Linking Mind and Body
This week was all about the interesting subject of the Mind Body connection. In the western world, until recently, we have divided these in 2 separate domains leading to a kind of tunnel vision. And from scientific studies we learn that we all can benefit regarding our well- being knowing how this connection works and what practices will be helpful to strengthen both.
We all know that negative thinking affects the body and also that doing certain bodily activities influences the mind. A study from Richard Davidson with asthma patients showed that patients who where shown negative words activated certain areas in their brain and from there they showed more lung inflammation compared to a group at whom these negative words where not shown. And we all know that physical activity, and then preferably outdoor, has a very relaxing effect on you mind.
Scientific studies show that slower breathing has an very quick impact on relaxing the mind. There is a direct connection between breathing and cognitive functions. On the how and what we go a little more in detail below.
The breath is the only function which mostly is under control of the autonomic nervous system and that we are capable of, on an easy way, to breath voluntary. Consciously we can change the 4 different parameters of the in- and out-breath: In, Pause, Out, Pause and we can also vary the depth of our breath. In this way we can adjust the rhythm and the volume. With the in-breath we inhale oxygen and with the out-breath we exhale CO2. By slowing down the breath we can immediately calm the mind.
Your breath and the nervus vagus
The vagus nerve is the critical link between the mind and body. The vagus nerve (vagus means wandering or straying, named for its wandering course) meanders throughout the body to the heart, lungs, stomach, liver, and other areas. Described as the single most important nerve in the body, the vagus nerve is essential to the regulation of the heart and keeps the heart rate under control. Even more importantly, the nerve serves as the master regulator, controlling inflammatory processes, glucose regulation, and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) function. The vagus nerve is vital for a healthy immune system. The nerve helps contain acute inflammation and prevents the spread of inflammation to the bloodstream.
One way that activity of the vagus nerve is measured is through heart-rate variability, known as HRV. For more information click here breath and the vagus nerve
Deep breathing increases activity of the vagus nerve, activates the parasympathetic nervous system, and increases HRV.
Breathing-out increases the signal to the vagus nerve and decreases the heart rate. Breathing-in decreases the signal and increases the heart rate.
Dr. Patricia Gerbarg showed us here important work with traumatised people, and even children. She has taken many yoga (pranayama) exercises and adapted them to our western world mainly by changing the name. She booked good results and we where introduced to a very simple practice: Coherent Breathing; meaning 5 breath per minute in and out through the nose, gently and kind. By practicing coherent breathing you change the message from your body (breathing is a bodily activity) to your mind. With this Coherent Breathing practice you send the message to your mind that you are safe and this has the calming effect:
- Calming the body
- Calming Thoughts and Feelings (emotions)
- More compassion
She has a nice website: http://www.breath-body-mind.com
Balancing Body and Mind
Yoga is ment to balance Body and mind. With breathing we can use the body to calm body and mind. In Yoga there are many different forms of breathing techniques (pranayama) with different effects. With the knowledge of the mind body connection and the functioning of the Vagus Nerve we can explain the effects of the different techniques.
The different postures of yoga (asana’s) are ment to balance mobility and strengths. Our structure limits our flexibility. We can not change much in our structure but what we can change are the different tissues keeping the structure together and moving it.
We are now just as much inside as we used to move outside.
In this Digital age, where people work inside buildings, and many times sitting after a screen, there is a big chance that your posture gets affected by too long in the seating pose. In the Netherlands the slogan now is “Sitting is the new smoking”. When you look at the development of humans we have millions of years lived and worked outside in an environment with lack of everything. Most of the people live now inside sitting with an abundance of information, (unhealthy)Food and stress.
Staying too long sitting affects the muscles of our back (becoming longer), breast and shoulders (becoming shorter). And also our hips. And on top all muscles reduce; Use it or loose it.
To move is therefore essential during the day and also to do regular physical activity. And then a variety of activities. For myself i do and promote Walking/ Running combined with Yoga both with the mindfulness mindset.
I like Yoga very much you have a variety Yoga styles and practices that affects the whole body making it stronger and staying it flexible. Through the body mind connection this affects also the mind on a positive way. For Yoga i use Ashtanga and YinYoga.
What i liked also very much was the interview with Cathy Eason from the Nutritional Therapy Association. See combines the Yoga/ Mindfulness mindset to promote a path to more pure and healthy food:
- Mindful Choosing (food)
- Mindful Preparing (food)
- Mindful Eating
Promoting making a change in behavior for well- being step by step on an individual base.
Good to integrate this to 1 BodyMind approach with the 3 pillars for Well- being:
- To move
- To eat pure and healthy nutrition
- And self-care
Nice to be part of a worldwide community.