Health includes all parts of us, we are not only the physical body but also mental, emotional and social. These aspects affect our health, just as food affects our health – so our social life affects our health, if our attitude is inactive our health will also suffer.
We all know stress is bad for us, stress is a mood, an emotion, a feeling – the kind of intangible but it affects our health – as well as emotions like Joy and Happiness, and Pleasure, it affects our emotions. Positive emotions such as love and joy, and gratitude that we wish to carry can build health and well-being in our bodies.
Yoga is not just for our physical bodies – it is actually more of a mental practice than a physical one. Or I should say yoga is more of a practice to become aware of your mental thoughts. We have many scientific references that can support the role of how our thoughts and moods affect our health.
Asana in yoga are some methods of removing tension and toxins from the body in order to achieve the goal of realizing what we are thinking and how it affects us and those around us.
Consciousness begins by seeing what we think and feel. Let’s take emotions as an example. What we feel can release good and bad chemical molecules into the bloodstream. When we experience negative emotions, many tend to want to hold them, such as; anger, jealousy, sadness are common pent-up emotions because we don’t want to feel this way or want others to see us this way. When we don’t admit it, and look for ways to release it, these feelings then enter tangible molecules that carry peptides – neuropeptides (emotion molecules) that can stick to the body indefinitely, blocking the flow of information in the body compromising immunity, mood and energy.
Like stress, pent up emotions can also block blood flow to parts of the brain; specifically our prefrontal cortex which is the part of our brain that we use to make good decisions and judgments. Instead blood is diverted to our amygdala where our stress response is, when the blood in the brain shifts to the amygdala the body wants to think fight or flight – this stimulates the desire to survive. We want to feel this process in our bodies so that we can calm down, and get a better flow of blood back to the rest of our brain.
The reduced blood flow to the brain also impairs mental clarity and our ability to handle stress, creating a thick cycle.
Psychoneuroimmunology looks at the responses that thoughts and emotions generate in the body, how these emotions physiologically affect our autonomic nervous system (stress vs. no stress), endocrine system, and immune system.
Basically stressful thoughts affect the body in the same way as an infection or a virus. And if we are stressed, it paves the way for us to be more likely to catch infections or viruses too, and vice versa – if we have an infection it is a type of stress on the body and makes it easier for us to become more stressed. Basically stress is another form of infection or disease in the body.
We have more control over stress. All we have to do is have mind power to stop negative thoughts and turn them into good thoughts, mind power is developed by thinking thought patterns. Short meditations (5-20 minutes) are a great way to get started with this work – or start by thinking about the mindset as we do the asana practice.