Monthly Archives: May 2017

Re-training your body’s stress response through yoga practice

There are so many benefits of yoga that are scientifically proven. So why is it that many people don’t “get-it”; don’t stay with it long enough to get real benefits?

One main reason is that it takes time to “see” results. Allowing enough  time to get to know the subtleties within your own being.  Initially the changes are subtle and experienced within your mind and life, long before they are seen!

Another reason people often don’t stay with yoga is not finding the right class at the right level and where they have trust in the  teacher.   Be an empowered student, ask questions. Try several  classes, until you find the right one for you, and then practice at home also.

 I highly recommend reading this recent article from Psychology Today Magazine…

Yoga: Changing The Brain’s Stressful Habits,  by Alex Korb, Ph.D.

“Yoga can supposedly improve depressive symptoms and immune function, as well as decrease chronic pain, reduce stress, and lower blood pressure.  These claims have all been made by yogis over the years, and it sounds like a lot of new age foolishness. Surprisingly, however, everything in that list is supported by scientific research.

As a neuroscientist, despite my initial incredulity, I came to realize that yoga works not because the poses are relaxing, but because they are stressful.  It is your attempts to remain calm during this stress that create yoga’s greatest neurobiological benefit.

Your brain tends to react to discomfort and disorientation in an automatic way, by triggering the physiological stress response and activating anxious neural chatter between the prefrontal cortex and the more emotional limbic system.  The stress response itself increases the likelihood of anxious thoughts, like “Oh god, I’m going to pull something,” or “I can’t hold this pushup any longer”.  And in fact, your anxious thoughts themselves further exacerbate the stress response. The physiological stress response means an increase in heart rate, breathing rate, muscle tension and elevation of cortisol and other stress hormones.

The fascinating thing about the mind-body interaction is that it works both ways.  For example, if you’re stressed, your muscles will tense (preparing to run away from a lion), and this will lead to more negative thinking.

Relaxing those muscles, particularly the facial muscles, will push the brain in the other direction, away from stress, and toward more relaxed thoughts.

Similarly, under stress, your breathing rate increases.

Slowing down your breathing pushes the brain away from the stress response, and again toward more relaxed thinking.

 

After going back to my Dad’s yoga class a few times, I eventually came to the realization that not only can you practice yoga in real life, but, conversely, you could go to a yoga class and not really be doing yoga…. focused on something else entirely.  Without the sustained intention of focusing on the present, and calming the mind, going to a yoga class is literally just going through the motions.” Alex Korb, Ph.D.

Enjoy your practice!

Namaste, Christina