Day 6 - Physical/Emotional/Spiritual
Today we’re packing a one, two, three punch of powerful wellness benefits as we explore the ancient practice of yoga. A personal favorite of mine. Not just because its one of the few exercises you can do barefoot— but also because the improved physical fitness (Shaq and Lebron have my back on this one) comes hand in hand with a boost in spiritual and emotional wellness.
Although the exact origins of yoga are unknown, scholars estimate it likely rooted from India over 5,000 years ago (can’t say it hasn’t stood the test of time, right?). In Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, the word yoga means “spiritual discipline” and yogis (or yoga masters) often describe the peace and happiness that comes along with this art. Yet many a skeptic may roll their eyes at these descriptions and write yoga off as nothing more than “hippie practice”. It is for just such Left-Brainers out there that I present a small peek into the evidence supporting yoga’s ability to create change: both physically and physiologically.
This year Harvard scientists will complete a 5-year study evaluating yoga practice’s effect on our body at a cellular level. That’s right. Genes. Brain Activity. Heart function. John Denninger, a psychiatrist and director of research at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital is leading the study and stated, “There is a true biological effect. The kinds of things that happen when you meditate do have effects throughout the body, not just in the brain.”
Their results will join other similar findings like those released in 2012 from the University of California at Los Angeles that found that 12 minutes of daily yoga meditation over 2 months decreased activity within our body that caused stress-induced aging by forty-three percent!
An entire study, called neurocardiology, is dedicated to this mind-heart connection phenomenon. An article found on the American Heart Association website explains the details behind our inner, integrated communication system that sends messages from brain to heart and back again. The ability for our body to be such a meaningful messenger has a direct impact on both its functionality and even our mortality. The outcome being intimately linked to the type of messages exchanged— whether they be those of stress or serenity.
Some may describe this mind-heart connection as an “ongoing, two-way dialogue with each organ continuously influencing the other's function." Ever feel like you’re fighting the constant battle to get your head and your heart on the same page? Now you know there may be an actual physiological reason behind such an inward battle. Enter yoga.
The foundations of yoga practice center on positive intentions. What does this mean? An intention can be something deeply personal or something physical. It’s a continual aspiration to guide you toward balance in your life. When thought upon, it is believed that these intentions imprint on our mind, heart and bodies. This not only leads to an overall feeling of connection or oneness with ourselves but as we’ve now learned— supports a oneness within our body’s function.
So take heart in this: for every minute spent thinking of changes on the mat, you’re actually altering your body’s abilities to accomplish them off the mat. Now that’s exciting!
Your challenge today is to incorporate 20 minutes of this fantastic practice into your day. If you’re already a yogi and this means attending a class at your local studio, great! However, for the rest (a likely majority) of you that have never practiced or may be too intimidated to jump right into the studio scene, here is a free, 20-minute yoga practice for beginners. Do this first thing in the morning to ignite energy for a new day or close out the daily chaos by practicing at bedtime. Even better: grab your partner or a friend and make your home your very own personal (and free!) yoga studio. It’s only 20 minutes: less than an episode of your favorite television show… and I promise the benefits to both brain as well as body are infinitely greater!
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[jbox title="About the Author:" border="5" radius="15"] Megan is a Doctor of Audiology, Holistic Nutritionist, wife, yoga-lover and ever-evolving health aspirer. Having transformed her own health, she’s eager to help you transform yours. She believes in power in its purest form: FOOD. Whole foods, to be precise. So pick up a fork and join her in a revolution of habits, health and happiness. A WHOLE new life awaits! Read more about her reformation of health and wellness at My Whole Food Habit.[/jbox]