The Fundamentals of Pineal Gland Activation: Balancing the Endocrine System
In both Craniosacral Work and Daoist practice, the endocrine system is a critical gateway joining physical function with spiritual experience. The endocrine system includes the following glands: the pituitary, pineal, hypothalamus, thyroid, parathyroid, adrenals, pancreas, and ovaries/testes.
These glands use hormones (rather than the electrical impulses used by the nervous system) to effect changes in our body, emotions, cognition, and energy. Hormones are chemical messengers that circulate through the body via the bloodstream and coordinate critical body functions. They increase or reduce nerve impulses and can also act as neurotransmitters.
The hypothalamus, pituitary, and pineal glands play particularly important roles in spiritual experience and will be explored in greater detail in the sections that follow.
The Hypothalamus/Pituitary Relationship
With access to both the nervous and endocrine systems, the hypothalamus plays a central role in linking the two and in activating the pineal gland. It is also connected with the limbic system, a center for our feelings and emotions. When entrained with the pituitary gland, the hypothalamus therefore has the ability to affect most of the major systems and organ functions in the body as well as our emotions. Together, the hypothalamus and pituitary regulate all of our basic survival processes including body temperature, hunger, thirst, fatigue, growth, sleep, weight, sexual function, pain relief, blood pressure, circadian rhythms, and stress responses such as fight or flight.
The hypothalamus is about the size of an almond and is located just behind the optic chiasm. It secretes neurohormones that communicate with the pituitary gland, signaling the release or inhibition of key pituitary hormones, which in turn harmonize and activate pineal gland function.
The pituitary gland has two major lobes, which are distinctly different embryologically, anatomically, and functionally. Altogether, the pituitary is about the size of a pea; it sits below the hypothalamus, cradled in the sella turcica of the sphenoid bone.
Because the pituitary is enclosed by the sphenoid, it is highly sensitive to misalignments or restrictions in the movement of that bone. If you press your tongue to the roof of your mouth at the soft palate, you are pressing on the underside of the pituitary.
The hypothalamus communicates with the anterior lobe of the pituitary via blood vessels, and connects directly with the posterior lobe through the pituitary stalk or infundibulum. Although the pituitary gland has often been referred to as the master gland because it appears to control the endocrine system, the hypothalamus plays a more crucial role in this system than previously thought. The hypothalamus receives and integrates information from the rest of the body and then secretes the neurohormones that release or inhibit key pituitary hormones. By signaling and directing the pituitary, the hypothalamus plays a critical part in the endocrine system and is important in a larger sense for pineal gland activation.