Yoga for Adrenal Fatigue Recovery

By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH


Read Part 1 | Part 3

Breathing Exercises and Yoga for Adrenal Fatigue

Exercise and Yoga for Adrenal FatigueHave you ever thought to use yoga for adrenal fatigue? Suffering from adrenal fatigue can be miserable but using yoga for adrenal fatigue maybe the natural answer you ahve been looking for. Yoga for adrenal fatigue has been a benefit to many. Because breathing is an automatic function, few take the time to understand its therapeutic significance in the Western Medical world. Most of us are not taught the significance of proper breathing and its healing power. As a result, the vast majority of people simply do not breathe properly while in a normal healthy state, not to mention any state of body weakness such as Adrenal Fatigue. New research shows that yoga for Adrenal Fatigue may be beneficial in achieving optimal recovery.  Keep reading to learn what yoga for adrenal fatigue can do for you and how yoga for adrenal fatigue can improve your overall wellbeing.

Three main sets of muscles are active when you breathe normally: the intercostal muscles, the abdominal muscles, and the respiratory diaphragm. All muscular activity of the body, whether it be contraction of individual cells, isotonic or isometric exercise, agonist or antagonist activity, concentric shortening, or eccentric lengthening, take place strictly under the guidance of the nervous system. breathing is special in that it involves both the Somatic Nervous System and the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS). In other words, you can voluntarily control breathing, or if you choose not to do so, the body will take over automatically. Utilizing controlled breath technique is a necessary part of yoga for adrenal fatigue. Both systems are therefore connected. The ANS is self-regulating and is not usually controlled by the Somatic Nervous System. For example, you cannot voluntarily decide to make the heart rate beat faster or slower. This is normally regulated by ANS and is beyond the Somatic Nervous System control. However, you can influence the heart rate by regulating, on a conscious level, the respiratory rate because breathing connects both nervous systems. Long exhalation will slow down heart rate during the exhalation process. By modulating our respiratory rate at will, we can influence the ANS breathing, therefore, offers an important gateway into the world of the ANS, allowing us to modulate it. This is of vital importance to those with advanced Adrenal Fatigue when the Autonomic Nervous System is invariably dysfunctional.

The ANS is broadly divided into the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS), which is responsible for adrenaline release and the fight or flight response on one side, and the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS), which is responsible for rest and relaxation of the body’s internal function. In quiet times when there is less need for air, the PNS mildly constricts the smooth muscle that surrounds the airways, especially the smaller bronchioles, and thereby impedes the flow of air to and from the alveoli. But in times of emergency or increased physical activity, the SNS opens the airways and allows air to flow more easily. The PNS, by way of release of its neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, works in a dynamic balance with the SNS, by releasing its neurotransmitter, norepinephrine, to modulate and maintain homeostasis in our body. This delicate balance must be maintained for us to feel good. Yoga for adrenal fatigue helps to maintain this balance.

Adrenal Fatigue, especially in the advanced state, is invariably tied to overstimulation of the SNS. Extensive experiments have shown that Type A high-strung personalities have about threefold more plasma norepinephrine responses and fourfold larger adrenaline responses during exposure to a various laboratory and clinical stressors than compared to Type B individuals who are laid back and relaxed. These chemical transmitters of the SNS flood the body in Type A individuals, resulting in a body that is on constant alert, leading to a vicious downward spiral of compensatory responses and ultimately adrenal burnout. One key to adrenal recovery is to reduce SNS tone and enhance PNS tone. Adrenal breathing can help greatly. Adrenal breathing influences the autonomic circuits that slow the heartbeat and reduce blood pressure, producing calm feelings and a sense of stability. It calms the mind and allows the body’s internal homeostatic system to reset itself. This conduit by way of controlled respiration consciously gives us access to autonomic function that no other system of the body can boast.

Those with severe adrenal weakness often exhibit abnormal breathing patterns. Abnormal breathing patterns in an Adrenal Fatigue setting can over-stimulate the SNS, trigger panic attacks, and contribute to adrenal crashes. We tend to breathe shallowly or even hold our breath when we feel anxious or are under stress. Sometimes we are not even aware of it. Shallow breathing limits oxygen intake and adds further stress to the body, creating a vicious cycle. Holding one’s breathe either at the end of inhalation or exhalation stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, aggravating adrenal weakness if the body is already in a state of a low adrenal reserve. Adrenal breathing Exercises can break this negative cycle by rebalancing the ANS and gently delivering more oxygen to the body for natural energy generation without over-stimulating the SNS. The body gets to take a break and reset itself to its natural state.

Proper adrenal breathing releases tension from the body, clears the mind, reconnects the body to the mind, reduces fatigue, and improves both physical and mental wellness. This is accomplished through enhancing the Parasympathetic Nervous System’s function. It shifts the body’s basal resting mode from a sympathetic to a parasympathetic bias.

Bear in mind that in Eastern cultures, breathing is also used as an effective modality to enhance energy and alertness by stimulating the body’s Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS). This is seen frequently in certain types of yoga breathing and is usually accomplished by various techniques involving breathe holding that gradually increases intensity and performing quick breathing exercises with high frequency (belly breathing). Another technique involves using the chest wall only to affect breathing and this is called thoracic or paradoxical breathing. The chest wall expands while the abdominal wall is drawn inward towards the back during inhalation and outward during exhalation. While these breathing techniques are empowering and increase energy flow, they can also drain the body of the already low energy state of Adrenal Fatigue. They, therefore, should be avoided in Adrenal Fatigue.

Stop those panic attacks with Yoga for Adrenal FatigueIn adrenal breathing, the goal is to reduce sympathetic tone. All sympathetically driven and oriented breathing techniques should, therefore, be restricted and not be deployed until the adrenals are well healed or unless directed by your health care professional. breathing programs that do not consider this may make Adrenal Fatigue worse.

Proper adrenal breathing patterns should be smooth, quiet, regular, and rhythmic. The intensity of each breathe must match the body’s current state of a reserve. There should be no intentional breath holding or prolonging of breathing time during inhalation or exhalation. This is best accomplished by gentle breathing using the diaphragm. This is often referred to as abdominal breathing, or belly breathing because this is where movement can be seen and felt. Improper technique can worsen Adrenal Fatigue.

Beginning students and those with advanced Adrenal Fatigue (Stage 3 or higher) and weak constitutions should be very careful in the inhalation and exhalation intensity. Forcing more air in and out of the lungs beyond what the body can tolerate may drain the body of reserve and potentially have a negative effect of activating the SNS. This can trigger an adrenal crash. The intensity level may need to be titrated downwards significantly in times of adrenal crashes.

If properly done, Adrenal breathing Exercise using the diaphragm helps to restore adrenal health by enhancing parasympathetic tone, improving lymphatic circulation and clearing up toxic metabolites. The activity also improves vital capacity, supports healthy ANS balance, improves tissue oxygen saturation, and effects gentle rhythmic massage on the GI track and internal organs including the adrenals, and optimizes musculoskeletal tone. It is one of the easiest and most effective exercises anyone with Adrenal Fatigue can do at anytime and anyplace to support adrenal recovery.

Adrenal breathing Exercise takes as little as a few minutes to complete and can be done anywhere at anytime. No equipment is necessary. The exact program varies from person to person. The frequency and intensity depend highly on the stage of Adrenal Fatigue. Because the wrong inhale and exhale intensity can trigger an adrenal crash, this exercise should be done under professional guidance.

Adrenal Restorative Exercise

Dysfunction of the body’s ability to handle stress affects not only the adrenal glands but also the Central and Peripheral Nervous Systems. Almost all advanced Adrenal Fatigue patients have significant dysfunctional Autonomic Nervous Systems (ANS). A complete Adrenal Fatigue recovery program must, therefore, incorporate modalities designed to restore nervous system health and balance.

Adrenal Restorative Exercise is a set of specially designed exercises to promote deep and active relaxation. Utilizing established restorative yoga poses and adapting to enhance adrenal function, it focuses on a key aspect of Adrenal Fatigue–repairing the mind-body connection and restoring nervous system homeostasis.

Adrenal Restorative Exercise is not like regular exercise, where you focus on stretching and strengthening. For those in Adrenal Fatigue, this approach will leave you feeling physically strained and exhausted. In some, this will trigger an adrenal crash. Adrenal Restorative Exercise is different! This approach is specifically designed to help people with Adrenal Fatigue; for whom even gentle stretching is too active and for those who need to restore their health and find balance again in their lives. People who have had injuries, surgery or prolonged physical conditions such as high blood pressure will also find Adrenal Restorative Exercise a breakthrough experience. It is a special form of therapeutic exercise with a focus on healing.

Yoga for Adrenal Fatigue can helpAdrenal Restorative Exercise focuses on being, connecting the mind and body, allowing signals from the mind and body to reconnect in a restorative and nurturing mode. The Autonomic Nervous System responds to such modulation well. These exercises rely on a customized sequence of specially designed postures in which your body is comfortably supported. This allows your joints to be open, and muscles to utterly relax and melt into place instead of stretching and straining into position. Blood flow to the adrenals is increased, and the nervous system switches to calmness and a deep inner mode of healing.

The Essence of Adrenal Restorative Exercise:

  • Promote activation of the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) without over stimulation of the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS).
  • Promote joint mobility and range of motion to overcome immobility common in Adrenal Fatigue.
  • Improve posture and biomechanics of the body function.
  • Allow muscles to relax without worsening the catabolic state.
  • Enhance blood flow to the adrenal glands to support recovery.

Key sequences include:

  • Neck Restorative Sequence. The neck represents the anatomical area of the body that is critical in the overall nervous system because this is where the major nerves and arteries branch off. Your neck muscles and your posture control the spine and set the muscular tone for the rest of your body to follow. You cannot have a relaxed body if your neck is tense. Conversely, the body cannot help but relax once the neck muscles are rested.
  • Spine Restorative Sequence. This is designed to open up the spine and realign the body posture properly. This is important because all key muscles in the body are connected to the spine directly or indirectly. Proper spinal alignment controls the muscles and therefore the vessels and nerves that run through it.
  • Circulation Restorative Sequence. This is designed to restore circulation within the body to its maximum flow and remove any strain or tissue that may be interfering with this process. We accomplish this by opening the two key outlets where circulation flows–the Thoracic Outlet and the Femoral Outlet.
  • Mind-Body Restoration Sequence. This final and most important sequence of poses are designed to connect the mind and body. All previous poses are designed to prepare the body for this mind-body reconnection. Blood flow to the adrenals is increased, and the nervous system switches to calmness and a deep inner healing mode.

The complete program of yoga for adrenal fatigue consists of twelve sequential positions or poses. The entire session of yoga for adrenal fatigue takes about fifteen minutes and can be as long as one hour simply by extending the amount of time spent in each position. Beginners may start with as little as twenty seconds per pose and slowly scale up.

Adrenal Restorative Exercise is particularly good for advanced Adrenal Fatigue. However, it can trigger an adrenal crash if the body is not ready. This is especially common in those with advanced adrenal weakness and in a severe catabolic state. Proceed only under professional guidance.

Read Part 1 | Part 3

© Copyright 2013 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.


Dr. Lam’s Key Questions

Dr.Lam’s Adrenal Yoga Exercise is good to use because it progresses in intensity and endurance. It consists of 21 sessions that will challenge your fluidity, control, core, and balance.

Lightweight strength training would be better. Light walking, biking or swimming is good cardio to do also. It really depends on the severity of your symptoms after you exercise. Start your recovery with rebuilding core strength is the key, and the Adrenal Yoga set of exercises is designed to do this systematically and gently.

Yoga exercise can be very mild or very intense. With proper guidance, the exercises can be personalized to your need. Dr.Lam’s Adrenal Yoga Exercise is a good example of how to increase the intensity as you improve your AFS.

Depending on the stages of your AFS, exercises should be done with caution. Swimming is a very good exercise. Swimming in salt water or natural body of water is better than a chlorinated pool.

Anytime you need to build muscle, you need to strain those muscles. As a result, you can affect the heart rate. There should be no issues if your adrenals are strong and able to handle the stress of heavy exercise.


Yoga for adrenal fatigue

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This article has been so helpful as I am compiling a chart to compare a bunch of supplements that I ordered. I am recovering from thyroid cancer and none of my doctors have ever mentioned some of the challenges I would face from having my thyroid removed and being put on hormones. I am working to bring my immunity, hormones, metabolism, and adrenals up to homeostasis again with supplementation. Looking especially to increase conversion on T4 to T3. I can't believe what our government spends funding on and that we don't have a proper government study or publication on vitamins and minerals that is actually up to date.




6 Comments

  • Susie says:

    Hi Dr. Lam, I have started your adrenal yoga series and am really liking it. I was wondering if there is information regarding what is being established in each session? Also, after I feel comfortable with a session and am ready to move on to the next session, should I go back and do the previous sessions since different things are being accomplished – or is it safe to say I can just continue through the sessions and everything that needs to be addressed will be addressed? Also, can you “overdo” the beginning sessions – can you do too many in one day or is more better to increase the parasympathetic tone? Thank you!

    • Dr.Lam says:

      Go slow and steady. As you advance, you don’t need to go back. Sometimes you will feel more tired at the end, and if so, you need to backtrack to previous sessions. You should feel calm and relax and not drained after each session. Once a day is sufficient.

      Dr Lam

  • Julie McCullough says:

    Hi I’ve started exercising after a year of only Pilates twice a week. I walked for 5 weeks 3-4 times a week for an hour now I started high intensity interval training and my adrenaline has gone into overdrive. I wake up with a racing heart and I’m wired/ nervous energy all day. How can I get rid of this extra adrenaline without stopping cardio exercise? Thanks

    • Dr.Lam says:

      Excecssive adrenaline usually wears itself off if you do not continue to excite the body. The speed varies as everyone is different. You need to learn to pay attention to what the body is telling you and slow down the exercise, or you can be punished again even after the current episode is over.

      Dr Lam

  • John says:

    Thank you for the great information you’re sharing! Where can I find the restorative exercises?