Chakras & the Endocrine system
In this blog, we’re going to take a look at a wonderful crossover between human physiology, and the system of the Chakras as understood in yoga.
The Chakra system is one of the key principles to understand when studying yoga.
We use the term ‘energetic anatomy’ to refer to the network of different energy pathways or centres that exist in the human body. This network makes up what is known as the 'subtle body' or 'pranic body'. It allows for the flow of prana, and makes up a person's aura.
The Chakras exist within the subtle body, influencing our emotions and energy based on a variety of influences. Check out our blog here for a more detailed overview of the chakra system.
The endocrine system is one of the 11 major bodily systems, consisting of a series of glands that produce, secrete and regulate hormones throughout the body.
What is fascinating is that not only do the locations of the glands and chakras align. But so do the energetic and philosophical aspects of the chakras align with the physiological functioning of the glands. This is pretty incredible considering the chakra system is thought to have originated around 1500 - 500 BC!
Crown Chakra (Sahasrara) & Pineal Gland
Known as the crown Chakra, Sahasrara sits above the head and is regarded as a gateway to the energy of the universe, or as a passageway to connecting to the higher self. It represents an energy of connection, spirituality and clarity.
It is said to relate to the Pineal gland, which is located in the brain above the Hypothalamus. It is a light sensitive gland that produces the melatonin hormone to regulate sleep. Its proper functioning helps to improve thinking power and intelligence.
- Inversion asanas like plough/shoulderstand are useful in regulating the Pineal.
Third Eye Chakra (Ajna) & Pituitary Gland
Known as the ‘third eye’ or ‘mind's eye’, The Ajna Chakra is the body's command centre. It is responsible for our sensory perception, conscious and subconscious mind, as well as regulating the other chakras and energy channels. Located at the eyebrow center, Ajna corresponds to the Pituitary gland, known as the ‘master gland’ of the endocrine system - it serves to regulate the entire system and exerts control of a number of important area such as sexual function, stress, energy levels, blood pressure and growth.
- Practices like brahmari pranyama, Aum chanting and seated meditation are used to regulate the Pituitary.
Throat Chakra (Vishuddi) & Thyroid Gland
Vishuddi Chakra is located in the throat, and relates to communication, expression, truth, and growth. As we learn to express our truth without fear, we facilitate an opportunity for growth - growing into our higher self. The thyroid gland is located at the base of the throat, and is responsible for regulating the body's metabolic rate controlling heart, muscle and digestive function, brain development and bone maintenance - essentially the growth and development of our physical body.
- Asanas like plough, shoulder stand, fish, heart openers or Ujjayi breath are used to regulate the Thyroid.
Heart Chakra (Anahata) & Thymus Gland
The heart chakra represents an energy of love, trust, forgiveness and openness. Located in the spine behind the sternum, it directly corresponds to the thymus gland. The thymus plays a role in immunity, autoimmunity and ageing - producing T blood cells to fight disease and illness. Only when we are in optimal health and wellbeing can we begin to express unconditional love towards ourselves and others.
- Heart or chest opening asanas are useful when targeting the Thymus or heart chakra.
Solar Plexus Chakra (Manipura) & Pancreas Gland
Manipura relates to energy, assimilation and digestion. It is our sense of self - encompassing willpower, fire, self esteem and transformation. Located between the belly button and the ribs at the solar plexus, Manipura corresponds both in location and function to the Pancreas. The Pancreas’ main role is to produce insulin and glucagon - regulating blood sugar levels in the body. It plays an important part in the digestion process, transforming food into energy and managing sugar levels.
- Twisting, prone or chest opening asanas can be helpful in regulating the Pancreas.
Sacral Chakra (Swadisthana) & Reproductive Glands
Swadisthana represents an energy of creativity, pleasure, sexuality, control and morality. It relates to our emotions, sexuality and creativity, connecting us to inspiration and beauty. Located slightly below the belly button in the groin, Swadisthana corresponds directly with reproductive organs, the testes and ovaries. Responsible for producing sex hormones which in turn can have significant influence over our emotions.
- Cobra, fish pose and goddess squat are helpful poses that relate to the Ovaries/Testes.
Root Chakra (Muladhara) & Adrenals
The base Chakra, Muladhara, relates to our primal needs - food, slep, sex and self preservation. It is our sense of security, stability and safety. Muladhara is located at the base of the spine between the anus and genital. Whilst no organ is located here, the Muladhara chakra is often related to the Adrenal Glands. The Adrenals are responsible for responding to stress, regulating blood pressure, and producing the hormone adrenaline - otherwise known as the fight or flight response when survival is being threatened.
- Seated, hip opening or grounding asanas like Tadasana are used to promote stillness and regulate the Adrenals.