How many times have you tried to tell your friends about the energy body but you just canít seem to convince itís real?
How many times have said friends stopped talking to you altogether, or at the very least mentally categorized you as the cuckoo?
Yoga teachers are famous for saying funny things that donít make sense to non-practitioners. Itís hard to put into words the things we feel sometimes, especially words that everyone can understand.
But those days might soon come to pass. Stephanie Shorter, PhD, presented a lecture at the Dallas Yoga Conference on yoga research, summarizing past and current scientific research in words that yoga teachers and students can understand and most importantly, connecting all our crazy new age rhetoric into hard science.
Here are five enlightening facts to help you understand what is happening in the body on a physiological level, plus practical applications to integrate into your daily practice (good news: you probably do these things already!)
Yoga works for everyone:
When you look at an overview of the accepted, reliable research to date, youíll find conflicting results. Many studies in the 1980s proved that yoga is an effective practice for reducing cortisol levels in the body and promoting relaxation. But a recent study on patients using yoga to treat fibromyalgia found that a consistent yoga practice actually increased cortisol levels. Funny thing is, patients with fibromyalgia suffer from intense chronic pain because their pain tolerance levels suffer from low cortisol. The increase, in these particular cases, is actually a good thing and led to overall decreased pain. Proof that yoga will give you what you need.
The more relaxed you are, the healthier youíll be:
If you take care of your nervous system, the rest of your body will function at optimal levels. Conditioned by society to perform in a constant high-stress state, our bodies rarely reach the rest and digest phase. Think of your sympathetic and parasympathetic systems as a teeter-totter. Both are always needed to function, rather than one dominating the other. Research has found that to balance out these two systems, an optimal breathing cycle should include six breaths per minute (think of one breath as an inhale and an exhale). Yoga takes care of this on its own with practices that emphasize breathwork.
Itís important to focus on lengthening the exhale to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system. Set a timer for one minute and see if you can regulate your breath to six cycles per minute with a lengthened exhale. Then notice how you feel when you finish.
Yoga makes you young:
Beyond the flexibility benefits, yoga works on a cellular level. With increased oxidation in the body, cells become damaged, tissues become inflamed and acidity in the cell structures increase. This leads to illness and disease over time. But a consistent yoga practice will help reverse that damage. Research has show that practitioners showed a decreased level in oxidative stress in the cells after an eight week practice. Less inflammation, less cell damage and less acidity in the body = greater long-term health (and younger looking skin!).