Cortisol is a steroid hormone that is produced and released by the adrenal gland and functions as a component of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis in response to stress.
A new study suggests practicing yoga reduces symptoms of chronic pain in women with fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is a difficult to diagnose condition which predominantly affects women. Chronic pain and fatigue often accompany the diagnosis with common symptoms including muscle stiffness, sleep disturbances, gastrointestinal discomfort, anxiety, and depression. Prior research has determined that women with fibromyalgia have lower-than-average cortisol levels. Experts believe deficient cortisol may contribute to pain, fatigue and stress sensitivity. Our cortisol levels peak about 30-40 minutes after we get up in the morning and decline throughout the day until we’re ready to go to sleep
According to this study, participants’ saliva revealed elevated levels of total cortisol following a program of 75 minutes of hatha yoga twice weekly over the course of eight weeks. Hatha yoga promotes physical relaxation by decreasing activity of the sympathetic nervous system, which lowers heart rate and increases breath volume. Researchers discovered individuals reported significant reductions in pain and associated symptoms, as well as psychological benefits. They felt less helpless, were more accepting of their condition. Mindfulness is a form of active mental awareness rooted in Buddhist traditions; it is achieved by paying total attention to the present moment with a non-judgmental awareness of inner and outer experiences.