What I love about gratefulness is that there is no right or wrong. You can be grateful for your new toothbrush, your health, education, family, nature, sun, earth, yoga, sports, laugh, conversations, coffee and so much more. What are you grateful for?
Lots of my students ask for exercises to reset their mind. Here’s a great guided meditation class – try it out!
A busy mind
During a busy day our stress hormones, especially adrenaline and cortisol, increase. Our thoughts are easily distracted. Suddenly you realise that you’ve read a sentence several times or gone to the kitchen and back without the thing you went there for. Tensions in the body build up; your shoulders rise towards your ears and the back is starting to ache.
This is the time to reset. Try the exercise below – I promise it will make you feel more centred.
Yoga Relaxation Bodyscan
The video below is a short and easy meditation exercise called “bodyscan”. Find yourself a quiet space where you can lie down (preferably – but you can do this exercise in a seated position too). It lasts for 14 minutes, so make sure to set the phone on silent.
Ps.To me it feels like 4 minutes – not 14. Good luck!
The past month I’ve learnt about the brain at medical school. There was of course a lot of latin words that needed to be learnt by heart, not to mention the many brains that we had to cut through in order to study the inside areas. But out of the physiology, one theme in special made an impression; sleep. Several of the professors repeatedly mentioned the importance of this relatively foreign life important state of mind. Why?
Systems for memory – keep and toss
Professor Johan Frederik Storm at The Oslo University held a brilliant lecture on memory and learning, emphasizing the importance of sleep for long term memory. For while our body is taking a time out, the connections that are responsible for creating new memory are strengthened. Furthermore, information is put into system whilst we are sleeping. The brain actively differentiates between “noice” and important information. The memorable worth information is strengthened, whilst irrelevant facts are tossed. Hence, we tend to wake up with a stronger feeling of perspective and a better overview than the night before.
Sleep is key in the process of learning.
Sleep initiates cleaning mode
Not only does sleep promote a better memory, recent science has revealed that sleep is essential in the cleaning process of the brain. In our body, the lymphatic system is responsible for cleaning up waste products. Excess water and other cells that have leaked out from our blood vessels are being brought back to the blood system by our lymphatic vessels. From here, the waste is processed out through our kidneys. In the brain, however, we do not have lymphatic vessels. Instead we have a CSF flushing system.
The TED-talk below summarizes the findings of neuroscientist Jeff Illiff. While you sleep, he says, the brain is set into a cleaning mode where cerebro-spinal fluid (CSF) flushes through the brain and cleans out waste products that have built up throughout the day. This only happens during sleep, and not when we are awake. Futhermore, it is essential to avoid an accumulation of waste products in our brain.A good nights sleep does really seem to be clearing our minds!
The Yoga Science Study
The first measurements for Yoga Science’s randomized controlled trial is starting on Monday! The next year we are investigating whether yoga promotes well being, sleep and academic results. Some students might find that pranayama (breathing exercises) will benefit their sleep quality, whilst others might prefer meditation. It will also be very interesting to see whether we find a link between sleep and memory among the participants. Stay tuned!
Yogahas always had a reputation to reduce stress. Most yogis would say that they feel more focused after a yoga class. You have practiced a moving meditation for an hour or more, which has left the mind less reactive and more focused on the moment. Many would say that this is true for any kind of exercise. Is yoga really unique compared to traditional exercise such as running or bicycling?(more…)
There are many ways to measure stress reduction. Some studies analyse blood tests, others draw conclusions upon questionnaires. The latter method is regarded as good as any objective measure, especially when measuring happiness or depression. After all, your level of well being is reliant on our subjective outlook and mood.
In this article, we explore the concept of stress and investigate how yoga affects various parameters related to subjective stress, such as subjective well being, stress reduction and anxiety.
What is stress and is it really bad?
It is common knowledge that yoga has the potential to reduce stress. But what is stress?
First, it is highly subjective. A roller coaster can be regarded as stressful, exciting, fun, or even boring depending on the person that you ask. Psychologist Kelly McGonigal claims that the health risk lies not with stress itself, but the way we think about stress. In a study on stress she found that only those who believed that stress is harmful for their health had a higher risk of dying. The participants who had experienced a lot of stress the last year but did not look at this as a negative thing, turned out to have the lowest risk of all!
Therefore, the definition of stress must have something to do with the mind; stress is a negative reaction to an overwhelming challenge.
Can yoga help?
If negative stress is dependent on our mindset, then surely it must help to practice mind observation. Yoga is a tool that can help you becoming aware of the noise from the mind. Of your thought patterns. How it tends to find things scary, negative, impossible, how it thinks about delicious food, reviews past memories, sometimes making plans for the unknown future.
In most cases, the mind is unconsciously reactive. It responds to events in your life, past, present or future, without you even knowing. If those thoughts disturb your peace and belief in yourself, maybe to an extent that makes you stressed in the negative way, then yoga can help; because the first challenge is to start observing these patterns. This is the very essence of yoga.
In sutra 2 of the first chapter, Patanjali has defined yoga as
“Yoga is the restraint of the modifications of the mind-stuff”
– translation by Swami Vivekananda.
A typical yoga class
In a yoga class, the exercise usually goes like this: Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, thoughts wandering off, thoughts wandering to a whole new place, you realize you are in a totally other place than on the mat, you register what you’re mind has been up to and continue breathing. Sometimes with movement, sometimes sitting concentrating, sometimes just being in silent meditation. In any case, it is really interesting to see how the mind sometimes function as a separate autopilot. Yoga helps bringing you back to you.
Does yoga really work for stress reduction? There are a few studies that have investigated this question.
In 2005 Michaelsen et al. performed a non-randomized controlled trial on women who perceived themselves as emotionally distressed. The participants could choose a group that suited their schedule; the first “yoga group” were starting their classes right away, the “wait list group” would go thorough the same program after three months. At the beginning of the first week, all participants were given standardized stress scale forms containing questions about perceived stress, fatigue, anger, and depression, among other outcome measures. After two yoga classes each week for three months with a certified Hata and Iyengar yoga teacher, the forms were filled out again. The results show significant differences between the yoga group and the wait-list control group; perceived stress, depression, and anxiety significantly decreased in the yoga group compared to the waiting list. Simultaneously, subjective well being increased significantly in the yoga group compared to the wait list group.
Limitations of the current literature
Other studies support those results, also for healthy adults. For instance, Chong et al (2011) shows in their systematic review of RCTs and CCTs that yoga has a positive effect on stress reduction. It must be noted, however, that few participants limit their results. This is true for most studies within the field today. Hopefully we will have more controlled studies to base our information upon in the future.
Despite this limitation, one can look to the literature on mindfulness to find the same results with a much larger number of participants. De Vibe and Ferreira-Vorkapic for instance, have assessed the effect of mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) in systematic reviews with thousands of participants in total. The results are astonishing; there are significant results of stress reduction and better well being in the intervention groups.