By: Aliana Gordon
What are hormones?
Have you ever wondered what orchestrates the delicate balance of your heart rate, blood pressure, and bodily cycles? It is the hormones produced by organs and glands. When commonly thought about, hormones seem to only refer to testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone but there is a great assortment of major hormones. Some of them being:
- Adrenocorticotrophic hormone, production of the stress hormone
- Growth hormone
- Thyroid-stimulating hormone, regulates metabolism, energy, & the nervous system
- Anti-diuretic hormone, regulates water balance and sodium levels
All of the hormones listed above are produced in a pea-sized endocrine gland sitting beneath the bridge of a nose, the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland is known as the master gland because it conducts other glands to produce hormones. Hormones provide feedback to the brain to ensure that hormones remain in equilibrium by releasing them at varying rates (3). It is one of eight interrelated major endocrine glands that if it does not work properly, it affects the brain, blood pressure, growth, metabolism, and more physiological reactions.
What is yoga?
Yoga is a 5,000-year ancient Indian philosophy integrating physical, mental, and spiritual practices through various forms of practice. As yoga has been westernized, it commonly combines physical postures with meditation to promote complete well-being
How can yoga benefit those with epilepsy?
The religious Indian texts Vedas describe epilepsy in abundance with varying symptoms and treatments to treat convulsions, apoplectic fits, and hysterical fits (4). In the Vedas, yoga was described to be a form of therapy to establish a union within the body. The asanas, derived from Sanskrit meaning yoga postures, aid in restoring the balance between the body and the metabolic systems. This results in the calming of the nervous system.
All exercises have been found to release endorphins, stress-reducing chemicals (6). Endorphins are secreted from the pituitary gland in response to physical activity, to block pain, and boost the production of the growth hormone (7). Various research has shown that those who practice yoga have a decreased amount of stress hormones. A 2012 National Health Interview Survey found that 85% of participants had a reduced amount of stress which could have been a result of decreased cortisol levels. In addition, a 2010 study had suggested that yoga had raised the levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) which inhibits neuronal excitability. But how does this help those with epilepsy?
Hormones do not cause seizures but can influence them. As mentioned, hormones provide feedback to the brain creating a dynamic relationship between the two. In an article written by Epilepsy Talk, they referred to the brain as the “conductor” of the “neuroendocrine symphony” and a saying that I have found perfectly suitable. Temporal or frontal lobe partial seizures are commonly the result of hormonal changes. Both areas of the brain are connected to the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland which control the release of hormones. Neuronal activity changes may occur during hormonal regulation, especially in women. Hormones may alter seizure threshold and can change frequencies of them occurring; some women have experienced more seizures following menstruation as estrogen is an “excitatory” hormone and increases seizure activity. Whereas progesterone is an “inhibitory” hormone and can have anti-seizure effects.
How to start practicing yoga
In the age of the internet, the knowledge of yoga can be at your fingertips in a matter of seconds. That beauty allows you to be able to find yoga studios near you that offer beginner classes. These classes often cost anywhere from $10 to $25 a session where you and other participants are guided by an instructor through poses that are generally suitable for all. Often yoga studios have memberships for those who are frequent goers and can be found to be more financially beneficial.
With the current pandemic going on, it can be safer to practice in your own home. There are many online resources available ranging from articles, videos, and podcasts that can be found with the simple search of ‘beginner yoga’ or ‘yoga for epilepsy’. One resource that closely mimics a guided class is YouTube videos where you will be able to view how the instructor moves through the poses along with verbal guidance.
Yoga: What You Need To Know. NCCIH. Published 2018. Accessed January 15, 2021. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/yoga-what-you-need-to-know
Pituitary Gland: What Is It & Definition. Cleveland Clinic. Published 2020. Accessed January 13, 2021. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/21459-pituitary-gland
Hormonal Imbalances and Seizures in Women. Epilepsy Talk. Published November 25, 2019. Accessed January 13, 2021. https://epilepsytalk.com/2019/11/25/hormonal-imbalances-and-seizures-in-women/#:~:text=Changes%20in%20neuronal%20activity%2C%20such%20as%20seizures%20in,threshold%2C%20change%20the%20frequency%20and%20severity%20of%20seizures.
Jain S, Tandon P. Ayurvedic Medicine and Indian Literature on Epilepsy. Accessed January 15, 2021. http://neurology-asia.org/articles/20043_057.pdf
Yoga for Epilepsy , Yoga for Epilepsy seizure control, Yoga poses for Epilepsy , yoga for epilepsy treatment. Indianmirror.com. Published 2021. Accessed January 15, 2021. https://www.indianmirror.com/games/yoga/yoga-epilepsy.html#:~:text=Yoga%20and%20Epilepsy.%20Yoga%20can%20be%20of%20benefit,therapy%20and%20research%20in%20treating%20epileptic%20seizure%20disorders
ItI jain. Total Yoga is a Yoga style pivoted on Fitness Mindfulness! Total-yoga.org. Published November 26, 2019. Accessed January 13, 2021. https://total-yoga.org/hormones-yoga/
Kraft S. Epilepsy and Your Hormones. HealthyWomen. Published October 14, 2010. Accessed January 13, 2021. https://www.healthywomen.org/content/blog-entry/epilepsy-and-your-hormones
Streeter CC, Whitfield TH, Owen L, et al. Effects of Yoga Versus Walking on Mood, Anxiety, and Brain GABA Levels: A Randomized Controlled MRS Study. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2010;16(11):1145-1152. doi:10.1089/acm.2010.0007
Bridges L, Sharma M. The Efficacy of Yoga as a Form of Treatment for Depression. Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine. 2017;22(4):1017-1028. doi:10.1177/2156587217715927