Let’s take a deeper look into the four elements of the ways in which yoga can result in a reduction in anxiety and depression: self-confidence, the brain re-wired, reduced cortisol, and improved strength. Today, we'll discuss self-confidence and the brain re-wired.
Want to know how to gain self-confidence and feel better about yourself?
Practice yoga and study its philosophies. (Or, just read on…)
A recent article entitled "This One Simple Practice Will Change How You Feel About Yourself" highlights this very suggestion: “Yoga philosophy teaches us that we have everything we need inside of us to tend to all of life’s moments, from the happiest to the most challenging.”
This is because yoga teaches us to be deliberate in our movements, breath, and thought. Its practices force us to slow down in a society that has plagued us with overstimulation. “When we slow down, get quiet, and pay attention to our personal wisdom, we gain personal wisdom to improve a situation, make a decision, or solve a problem.”
By its very nature, yoga teaches us to find confidence within ourselves. Much of anxiety and depression is characterized by a feeling of lack of control. When we practice yoga, we are teaching ourselves to find the confidence within ourselves to know and understand that while we may not be able to control all outcomes, we can control our reaction and emotions to them.
The Brain Re-Wired
Since the roots of yoga predate the scientific study and neurological function of the brain by thousands of years, it is unlikely the early yogis fully understood the changes occurring in the brain. However, while it may not have been scientifically proven at the time, it was certainly understood that yoga could bring about psychological change in a person.
The traditional yogic perspective of depression was that it was caused by either a rajasic state, characterized by anxiety, or a tamasic state, which was more synonymous with a feeling of hopelessness. In his book Teaching Yoga: Essential Foundations and Techniques, by Mark Stephens, the author describes the transformation that happens in the brain as “clarity.” This clarity brings about change and understanding in a person through the practice of asana (poses), pranayama (breathwork), and meditation.
Today we now know a little bit more what exactly is going on. Our brains have what is called neuroplasticity. According to www.medicinenet.com, neuroplasticity is defined as “the brain's ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life.” When we suffer from depression and anxiety, changes occur in the white matter of the brain. Through the practice of meditation, mindfulness, pranayama, and asanas, we can create new neural pathways.
According to Dr. Matthew Dalva, a professor of neuroscience at the Vickie and Jack Farber Institute of Neuroscience, “our brains never stop changing.” In fact, when viewed under high powered medical equipment, we can “see tiny clumps of proteins move around, change, and even grow when we are learning something new.”
Understanding this principle-- that our brains have an ability to change and develop new neurological connections-- it’s easy to see how yoga could benefit its practitioners suffering from emotional distress.
Join us next time for an exploration of the reduced cortisol and improved strength that can result from a regular yoga practice.
How about learning something new while tending to your exercise routine? Join us for one of our many yoga classes.