Yin yoga for hormones—that’s a yes, please

Yin yoga for hormones
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Thinking of trying yin yoga for hormones? Almost every type of yoga can help lower stress, increase mindfulness, and add to your sense of well-being. But yin yoga is especially good for hormone balance, and there are so many reasons why.

Understanding yin yoga vs. yang yoga

Yin yoga for hormones- woman doing yoga pose in black workout gear

At one time, the goal of a physical yoga practice wasn’t what it has become today. So many yogis come to class for the stretch and strength-building, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But it’s good to keep something in the back of your mind. The purpose of yoga asanas (or postures) were, and still can be, about finding greater balance and preparing you for mediation.

Yang yoga

As yoga classes continue to become more about getting a workout, we’ve seen a rise in yang yoga. Yang yoga practices, like power or hot yoga and vinyasa, use repetition and a flow-like rhythm to build internal warmth and fire. These practices stretch and strengthen the muscles. But many also become cardiovascular because of the pace and amount of exertion required. But as easy as it is to love challenge that gets gets your sweat on, exclusively practicing yang yoga isn’t the absolute best idea for anyone. That’s especially true if your goal is to help your hormones.

Yin yoga

Where yang yoga creates internal heat, yin yoga is more of a cooling, calming, meditative, and therapeutic practice. Most classes won’t even have you rise to tadasana (mountain pose), or any other standing posture. In yin yoga, poses are passive and are held longer—5 minutes or more. This amount of time lets muscle and connective tissue resistant to stretching to truly release. The asanas also provide many of the same effects as acupuncture. By stimulating the body’s meridians, or energy pathways, yin yoga allows chi, or life force, flow freely.

But even though the poses look simple, yin yoga isn’t easy. So many of us are used to dynamic movement. Whether we’re in yoga class, at work, or in everyday life, as individuals and as a society we’re constantly in motion. Slowing down in yin yoga proves difficult at first for almost everyone—but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing. If your goal is better balance mentally, energetically, and physiologically, you should try yin yoga for hormones—and your general health.

Why too much yang yoga isn’t good + why you need yin yoga for hormones

Yin yoga for hormones- yoga class in studio

From breath work to mindfulness to asanas (or postures), many yoga practices incorporate finding external balance—and carrying it off the mat and into everyday life. But, if you have certain conditions and/or a hormone imbalance, it’s important to recognize that not all yoga styles and practices are best for you. Pushing through a hot yoga or power or any yang class may feel good in the moment. But it can over-tax and stress a body that is already struggling with an internal imbalance.

On the other hand, the nature of gentle, restorative, or yin yoga classes helps you build internal balance. Study after study proves the immediate and longstanding effects of mediation and deep breathing—both of which can get lost in intense, high-paced, or high-heat practices. Meditation and deep breathing dramatically lower stress response. So does simply being still—which is something you do in yin yoga and that it teaches you how to do in everyday life.

How you cope with stress is a huge component in all aspects of your health, from your gut health (read up on that with Dr. Nicole Lewis) to pelvic health to the state of your hormones and beyond. When you’re chronically over-stressed and never get down from that point, your body pumps out more and more cortisol. Over time, feedback loops get muddied, leading to HPA-axis dysfunction (or what most people mistakenly call “adrenal fatigue”). HPA-axis dysfunction can cause fatigue from even more hormone imbalances, such as thyroid issues and cortisol output that becomes chronically reduced. High cortisol also is an issue for insulin resistance seen in PCOS and diabetes. It’s also a problem for your sex hormone balance, stealing from your progesterone over time.

Finding a balanced yoga practice

Yin yoga for hormones- african american woman sitting in lotus pose at home

For some people, it’s really hard to let go of the rush of a yang yoga practice. Mentally, you might feel really good after leaving a hot or power class. If you do, that’s something to take note of. Also ask yourself: How do I feel in the days afterward? Is my body or mind more wiped than usual or energized? Is my energy a calm, true energy that doesn’t need to be supported by coffee or do I feel revved up on adrenaline? Honest answers to these questions can help you evaluate how often yang yoga belongs in your practice—or if it does at all.

If you feel wiped or revved up the day after yang yoga, that’s a sign you need to slow down and create more balance in your practice. Stress isn’t just mental or emotional. It’s also physical, and, in some people, yang yoga can put stress on the body and create unwanted physiological changes, like altered hormone levels. No matter what your current practice looks like, try incorporating yin yoga into your routine. It increases your sense of wellness and well-being, and it’s worth seeing if it’ll do that for you too.

Cindy Hodits, RYT
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