How practicing yoga can change our brain nerve connections.
We have 2 sides to our brain, one serve the functions of emotion and the other cognitive/logic function.
The emotional brain is able to initiate a ‘stress response’ via the sympathetic nervous system, known as the fight or flight system.
When we are in danger, trapped or under pressure the emotion brain kicks in to protect us.
The logical brain is always trying to ‘turn-off’ this stress response and it is also trying to restrain the emotional brain.
The stronger our logical brain, the better it becomes at doing these two things.
When the stress response is ‘turned off’, our parasympathetic nervous system signal is ‘turned on’. This signal ‘relaxes’ the body.
So a strong logical brain goes hand in hand with relaxation.
You might have heard me saying in class how the Ujjayi breath activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps us to relax into the poses, helps us to get through the challenging parts of the practice.
The stress response and ‘relaxing’ signals travel through the body along a particular route and parts of this route have little ‘switches’ which we can physically manipulate to turn the signals on or off. The neck is an example of where such switches are located (by the carotid arteries).
When we are holding a pose or getting into a challenging pose our logical brain is being activated.
Training the stress circuit
Yoga works this entire stress circuit in two ways.
First, every time we are holding a posture, staying still to concentrate or working on balancing, our logical brain is being activated.
When we are bending forwards, our "relaxation" signal is being turned on through the "switches" in the neck.
On a forward fold pose, particularly the standing forward fold, the bending and concentrating triggers the logical brain and the relaxation signal at the same time.
In this pose The heart also applies less effort to pump the blood to the brain (against gravity) giving a sense of relaxation around the forehead.
Bending backwards triggers the stress response signal through the switches in our neck.
(When we talk about stress here it is the "good" stress. It refers to a kinda of being alert/ready for movement. It is not the bad stress that causes pain or damage.)
So, when we bend backwards and contract our muscles while still having to stay still and concentrate on balancing, our logical brain is given an extra challenge.
This extra challenge trains the logical brain like a muscle.
New neurologic connections in our brain improves our ability to control our thoughts.
Rewiring the nerve connections
At the end of a yoga practice, the brain would also have a "workout".
It is buzzing with good healthy rewired nerve connections within the logical brain.
You feel mentally calm as it is keeping your emotional brain quiet.
This process practices the muscle of having more control on the thoughts formed and the way we channel our thoughts.
You may find it easier to channel your thoughts in the direction you want and not dwell on thoughts or experiences that don't serve us.
This is partly why yoga has a positive effect on depression, anxiety and reducing emotional stress.
Stronger connections within the logical brain keeps the volume down on the emotional brain and the stress response.
The key thing is to practice a structured well-formulated sequence where these 2 sides of the brain are activated.
Through the challenge of each pose, the holding of a pose we create new neurological connections.
"Thus thoughts that no longer wire together no longer fire together. " Dr. Joe Dispenza
With what you know now,
Next time you are holding a pose or getting into a challenging pose
it might just change the way you feel.
More and more science is backing up the benefits of yoga in our overall health.
Yoga it is the only physical exercise designed to be mental and emotion exercise at the same time.
That's why yoga is so prevalent in the world.
We all know the power of yoga but backed up with science we can put into words what before was unexplainable, only experiential.
Gotta love YOGA with everything that comes with it!
Lots of LOVE.
Helping men and women to be in the DRIVER seat of their life and to awaken their inner POWER.