Practicing yoga is a well known method for releasing stress. Lowering chronically high levels of stress in your life will help you to speed up your metabolism, have more energy, increase the functioning of your immune system and sleep better. Cortisol is one of the main hormones found in the human body that revs the body up under internally or externally stressful situations. It is known as the flight-or-fight hormone. The release of cortisol can give you a quick burst of energy and enhanced mental ability.
However, if your level of cortisol is too high, too much of the time, you will be predisposed to gaining weight, particularly in the abdominal area. High levels of cortisol make you crave calorie dense, salty and sugary foods. Unremitting high levels of cortisol also lower the functioning of your immune system, raise your blood pressure, increase a predisposition towards heart disease and overtax your adrenal glands, which may lead to fatigue, irritability and depression. Yoga practice can help one shift away from unhealthy lifestyle.
The satiety hormone, leptin, also directly affects the functioning of your metabolism. Leptin acts on leptin receptors in the hypothalamus to give you a feeling of fullness after you have eaten. Leptin helps the body to regulate appetite, caloric intake and energy output. Leptin and cortisol are intricately connected in the human body. A rise in cortisol levels actually potentiates a rise in the release of leptin. However, if leptin levels are too high, too much of the time from overeating and/or stress, the body becomes inured to its signal of satiety. In other words, the brakes may no longer work as well! Both leptin and cortisol affect the release of each other. Chronically high levels of leptin are associated with cardiovascular disease, obesity, chronic inflammation and metabolic syndrome.
Leptin also affects how much fat your cells store and your subjective experience of hunger and fullness. Leptin affects the HPA axis that helps your body to handle stress. When your cortisol and leptin levels are balanced and in the normal range, your body and mind will function optimally. You will be better able to not sweat the small stuff, handle stress well and lose weight more easily. An active lifestyle and a healthy diet are two of the main keys to keeping these important hormones balanced. Lowering your stress levels through exercise, keeping a manageable schedule and practicing relaxation techniques will also help to keep your cortisol levels in check and protect your body’s sensitivity to leptin.