A few years ago I’d become exhausted through working very intensively. I was due to make a presentation on the Endocrine System and its relationship with the chakras and I wondered how I would find the energy to prepare yet another piece of work.
I began experimenting in my own yoga practice with visualisations and certain sequences of poses that have a particular effect on the endocrine system. I imagined the glands as lights in a channel, aligned with the spine between head and tail, brightening in sequence as I moved. I included this in my yoga practice for about 10 days before making the presentation. Afterwards my mentor asked me how I’d got through the difficult and exhausting period. I hadn’t had time for any more rest but realised that I felt fine – the visualisations and sequences had re-vitalised me!
Yesterday I re-visited the moves with a friend who’d trained alongside me in Integrative Bodywork and Movement Therapy. I put soundtracks on from Cirque du Soleil’s Alegria – music that moves quickly between crescendo and decrescendo. After exploring for a while we shared our experiences. At first I’d found that the glands in my upper body were more present than in my lower body. At one point, when lying on the front of my body, I was pushing up with both hands symmetrically and moving backwards – this is homologous movement. Then I found my body making big lateral curves first one way and then the other, ultimately the movement sequenced into my legs so they began to feel like a big, swishy tail. As often happens when people move together from their inner awareness, my friend had a sense of the swishy tail in her movement too.
Then we experimented with some movements from Linda Hartley’s book ‘Wisdom of the Body Moving’. The following videos show these movements.
In class last week we re-visited this work. First we looked at pictures showing the location of the endocrine glands and of the chakras. The endocrine glands relate to specific chakras. It’s likely that when the yogis of thousands of years ago came up with the concept of the chakras, it was the energy of the endocrine glands that they experienced. The glands can be a link between the subtle energy of the chakras and the denser energy of the organs.
After looking at the pictures we practised a Chakra/ Endocrine System visualisation.
Feedback from class members included ‘feeling light’, ‘feeling refreshed and rejuvenated’. So how did the endocrine gland/chakra focus have this effect and also help me get my energy back a few years ago?
The endocrine glands are vital for the harmony of all the body systems, they produce hormones that affect mood and emotion as well as physiological health. So by giving the glands light attentiveness in sitting visualisations and fluid movement sequences it’s possible to to bring the body/mind back into balance.
The glands of the endocrine system form an energetically connected network located between head and tail, generally in front of the spine. A good way of working with the subtle energy of the glands is through developmental movement patterns, these are baby moves that ideally we integrated in the first year of our lives. Many of these patterns have an affinity with yoga asana. When we practise asana in yoga there will be an effect on the endocrine glands (and therefore the chakras) even if we are not conscious of this.
Here’s a description of the Endocrine Glands, their qualities, relationship to developmental movement patterns, and their affinities with the chakras:
The Coccygeal Body is a structure located at the tip of the ‘tail bone’. It isn’t strictly speaking a gland, but when the coccygeal body is energetically present and active it can provide support for the pelvic floor, and give a ‘tail swishing’ freedom of movement in hips and legs. The ‘mind’ of the coccygeal body is of non-differentiation between inner and outer worlds as in the embryonic stage of life. The coccygeal body grounds the glands of the head and supports the Homolateral Push from the feet – in class we sometimes practise this as a ‘Lizard Crawl’. The Coccygeal Body underlies the love instinct and relates to Muladhara Chakra and earth.
The Gonads include the ovaries in women and testes in men. They connect energetically to the heels, ankles and lower legs and support the Homolateral Push from the hands by directing force from the hand through the pelvis and down to the foot on the same side – eg ‘Lizard Crawl’ moving backwards. The gonads underlie creative instinct and relate to the Svadishthana Chakra.
The Adrenals are situated like little hats on top of the kidneys. They are associated with instinct for survival, physical courage based on instinct and its counterpart – fear. They connect energetically to the knees, femurs and sacro-iliac joints and can be a support for Navel Radiation pattern – in class we practise this as ‘Moving from Centre’ or ‘Starfish’. The Adrenals underlie courageous instinct and relate to Manipura Chakra.
The Pancreas relates to personal power, personal needs and expression of anger, fear, excitement and exuberance. The Pancreas is a base of support for the heart which has qualities of love and being there for others, it also gives energetic support to the head, feet, tail, hands and the Homologous Push from the feet – eg coming up into Upward Bow – in this pose the pancreas is the keystone of the arch. The pancreas underlies social instinct and relates to the Solar Plexus and Manipura Chakra.
Heart Bodies The areas of the heart which secrete hormones are known in Body-Mind Centering® as ‘heart bodies.’ Energetically the heart bodies support gestures where there is opening and embracing with the arms and also reaching out through hands and eyes. The ‘mind’ of the heart bodies is therefore one of ‘giving and receiving’. They support the forearms, wrists and the Homologous Push from the hands – eg moving into Cobra pose. The heart bodies underlie love expression and relate to Anahata Chakra.
The Thymus Gland is part of the lymphatic system and relates to issues of defence and boundaries. The thymus gives support and freedom in the movement of the shoulder girdle and shoulder joints and openness across the chest. The ‘mind’ of the thymus is courageous, the kind of courage based on love and beyond instincts or duty. The thymus supports the Homologous Reach and Pull pattern – eg moving forwards and upwards as in Upward Facing Dog. The thymus underlies courageous expression and relates to Anahata Chakra.
The Thyroid and Parathyroid Glands underlie creative expression. The thyroid supports vocal expression and gives energetic support to the elbows and humerus. The thyroid supports the Homologous Reach and Pull from Feet pattern – eg jumping back in a Sun Salutation, or jumping up into Handstand from a squat. The parathyroid glands support Contralateral Reach and Pull Patterns – as in normal walking. The parathyroids and the thyroid glands relate to Vishudda Chakra
The Pituitary Gland supports the functions of eyes, intelligence, imagination, and conceptual thought. The ‘mind’ of the pituitary gland is altruism and compassion. The pituitary gland supports the Reach and Pull pattern from the tail, underlies love, compassion and knowledge and relates to Ajna Chakra.
The Pineal Gland is associated with the sense of hearing, and the vestibular/balance mechanisms of the inner ear. It harmonises patterns of rest and activity, the circadian rhythms. Traditionally the pineal gland is thought to be the third eye that ‘looks within’. This gland supports the Spinal Push from the head – eg moving into Headstand, it also underlies the integration of the soul and relates to Ajna Chakra.
The Hypothalamus is part of the brain and is not strictly speaking an endocrine gland, but it does have endocrine cells and functions. Although the hypothalamus is not usually included in comparisons of the chakras with the endocrine system, I’ve found that if I focus on it, breathe into it and visualise it, I get a sense of white light at the crown of my head which feels to me to have an affinity with meditation and Sahasrara Chakra.