Chances are you’ve heard of the phrase mind-body connection—but what does it mean?
To put it simply, mind-body connections means our thoughts, feelings and attitudes can positively or negatively influence our physical health. And what we do physically can impact our mental state. Practicing yoga can be a great way to increase awareness and connect the dots between mind and body.
The science behind mind-body connection
Think of your mind as the control panel or command station of your body. All your systems are talking to each other. The signals your brain sends to your immune, endocrine and neurological systems can have an impact on physical health, and vice versa.
Studies have found significant evidence that emotional disorders like depression and anxiety can impact risk of physical conditions like inflammatory diseases or heart conditions.
Still, modern medicine tends to treat our mind and bodies separately. Typically, when we are diagnosed with a condition or have an ailment, treatment includes medication, surgery, or another medical intervention. While traditional treatment is important, alternative treatment, like yoga, can assist with managing a condition or alleviating symptoms.
Increasing awareness through yoga
Yoga has been found to be beneficial to many common chronic conditions including diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and heart disease. Increasing awareness or ‘checking in’ with your body can strengthen the mind-body connection. Yoga increases mental clarity, decreases depressive symptoms, and improves self-esteem, all while increasing strength and flexibility and alleviating some physical symptoms associated with chronic disease.
A study on the emotional and physical benefits to practicing yoga found that focusing on your breath helps you stay present and ‘in your body.’ By increasing awareness of the messages are bodies are sending, we can use self-care techniques to alleviate symptoms. For example, doing a few yoga stretches focused on neck and shoulders while taking slow, deep breaths to alleviate a tension headache. Practicing yoga a little each day can have a major impact on overall health and wellness.
- Schure, M.B., Christopher, J., and Christopher, S. (2008). Mind–Body Medicine and the Art of Self-Care: Teaching Mindfulness to Counseling Students Through Yoga, Meditation, and Qigong. Journal of Counseling & Development, (86), 47-56. DOI: 10.1002/j.1556-6678.2008.tb00625.
- Brower, V. (2006). Mind–body research moves towards the mainstream. EMBO Reports, 7(4), 358–361. http://doi.org/10.1038/sj.embor.7400671
- WebMd: Yoga http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/a-z/yoga-workouts