The terms ‘mind-body connection’ and ‘mind-body medicine’ are commonly used in the context that our thoughts influence the functioning of our physical body, and vice versa.
In yoga, the activity of the mind interacting with the cells of the body is at the core of this connection, but is only a small fraction of what the mind body connection truly represents.
The mind body connection is something that permeates through the way we move through life and interact with our environment on a universal level.
How Mind Affects your Body
One of the most common examples of the mind affecting the body is the watering of the mouth when we think about our favorite dish or the feeling of butterflies in our stomach before a big presentation. We can feel how thoughts can affect the functioning of our physical responses.
Another example is the athlete who ‘chokes’ at the crucial moment in a competition and ending up performing poorly. This is a good example of mind-body coordination when the apprehensive state of mind leads to a decrease in muscle response time.
This connection affects each aspect of our everyday life. You wouldn’t be able to lift a finger or take another step without a preceding mental intention.
How Your Body Affects Your Mind
When someone becomes agitated or anxious, we tend to use injunctions like ‘Take a deep breath’ or ‘Inhale, Exhale’, etc. This acknowledges the body-mind connection, which gives rise to certain meditation exercises such as Integrative Body-Mind Training, a more recently developed holistic technique based on the concept that calming the mind begins with calming the body.
Yogis have specific postures that relax and stimulate the mind. Backbends and sideways stretches activate an alert focus of the mind, while postures such as forward bending and inverts trigger a calming effect in the brain.
In more advanced meditation and breathing exercises, the basic way the mind-body interaction is activated is by severing the connection for a period of time.
Without the intervention of the anxious and limiting thoughts in the mind, the stress response system can relax and the body can activate the process of healing back into a natural state.
A technique called Relaxation Response, and elucidated system of meditation, is taught by Dr. Herbert Benson and his colleagues at Harvard Medical School’s Mind Body Institute that is modeled on the Transcendental Meditation.
Relaxation response and Transcendental Meditation have been studied extensively in regards to the mind body connection. There are many yoga practices which focus on quieting the mind – all of which have related health benefits.
Pranayama ( Control of energy through breathing)
Several researchers have reported that pranayama techniques are beneficial in treating a range of stress related disorders.
Ujjayi (victorious breath, sometimes called the ocean breath)
Complete, balancing and calming breath which increases oxygen consumption and builds internal body heat.
Helps build energy, while clearing toxins out of the bodily system.
Bhramari (Buzzing Bee Breath)
Immediate relaxing effect on the mind.
It is beneficial in mental tension, agitation, high blood pressure, heart disease.
New studies have revealed that these techniques quiet the mind and exhibit beneficial physiological responses such as decrease in blood pressure, heart rate and stress hormone levels.
Aside from triggering the mind into a more conscious state of awareness, deep breathing exercises are a great way to nourish the body with fresh energy and cleanse the cells into a more healthier level. This also results in a very positive physiological response to migraines due to increased blood pressure.