Scientific Research on the Benefits of Yoga

ZID_1021_760_427auto_intWe all know that yoga does a body (and a mind) good. But up until recently, no one could really say with any degree of certainty why—or even how—it improves conditions as varied as depression and anxiety, diabetes, chronic pain, and even epilepsy.

Now a group of researchers at Boston University School of Medicine believe they’ve discovered yoga’s secret. In an article published in the May 2012 issue of Medical Hypotheses journal under an impossibly long title, Chris Streeter, PhD, and his team hypothesize that yoga works by regulating the nervous system. And how does it do that? By increasing vagal tone—the body’s ability to successfully respond to stress.

The Study: The Effects of Yoga on the Autonomic Nervous System, Gamma-aminobutyric-acid, and Allostasis in Epilepsy, Depression, and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder.

What Is Vagal Tone?

Most of us don’t even know we have a vagus that needs toning, but we most certainly do. The vagus nerve, the largest cranial nerve in the body, starts at the base of the skull and wanders throughout the whole body, influencing the respiratory, digestive, and nervous systems. Often thought of as our “air traffic controller,” the vagus nerve helps to regulate all our major bodily functions. Our breath, heart rate, and digestion—as well as our ability to take in, process, and make sense of our experiences—are all directly related to the vagus nerve.

We know when the vagus nerve is toned and functioning properly because we can feel it on different levels: Our digestion improves, our heart functions optimally, and our moods stabilize. We have an easier time moving from the more active and often stressful states of being to the more relaxed ones. As we get better at doing that, we can manage life’s challenges with the right blend of energy, engagement, and ease. When we can consistently maintain this flexible state we are thought to have “high vagal tone.”

“Low vagal tone is correlated with such health conditions as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic pain, and epilepsy.”

“Low vagal tone,” on the other hand, brings with it a sense of depletion. Our digestion becomes sluggish, our heart rate increases, and our moods become more unpredictable and difficult to manage. Not surprisingly, low vagal tone is correlated with such health conditions as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic pain, and epilepsy—not coincidentally, the same conditions that show significant improvement with yoga practice. Researchers hypothesize that it is vagal stimulation through yoga that improves these conditions.

To test their theory, the researchers investigated practices they believed would increase vagal tone. For example, they found that resistance breathing, such as ujjayi pranayama, increases the relaxation response, as well as heart rate variability (another marker of resilience). And a pilot study conducted on more experienced yogis showed that chanting Om out loud increased vagal tone and the relaxation response more than chanting it silently to oneself. Studies such as this one begin to reveal how different yogic practices impact human physiology in different ways.

ABOUT Angela Wilson Angela Wilson, MA, manager of evidence-based curriculum for the Institute for Extraordinary Living at Kripalu, holds a master’s degree in mental health counseling from Lesley University, is a 200-hour Kripalu Yoga teacher, and has completed 250 hours of ayurvedic training.

https://yogainternational.com/article/view/scientific-research-how-yoga-works

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4 ways to teach a calm, confident yoga class, even when you are nervous

hands-800What, yoga teachers get nervous? You mean they aren’t always tranquil, floaty gurus? Of course they do! I have never met a yoga teacher who doesn’t occasionally get nervous teaching. When you care so deeply about your profession, and care so deeply about the lives that you touch in your classes, it is totally normal to occasionally have some performance anxiety. And we all have different triggers that can set this teaching anxiety off. I have taught classes for over 100 people, outside, inside, both private lessons and at small studios… and surprisingly the smaller classes are the ones that give me a bit more anxiety. After teaching over the past few years, I have a few things that help me get over these nerves, so that I can teach from a place of clarity and confidence.

1. Keep It Simple

If you know you are going to be teaching at a new studio, or maybe taking on a new class, this is not the time to try out a brand new transition, poses you don’t usually teach or a new playlist. When you know you may already be feeling anxious, go with a flow that you know well and that you feel in your body. Hopefully, even one that you have practiced a few times yourself. Even if the class seems simple to you as a teacher, it is most likely a great fit for your students.

2. Breathe With Them

In the beginning of class, as your students get settled in their comfortable easy seats, don’t walk around the room, or fuss with props and lights. Instead, sit down with them! Take this time to ground yourself. Dive into the energy of the room, and take those beginning breaths with them. Not only will this connect you to the group, which in itself is comforting, but it will slow your own breathing so that you can calm yourself down. Adding in additional breath cues, such as exhales in down dog or child’s pose will also give you another place to breath with them and let go of your fears, so take advantage of those throughout the class.

3. Ask for Help

No, don’t ask for help from the students, but ask for help from a higher power. Whether you check in with your guardian angels or with the Divine, take a moment or two to ask that they help you lead this class. Ask to simply be a channel for the Divine, and let the words and the poses flow through you. Some people call it The Universe, others may call it God… connect with something bigger than yourself. When you let Spirit take the wheel, everything becomes easier.

4. Remember, They Don’t Have to Like You

This can be a tricky one, because the ego loves to rear its ugly head when we feel anxious, but your students have come to their mats for a safe, calming yoga practice — not to look for their new best friend. As long as you teach a balanced flow of poses that keeps their bodies safe, you are doing your job! You may have one or two people in the class who might not like you. That’s fine! And it is most likely more of a reflection of them, not you! Try not to be hung up on making yourself their new favorite teacher, and instead on simply teaching a balanced class that is safe for all bodies.

Some classes will be more challenging than others. As you teach more, you will most likely become less and less nervous. But even as an experienced teacher, you may still get those butterflies when you are teaching in a new place, or to a new group. By using some of these tips, you will be able to bring a sense of calm to yourself first, and then to your students around you.

by  logan kinney
http://www.yogitimes.com/article/tips-ways-teach-calm-confident-yoga-class-when-nervous

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UK Parliament Takes a Yoga Break

UK Parliament takes a Yoga Break
UK Parliament takes a Yoga Break
The phrase “U.K. Parliament” doesn’t typically bring to mind images of politicians doing yoga, but last week, that’s exactly what happened in England’s House of Lords.
If you had been in one of the large rooms near the House of Lords in London’s historic Parliament building last Wednesday, you might have spotted several Lords participating in a 60-minute yoga session.

Lords on the Mats

According to NDTV, the session began with meditation, during which an audio-visual history of yoga was played in the background. Following this, they began with pranayama, following a yoga teacher through a series of breathing exercises.

The Lords attempted a variety of positions from Ardha Chandrasana to Vrikshasana, reports NDTV. The lesson was led by yoga instructor Neil Patel, who instructed the Parliamentarians on proper form and etiquette, reminding them not to kick their neighbors even if they didn’t belong to the same political party.

The yoga session was kickstarted by Indian-born Lord Karan Bilimoria as part of the U.K.’s International Yoga Day celebrations. Bilimoria praised India’s influence on the world, calling yoga a “shining example” of its “soft power.”

“Yoga is rapidly gaining in popularity around the world for its recognized benefits for wellbeing and mindfulness,” Bilimoria told Outlook India.

He joked that the Lords were well suited to yoga because they’re already in such good shape and in need of relaxation.

“We are very fit, you see,” Lord Bilimoria told NDTV. “We have just eight minutes from the time the bell goes to come and vote from wherever we are in the vast lobbies of this grand building. We run to make it…so this yoga session was very welcome.”

Other Lords agreed, saying that yoga was easier than they thought it would be. Patel called them “sports,” adding that they don’t need to attempt complicated asanas in order to stay in shape.

“A little bit of simple yoga a day would be good for inner peace and health,” he said.

Politicians experiencing inner peace? That could be just what the world needs!
Sarah Alender – Sarah is part of DoYouYoga’s editorial team and writes about inspiration and news.
http://www.doyouyoga.com/u-k-parliament-takes-a-yoga-break-98214/
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