What is Cortisol? - Thrive Yoga and Wellness

What is Cortisol?

Stress. It’s basically what just about every person that visits the studio says they want help managing. Stress is tension, felt physically or emotionally, and it seems to go hand in hand with daily life now. Whether you are a 16 year old student studying for a Pre-Cal exam or a 36 yr old trying to get your kid ready for school, finish the proposal and remember whether you turned off the toaster. Stress is real.

A little bit of stress isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however. In fact, I know that I need a little bit of stress to really get my “rear in gear” and get things done. The little bursts of stress, like when you’re rushing to meet a deadline can help you to move a little quicker, make some decisions faster, and (in times past) the stress kept you and me safe from big Sabor Tooth Tigers.

Thankfully, we don’t have any of these chasing us around anymore

The truth is, however, if you’re anything like me, you don’t have “short bursts” of stress. Every.single.day. is full of stress.

One of the natural systems that we have in our bodies to manage this stress is the production of cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone produced by the Adrenal Glands and it’s this hormone that helps us get the heck out of dodge when we need to, or quickly finish whatever task that is at hand and due like 15 minutes ago. If we have too much Cortisol for too long it can lead to some pretty crappy outcomes.

The Effects of High Cortisol Levels Overtime

  1. Weight Gain
  2. Mood Swings
  3. Bruises (and other skin changes)
  4. Increases Blood Pressure
  5. Increased Thirst
  6. Reduce Sex Drive (especially in women)
  7. Mood Swings
  8. Immunity Suppression

(Just to name a few)

Now, I know most of us can’t (and don’t want to) just go off and live on the side of a cliff in Greece. (although, I highly recommend going to visit these amazing feats of human engineering if you ever get the chance.)

You can do something to help you manage the cortisol levels. I bet you know where I’m about to go with this…

Yup, you betcha, a regular yoga practice can help to reduce Cortisol levels in your body.

However, depending on the type of lifestyle and diet that you have, you may not need the super physical type of yoga that I have always liked the most. You may need something less intense like a gentle flow, restorative or even yin. In fact, sometimes the more intense classes can cause an increase in cortisol, like what I experienced postpartum after my second child.

If you are under tremendous stress, and you are already very active, I encourage you to try a less strenuous class. However, if you want to build amazing strength and flexibility and endurance, I encourage you to try a more physical yoga practice. Either way, get on your mat. You’ll notice several things right away.

Five Benefits of a Yoga Practice

  • slower heart rate
  • reduction in stress (that’s the cortisol busting benefit!)
  • increase in bone density
  • better sleep
  • improved mobility

With just a couple of practices a week, you can experience all these benefits of yoga, namely the reduction of cortisol levels, as well as increased mobility, increase oxygen intake (at least while practicing) and an increase in focus. In just a few minutes of conscious attention to breath and movement, you can calm your body and mind, but if you have longer the benefits are even better.

Over the course of the next few days, I encourage you to give yoga a try. You can come down to the studio if you are in the Chattanooga, Tn area. However, if you’re not near by, be sure to check out our Youtube Channel (and subscribe as we have some amazing content in the pipes!). We also have a great and growing online yoga membership dedicated to strength building and stress busting, called Thrive Online. Whether you get your yoga practice in studio or online, if you learn anything with this post, learn the importance of stress reduction on your life and maybe how you can help reduce the chronic build up of stress in your life with a yoga practice.

I hope to see you on your mat soon!

This article was written by Jennifer Dixon ERYT 500 and Authorized Ashtanga Yoga Teacher. She is the lead teacher in the Thrive Yoga and Wellness 200 hr Yoga Teacher Training Program, loves yoga, her husband, kids, dogs, cats and chickens.

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