Stress is an inevitable occurrence that can result from many of our day-to-day activities and interactions. It can be due to something as mundane as the physical stress from traveling, to a deeper, more long-term source such as a toxic work environment or conflicts with peers. While there is a good type of stress that can create resilience or strength, too much of it – as with any other thing in excess – never does anyone any good.
Not only is stress physically difficult to deal with, but it can also be a hindrance to our productivity and our social life. We can become less active and energetic to the point that we may neglect work, or be too moody and uninvested in engaging with people.
If you want to get to the physiological root of the stress you are experiencing, it is most likely impacting your adrenal glands. These are the glands that produce your stress hormones, namely cortisol and adrenaline. When you are exposed to a significant amount of fatigue over long periods of time, it takes a toll on your adrenal glands, and you may end up feeling weak and lethargic. Some reported symptoms, according to Medical News Today, are a feeling of tiredness, difficulty sleeping and getting up, unusual cravings for sweet and salty food, dependence on stimulants such as caffeine, digestive disorders, and weight loss.
While science backs up this insight, according to the Harvard Health Publishing website, adrenal fatigue is not recognized as an actual disease. In fact, specialists from the Endocrinology Society state that “no scientific proof exists to support adrenal fatigue as a true medical condition.” Nonetheless, the symptoms of this “nonexistent” condition continue to spread. The challenge is how to treat it when medical practitioners won’t even acknowledge it.
Fortunately, there is a safe and natural way to revive these glands and combat stress from this so-called “adrenal fatigue”. According to One Medical, Pranayama, which is the formal practice of controlling breathing, can not only help relieve the body’s stress but can also contribute to one’s overall physical and mental state of well-being.
“Prana” means our vital life source, and the practice of Pranayama involves various exercises, poses, sequences, and breathing techniques.
Here are a few Pranayama sequences that can alleviate some symptoms of adrenal fatigue:
1. Kumbhaka Pranayama
Kumbhaka is the practice of breath retention in yoga. There are two aspects of it, namely the Antara, which is after an inhale; and Bahya, which is after an exhale. Start by establishing Sama Vritti Ujjayi, and then as you reach your exhale, retain your breath for a duration of 2 internal OMs. Squeeze your ribs against your contracted lungs, while releasing Mula Bandha. Raise your head to neutral once you are done. Remember to take two to three Ujjayi breaths before repeating this.
In the beginning, you may be at one-third to one-half of your Sama Vritti count only, so keep practicing until you reach the level where you are comfortable.
2. Kapalabhati Pranayama
Kapalabhati translates to skull shining breath. Kapala means skull, and bhati means light. It is a traditional cleansing technique or kriya, and this can help clear your lung’s capacity as well as build heat in your internal system.
To do Kapalabhati, sit comfortably with your spine straight, and then exhale completely. After inhaling through your nose as much as your lungs can take, sharply exhale with powerful lower belly contractions and push the air out of your lungs. Make your exhales short and quick, and your inhales short and passive. Do this for about 20 times, for about ten minutes at any part of your day.
3. Sitali Pranayama
Sitali translates to cooling, so this sequence can help clear your mind and body of heat. Badly put, this is an ideal way to “cool off” if you are feeling hot-headed or irritable. You’ll especially find this handy during hot weather conditions or places where the climate is warm and humid.
Begin by forming a tube on your tongue by rolling it until the outer edges touch. You can also opt to keep your tongue flat and form your mouth into an oval shape. Then, take in as much air as you can through your mouth, to the point where your inhalation can sound like a hiss. Follow this by bringing your tongue’s tip to the roof of your mouth, and then closing your lips. You will notice that there is a coolness during your inhalation. End by exhaling through your nose. Repeat this up to ten times at any time of the day.
4. Ujjayi Pranayama
Ujjayi translates to the ability to conquer or be victorious. Because of the soft hissing sound that one makes during an Ujjayi sequence, it is also known as “ocean breath”. Ujjayi utilizes the full expansion of your lungs, and because it pays attention to your breathing, it also helps in calming your state of mind.
To practice Ujjayi, find a comfortable seated position where you can sit with a straightened spine. Take a slow, full breath through your nose while keeping your spine aligned then pause momentarily. Exhale through your mouth, with your breath going slowly from the back of your throat, making a faint “HA” sound. When you exhale, it will sound like a wave from the ocean or a breezy rush of wind. You can repeat this for up to 20 times for about ten minutes during any part of your day.
While the field of medicine may have yet to acknowledge adrenal fatigue as a legitimate medical condition, there are several possible remedies to address these symptoms. Such remedies may not require frequent visits to a physician, nor synthetic medications. Constant trial and error may also lead to disappointment and further stress and frustration.
The option to practice Pranayama is a beneficial, no-cost solution that may help alleviate, and eventually, cure these symptoms of adrenal fatigue. Regardless of the level of stress you are experiencing, there is no doubt that the regular practice of Pranayama will contribute to a better state of physical and mental well-being and health. Hopefully, with frequent Pranayama practice and more research, adrenal fatigue may be a thing of the past.