uses energy
Several organs are functioning as an endocrine gland as well. They produce, store and excrete hormones to maintain the proper function of our body.
- The placenta is the organ that provides the connection between a pregnant mother and the infant in her womb. It makes changes to a woman’s body to better nourish her baby and prepare the mother for delivery.
- Our skin, liver and kidneys work together to produce vitamin D. Vitamin D is produced when our skin is exposed to ultraviolet light (sun). In the liver and kidneys, it becomes a chemical known as calcitriol, which maintains proper levels of calcium and phosphorus in our body.
- Our stomach and small intestine secrete many hormones tied to eating and digestion.
The way we eat (a lot of artificial food) the way we take care of our skin (a lot of non-natural products) affects our hormone system, because we ‘take in’ and are exposed to a lot of chemicals that are not natural. Our endocrine system starts to malfunction. Think of thyroid problems, diabetes etcetera. In yoga a lot of poses target our endocrine system to make sure it stays healthy. Poses like head stand, shoulder stand, but also a lot of twists are beneficial for our endocrine system; making sure it operates in a good and healthy way.