The Science behind Yoga (and other exercise programmes)
I recently shared an article about science and yoga. It was interesting as it focused on changes within the brain brought about through yoga practice. What I found most interesting was that these changes are brought about by the focusing of the mind rather than the performance or achievement of yoga poses. This means that the benefits can be gained by any mindful exercise programme which encourages you to focus on breath, link your mind to your body and gain relaxation.
Much of the benefit yoga is proven to provide is associated with the management of stress. The article claimed that 90% of all the illness we suffer is stress related. I haven’t been able to verify that figure but stress certainly has a big impact your health and your ability to recover.
Do you suffer any of these basic symptoms of stress:
High resting heart rate.
Stiffness in your neck and/or tight shoulders.
Periods of fast shallow breathing.
Increased perspiration (e.g. sweaty palms)
Repeated stomach upset, nausea and/or diarrhea.
Or any of these which are more likely to develop over a longer period:
• You’re often off sick
• You have high blood pressure
• You suffer chronic neck, shoulder, or low back pain
• You suffer reflux disease or IBS
• You have low fertility, problems during pregnancy, or painful menstrual periods.
• Your arthritis, asthma or other chronic conditions worsen
• You have skin problems such as acne and psoriasis.
If any of these sound familiar then the regular practice Yoga, or a programme with the same benefits, could certainly help you to better health.
The main elements in Yoga that have been found to improve a person’s stress levels are: breath, movement, mindful attention and relaxation.
Breath is a particularly powerful tool and can be used to control the stress response of the body. By filling the lungs, taking fewer breaths, making them deeper and longer you control the breath and lower blood pressure and stress response. By focusing your mind on each breath, you regulate your thoughts, give yourself space and empty your brain. In research, focus on breathing has been shown to change the way in which the brain (prefrontal cortex) behaves. Particularly in reducing depression and changing behavior to be more positive. Neurotransmitters work more effectively and the interbrain links are improved giving a variety of benefits to the body.
By combining breath, movement, mindful attention and relaxation we can change how we feel and in time even change how our bodies behave.
In fact you can get all these benefits from most of our classes at the Studio.
·In IMF Pilates we spend time training our brains to consciously connect to different muscle groups and to identify and engage specific muscles we want to work. This connects the mind to the body in a practical way. By having to concentrate on each position the mind is forced to empty other thoughts. In this way you can achieve relaxation and stress relief through simple movement.
·In Yoga For Healthy Backs we use the power of breath and relaxation techniques to reduce specific back pain.
·In All Woman IMF Pilates we additionally focus on the relaxation of each part of the body. This helps you to connect more fully with your body and to enable complete relaxation. Brilliant for pregnant clients, particularly useful through labour, and menopausal women suffering from stress and anxiety.
·In Janey’s Yoga, using classic poses, she has an approach she calls ‘help yourself to find yourself’. She positions herself as a facilitator to help you find yourself rather than a teacher of Yoga, The article I mentioned earlier used the line ‘Use yoga to find out who you really are’, this is clearly aimed at the type of Yoga Janey practices.
The image of yoga, often shown by the media, and presented by Yogis themselves is of skinny flexible, capable people adopting difficult and complicated positions. In reality, the benefits can be obtained by almost anybody. If you are busy, stressed, unfit, overweight, inflexible, not used to exercise or not sure about joining a class, whatever your age, we can still help you. None of these are a valid excuse for doing nothing. Movement is vital if you are to improve any of the above conditions.