By Dharmika Pragji
One of the main factors that lead to a stronger immune system when doing Yoga postures, Breathing exercises or Meditation, is the calming effect of these techniques on the mind. Essentially one is activating the Parasympathetic Nervous system, which calms us down and produces anti-inflammatory properties that help us to achieve immunologic health. When the mind is relaxed the body in turn totally relaxes and gradually moves out of fight or flight mode, or rather, the Sympathetic Nervous System is deactivated.
Under stress, the Sympathetic nervous system kicks in and Cortisol and Adrenaline are produced in the body. Cortisol is said to be public enemy #1, as over time it “tears your body down, destroying healthy muscle and bone, blocking the creation of good hormones, eventually leading to anxiety, depression, increased blood pressure, brain fog, insomnia, inflammation, the list goes on and on.” In such a condition , the body’s immunity is most certainly brought down. Furthermore, inflammation is something we don’t want as it is said to “increase our propensity for numerous diseases and leaves us vulnerable to common infections.”
Simply put, when the mind feels excessive worry, anxiety, stress, anger, these emotions tell the body that there is some form of danger in the environment, and thus the necessary hormones, namely, cortisol and adrenaline, are produced to prepare the organism to fight against the threat. The body goes into a state of alertness preparing it for some form of action to take place.
If we simply continue over thinking and over worrying then the body continually produces cortisol and adrenaline, which over time puts a lot of stress on the nervous system as the senses and systems are now on overdrive. It is like constantly revving a car without driving it. It will begin to wear and when we actually need to use this vehicle, which is our body, it no longer functions properly as the fuel has run out and the various other systems that usually work to make it function smoothly have been impaired.
On a positive note, a study in the Journal of Health Psychology shows an association between increased mindfulness and decreased levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Another study by Rutgers University discovered that meditators had a nearly 50% reduction in cortisol levels. We may not be able to control our external triggers but can certainly strengthen our ability to handle them using very simple and easy-to-execute yogic techniques that are available to all and uplift one on so many levels . In Evidence-Based Mental Health, a BMJ journal, there is evidence that mindfulness (meditation) is about as effective as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) in relieving the symptoms of chronic pain associated with conditions such as fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, and osteoarthritis. The research writers state further that an “additional solution may be to offer patients mindfulness-based stress reduction [therapy] since it shows promise in improving pain severity and reducing pain interference and psychological distress.”
There is great science behind Yoga (Meditation, Breathing exercises, Yoga postures) and a deep understanding of the physical system that spans thousands of years. Practically speaking, what yoga postures, breathing techniques and meditation do is the equivalent of servicing a vehicle so that it functions at its optimum level. You are taking time to rest and rejuvenate the nerves and adrenal glands that become damaged by constant anxiety. You are increasing the flow of blood to vital organs through various stretches and tending to all systems and organs of the body in a positive way. You release toxins that otherwise stay circulating in the body for longer periods. The body naturally begins to heal and renew itself. The benefits are numerous-the extent of which is still being discovered today. I urge everyone to make Yoga practice or mindfulness/meditation a part of their daily lives. It certainly will only add value to you; for those dedicated practitioners – exponentially so.
For some tips on how to ensure you get the most out of your Yoga practice and choose the right style for you read my Article: 5 Yoga Essentials by Dharmika Pragji
Identification of Suitable Biomarkers for Stress and … – MDPI
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