Tag Archives: inverted asanas

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

5 Benefits of Regular Headstand Practice

How Inversions Help Balance the Physical and Subtle Bodies

Known as the king of Asanas (yoga postures), the headstand may at first seem intimidating to the new practitioner. However, the benefits of this posture to one’s mind, body, and spirit are plenty. In an environment where we are either sitting down or standing for most of the day, our circulation tends to become sluggish. This often results in our heart overworking to pump adequate blood to the upper body. Normally, our heart works against the pull of gravity. Inversions lessen the strain on the heart and allow an abundant supply of oxygen-rich blood to reach the head and brain.

Here are 5 of the many benefits of regular practice of headstand:

1. Inversions reverse the pull of gravity on the organs, especially the intestines. Performing this posture increases digestive fire and body heat. The intestines are cleansed while releasing clogged blood in the colon.

2. By inverting, the flow of blood reverses in the body and stimulates the nervous system. Headstands stimulate and provide refreshed blood to the pituitary and hypothalamus glands. The hypothalamus gland links the nervous system to the endocrine system via the pituitary gland. These glands are vital to our wellbeing and are considered the master glands that regulate all other glands in the body (thyroid, pineal, and adrenals). Performing headstand helps to dissolves stress, sadness, depression, and lethargy. The cleaner your adrenal glands are, the more optimal they will function. This will help you to adapt to stress better.

3.  Performing headstand rejuvenates the lower body such as the legs, pelvis, and lower torso. While in headstand, de-oxygenated blood is able to flow more easily from the extremities to the heart. Reversing the effects of gravity on your bodily fluids will help to flush out built up water in the legs, relieving the confining sensation of edema (swelling).

4.  By performing headstand, you will be directly stimulating your lymphatic system and thereby helping to remove toxins from your body. The lymphatic system is responsible for waste removal, fluid balance, and immune system response.  As lymph moves through the body, it gathers toxins and bacteria to be eliminated by the lymph nodes. Lymph moves as a result of muscle contractions and gravity. By inverting, lymph travels more easily into the respiratory system where much of the toxins enter the body.

5.  The improvement of cognitive abilities such as concentration, memory, and processing can be attributed to a regular headstand practice. The posture helps us overcome fear (of falling!) and develop concentration – see how long you can hold the posture if your mind wanders. This pose requires a still mind.  Headstands also strengthen deep core muscles. To be able to hold this posture, the practitioner must engage the obliques, the rectus abdominis and transverse abdominis.

When done correctly, headstands help the spine become properly aligned, improving posture, facilitating good breathing and reducing muscular stress. It positively affects the four major systems in the body: cardiovascular, lymphatic, nervous, and endocrine. Although I recommend learning headstand from a qualified teacher, its multifaceted benefits should not be ignored. Headstands should not be performed if you have neck injuries, unusually high blood pressure, ear or eye problems, or if a woman is on her monthly cycle.

By Mihir Ganud
http://www.yogitimes.com/article/benefits-tips-headstand-asana-pose-yoga-practice#