Although the mind and the body have been treated as separate entities for a long time, their obvious connection is now an undeniable fact. Understanding the relationship between the two as well as how to influence it can give us a lot more control over how we tend to think and feel. This is one of the reasons yoga has been gaining a lot of popularity around the world. Its ability to strengthen the mind-body connection is truly impressive and is consistently being confirmed by science.
Essentially, the entire purpose of yoga is to unite the body, mind, and soul. According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine: “Yoga is a mind and body practice with origins in ancient Indian philosophy. The various styles of yoga typically combine physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation or relaxation.” Those of us who practice yoga on a regular basis can attest to its ability to provide mental clarity in conjunction with physical strength.
Yoga’s Influence on the Mind
Yoga is considered to be a relaxation-response technique, much like meditation and mindfulness. In other words, by practicing yoga we are actually facilitating a physiological state of deep rest. One of its main benefits is decreased anxiety and stress, but also improved heart health, reduced blood pressure, and stronger immunity. As a matter of fact, the health benefits of relation-response techniques are so powerful they can reduce the need for health care services by 43 percent.
Interestingly enough, engaging in yoga practice can even help reprogram some of our genes. Dr. John Denninger from the Benson-Henry Institute found that when we practice yoga, certain genes get turned on and off. In order to figure out exactly which ones they are, he took measured blood samples of individuals who ranged from yoga beginners to advanced practitioners. He found that those who were active yoga practitioners aged slower than those who were just starting out.
It’s interesting to think about the emerging research pertaining to the mind-body connection since medical practitioners from as far back as two millennia ago seemed to understand it. And yet, for a hefty majority of that time, the mind and the body were treated separately. Now, however, the scientific and medical communities agree that the mind-body connection is real due to the communication between the brain and the neurological, endocrine and immune systems in the body.
How to Improve the Mind-Body Connection Through Yoga
According to Deepak Chopra, one of the world’s leading advocates for alternative medicine: “Mind-body integration means establishing a healthy dialogue between your thoughts and your cells. While the body appears to be material, it’s really a field of energy and intelligence that’s inextricably connected to the mind. Your beliefs, thoughts, and emotions influence every cell in the body and therefore play a major role in your wellbeing.”
He goes on to state that practicing yoga on a daily basis for ten to fifteen minutes is better than engaging in longer sessions once or twice a week. It’s also important to find a style and teacher that make the practice enjoyable so that you can keep at it and get better. Furthermore, it’s highly beneficial to create a sacred space where you will be free of interruptions, so that you can focus on each inhale and exhale as you move through the exercises.
Above all, however, it’s imperative to direct your attention inward while performing the different poses and breathing exercises involved in yoga, since attention is one of the main mental activities tied to cognition. The purpose of introversion is not to stop any thoughts from arising at all, but to become aware of them and then let them go in order to quiet the mind. One of the ways you can accomplish this, states Chopra, is by engaging in meditation and paying attention to your breathing.
“Yoga is a powerful practice that enhances your mind-body integration. Through conscious breathing, movement, and attention to the physical postures, you cultivate a state of body-centered restful awareness. You listen to the signals your body is sending to you in the present moment and you expand the energy in your body through your attention and intention. A body that listens to respond with greater strength, vitality, and health.”
Keep in mind that you will not become a professional yogi right away. That’s why people practice yoga, rather than just do it. Learn not to judge yourself or your progress. Everyone starts at the beginning. The goal is to keep at it, little by little, gradually improving as you go along. Furthermore, get in the habit of letting go of judgment altogether. It will help you keep your mind clear and your heart happy. And, it may even make you a lot more compassionate in the process.
Finally, practice awareness. Take the time to look around you and notice all of the life’s amazing creations. This will help you cultivate gratitude, peace, and love for all living things. Understand that you are part of something greater than yourself, and allow that knowledge to bond you with the world. Once you understand the mind-body connection, the next step is to learn about and appreciate how you relate to the world around you.
At Merkaela, we take your health very seriously. Therefore, we strive to provide you with information that addresses your mental and physical wellbeing. Understanding the mind-body connection and how to improve it through holistic and alternative methods can significantly enhance your ability to live a healthy life.