The Cortisol Connection

A few months ago our studio offered a 7 am Meditation Class with the focus on relieving stress. We were very surprised at the number of students that registered for this offering - especially since it was so early in the day! When the session ended many of the students gave us so much positive feedback as to how it ‘set them up for the day with a clear head’, ‘looked forward to it each week’, ‘when will you be offering this again?’.....etc. What we did not expect to hear was that the meditation sessions seemed to be having an affect on eating habits - lessening craving for sweets, and carbohydrates. We decided to study this further.
Let me begin by saying that many of us are living at the Speed of Light.
We know this...everything has to be had, or done, RIGHT NOW. Bosses, Blackberries and Media Bullies .....we are running at full speed through our lives. We cannot go any faster for much longer.  Something will need to give. And, of course, people’s lives are now beginning to unravel. Stress, as everyone knows, makes one feel miserable...on every level....mentally, physically, and spiritually. There is much clear medical evidence to support this. The medical experts tell us that the higher the stress level, the higher the body’s Cortisol level.  Hmmm. Let’s consider Cortisol and it’s role in the body. It can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how much is present and where it hangs out, and how long it sticks around. Exposure to unrelenting stress leads to unrelenting and long-lived Corisol levels. This substance is secreted by the adrenal glands in response to perceived danger (stress) - whether real or not. (Adrenal glands overlie the kidneys in the back body.) Cortisol is responsible for many physical reactions in the body - acting on the Sympathetic Nervous System to supposedly ‘keep us safe’ by speeding up heart rate, pumping up blood pressure, moving blood to the major muscle groups of the body, etc...keeping us in fight or flight mode. You can see how this would be a good thing were we continually presented with a saber-toothed tiger! But, the body doesn’t know the difference between a tiger and a deadline. It just responds by pumping more Cortisol. Normally, Cortisol fluctuates regularly throughout the day with the highest levels in the am and the lowest in the pm. However, there are many we know.
The Really Bad News.
What is not so well known about Cortisol is that it talks to the fat cells in the body, and magically turns skinny little fat cells into giant containers of the gelatinous stuff. Especially those around the belly button area. Call it what you will - a beer belly, or a muffin top......this is the handiwork of Cortisol. Cortisol also leads to osteoporosis, fibromyalgia and a whole host of other ailments. 

In short, Cortisol is The Evil Master Hormone that wrecks your life!
Now for The Good News !

We can counter act the effects of chronic stress and cortisol. To this end, at the studio this fall we are very excited to announce that we have shifted our schedule to include specific Cortisol-Balancing Programs: Two Meditation Classes, an Early AM Yoga class specific for business types, a Women’s Weight Workout Class, and ZUMBA!
Please view the flyers on our site for more information. We can see the Cortisol levels of our students already waving the white flag of truce! We fully recognize the impact of stress and elevated Cortisol levels and are pleased to present our Fall Schedule with specific stress-reducing programs. 

by Maureen Rae, RN, E-RYT