We have all heard of the major body parts, but what about the glands which comprise the neuro-endocrine system? These glands are the hidden heroes in our bodies, helping to maintain our internal balance. We may not be aware that these little glands are there but they have a significant impact on our experience of each day through their effects our metabolism, growth, sleep habits and mood.
When stimulated by the nervous system, endocrine glands release hormones directly into the bloodstream, to be circulated around the body. For example, the neuroendocrine system is involved in balancing your blood sugar. If you eat a big slice of cream cake (or a chocolate bar, or a bag of chips) your pancreas produces insulin, which causes your body to reduce the sudden excess of blood sugar back to a more acceptable level. In the case of diabetes, there may be insufficient insulin produced or your body may not respond to it as it should. Either way, the result is an imbalance which can be life-threatening.
Another part of the neuroendocrine system regulates our pattern of sleep and wakefulness to coincide with the day and night cycles of the planet. Once it becomes dark at night, the pineal gland in your brain is activated to release melatonin into the bloodstream, causing you to feel sleepy and to think about heading off to bed. It’s quite common for students to comment that attending their yoga class helps them to sleep better that night. While it’s unlikely that the class is affecting your production of melatonin, I suspect that taking time out from your usual busy lifestyle allows you to feel relaxed enough for the melatonin to have its intended effect that evening. While insomnia itself may not be life-threatening, it can certainly feel that way at times! For some good tips on how to improve your chances of a good night’s sleep, take a look here.
The glands which form this system are aligned centrally in the body, roughly along the line of the spine. Their locations correspond to the accepted locations of the major chakras in the energy body system, spoken of by the ancient yogis. Each chakra is said to relate to the energy of specific parts of the body and to correspond to different aspects of our development and behaviour. Much as the endocrine glands bring balance to the physical body, so the activities of the chakras bring balance to our energy body. An excellent summary of the chakra system is provided here.
You might like to try this simple meditation to support the health of your endocrine glands before you go to sleep at night. As you inhale imagine you are directing the energy of the breath into the endocrine glands. As you exhale, imagine them glowing like little stars along your spine, sparkling with energy and vitality. Give thanks for their role in bringing balance to your body while you sleep.