If you have been diagnosed with Adrenal Fatigue, you have probably had a doctor or another practitioner recommend yoga. With so many different types of yoga and different studios around town, you may be confused about what type of yoga is best for you. We are here with the answer!
First, let’s talk about adrenal fatigue and stress. There are four stages to adrenal fatigue. The first stage is the Alarm Stage. This is a stage that all of us go in and out of in our daily lives. An example is a job interview. You will have a stress reaction that causes an increase in adrenaline, cortisol, DHEA and insulin. Most people can recover from this. The second stage is continuing the alarm. You continue to produce these hormones, but your levels of DHEA and other sex hormones may start to drop because resources needed to produce sex hormones are diverted to production of cortisol. A common feeling is being “wired but tired”. You maintain alertness during the day, but crash hard in the evening. This is when you start to become dependent on coffee! The third stage is the Resistance Phase. Your endocrine system continues to focus on producing stress hormones at the expense of sex hormones. You begin to have drops in DHEA and testosterone. Symptoms include lack of enthusiasm and lower sex drive. This stage can last months to years. The last stage is the Burnout Phase. Your body runs out of ways to manufacture stress hormones, and cortisol levels begin to drop. With both stress and sex hormones low, this is the final crash after long periods of stress. Symptoms are extreme tiredness, lack of sex drive, irritability, depression, anxiety, weight loss or gain, and disinterest. This is when your adrenal fatigue starts to impact all parts of your body.
Yoga is here to help! Yoga dates all the way back to 2000 BC starting with references to breath control, philosophy and spirituality. The yoga that comes to mind today, breath control with movement, didn’t come around until closer to the 19th century. One of the most popular types of yoga in the US is vinyasa flow, power yoga. This type of yoga is quick, more intense, and completely wrong for adrenal healing. With a more dynamic yoga practice, you will feel an initial invigorating jolt, but will later feel depleted. For adrenal fatigue, a restorative yoga practice is more appropriate focusing on deep relaxation, soothing the senses, and urging the mind and nervous system to stop reacting and instead turn attention inward. Yoga Nidra or “sleep yoga” can also be beneficial. The goal is to reduce stress, improve your mood, decrease feelings of anxiety and create a sense of calm and peace.
Establishing a yoga practice at home does not have to be hard. Start by finding a space in your house that is free of distraction. Decide if silence or calming music will help you set the mood. Start by choosing a few poses that you have learned in a yoga class that you enjoy. Two of the best poses for adrenal healing include Legs Up the Wall, and Savasana or Corpse Pose. Having yoga props, such as blankets, bolsters, blocks and belts, can also be very helpful in a restorative practice, assisting in weight bearing poses to improve stability, balance, and allow for more relaxation. Schedule your yoga practice for the same time every day, knowing that even just 20 minutes per day can help with the healing process.
For adrenal healing, breath control is the most important tool in your yoga practice. Slow, deep breaths help to relax the nervous system and calm the mind, which leads to a sense of connection and healing. In a restorative practice, you do not have to have an exact flow or sequence like in other yoga practices. Choose a few poses you feel comfortable with and hold them for several breaths. Make sure your breathing stays consistently deep and slow. If you are used to a more intense yoga practice, sometimes it is hard to slow down in a restorative practice. In this case, always come back to your breath, counting 1-2-3-4 in and out or just focusing on your deep inhales and exhales. Since you will be focusing on breath and slow movements, if this practice becomes hard for you, try to practice patience. It will get easier over time.
Some additional yoga techniques for adrenal support include:
- When in a highly stressful situation, sit in your chair with feet flat on the floor and arms crossed, resting your head on your arms. Move your eyebrow skin with in the direction of your nose to relax the nervous system. Breathe. Stay here for 3-5 minutes.
- Doing a guided meditation or relaxation can be helpful, both with a guide or on your own with positive imagery (finding your “happy place”). Close your eyes and try this silently or with nature noises to see what works for you.
- Meditation Focused on Breath can be helpful. Focus on long breaths counting up to 4 with the inhales and exhales. Start with 5 minutes, work up to 20.
For more information or questions about yoga for adrenal support, make an appointment with Molly Dockhorn, MS, RD, RYT 200.