Improve Your Brain Function With Yoga
Even if you don’t practice yoga yourself, you’ve probably heard of Yoga’s many benefits: improved strength, flexibility, co-ordination as well as engendering a deeper sense of calm to name but a few. Perhaps lesser known are Yoga’s effects on our nervous system.
Yoga and the nervous system are intrinsically linked, reciprocally benefitting each other. To put it simply, our Yoga practice stimulates various responses from our nervous system and, in turn, our nervous system enables us to self-correct and attain balance in the body. With regular practice, those shapes which we previously struggled with become less challenging. This is achieved via proprioception, an integral neuromuscular mechanism to sense our movements in space. An example of this would be to close your eyes and touch your nose; you are able to sense where your body parts are without looking. Vision is one of the senses, alongside touch, taste and sound and also aids our proprioception. In Yoga class, your teacher has probably instructed you to look and focus at a point to help you balance, known as ‘drishti’. Interestingly, a 2014 study found that visually impaired children who undertook a thirty day Yoga programme had improved proprioceptive scores from baseline compared to a non-Yoga group. Practicing Yoga can facilitate your body’s ability to sense changes as you hold postures and shape-shift between your postures. That results in smoother flow during your practice.
Proprioception is a constant input and feedback cycle between your brain and your body’s sensory receptors known Golgi tendon organs located in your skin, muscles, tendons and joints. The Golgi tendon organs sense muscle tension and contraction and respond by inhibiting further stretching. Nerves within the Golgi tendons send messages to the brain instructing the body to correct and maintain balance. Do you have tight hamstrings? The quivering you might experience when stretching are your Golgi tendon organs responding so as to prevent an over-stretch injury. Injuries can affect the Golgi tendon organ’s ability to respond appropriately, leading to dysfunction and pain.
In reality, proprioception occurs when doing any activity, not just Yoga. However, Yoga places an emphasis on precision, intention to move well and lead movements breath by breath, making it an opportunity to drop into yourself and discover how YOUR body likes to move.
Emma Le Roux is an Osteopath from Oxford, UK, with a keen interest in helping athletes, Yogis and dancers improve performance and recover from injury. She has been teaching Yoga and Pilates since 2008 and counts Olympians, dancers and pre/post natal mammas amongst her yoga clients in the UK before recently emigrating to Hong Kong for a new adventure. Find her online classes at EmmaLovesYogaOnline.com.