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New Year: a time to reflect and start a new.

The Mind and Body Connection

How you feel physically determines how you feel mentally
How you feel mentally determines how you feel physically
It is a never-ending circle of influence!

Our daily world runs at an ever-increasing fast pace and we get so caught up in it that we can neglect ourselves – particularly our emotional and physical wellbeing. Our lifestyles can become overwhelming and stressful, as we try to juggle many demands and it’s easy to forget how to look after ourselves. We can forget the importance of taking care of our minds and our body. We can forget that health isn’t merely the absence of disease or symptoms; it is a state of optimal wellbeing, vitality, and wholeness. The guiding principles of mind-body science focus on the interconnection of all things, including the mind, the body, and the environment we live in. From a holistic perspective we are healthy when we’re able to fully digest everything we take in, extracting what is nourishing and eliminating whatever isn’t. This includes our food, our relationships, our jobs, and all our life experiences.

illness, in contrast, develops when there is a disruption ― a blockage in the flow of energy and information in our body and our mind. Symptoms and sickness are the body’s signal that we need to restore balance, eliminate whatever is causing the blockages, and re-establish a healthy flow. Therefore, the  body and mind are inextricably connected, every time we have a thought, we set off a cascade of cellular reactions in our nervous system that influence all the molecules in our body. Our cells are constantly observing our thoughts and being changed by them. Our thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and attitudes can positively or negatively affect our biological functioning and this results in a complex interrelationship between our minds and bodies.

Cultivating Balance – the benefits of working the mind and the body

Establishing a healthy dialogue between our thoughts and our body helps us shift from imbalance to balance. Good diet, and proper sleep are also vital to good health as well as to move and have some form of exercise. Movement helps us sleep better by creating physical fatigue while relieving stress and physical exercise has always been a natural remedy for stress and anxiety. Any type of physical activity encourages the brain’s ability to cope with stress by producing norepinephrine. It’s not just about going to the gym, just ditching the treadmill – and the phone – to walk or get outdoors can offer valuable time for mental relaxation as well as physical exertion. Many people claim they’re too tired after work and family duties to exercise, but even a brisk walk can make you feel more energized. When we have more energy, we get more things done and feel better about ourselves and our day. Regular exercise helps the body and the brain physically well and mentally sharp well into old age. Yoga does not see mind and body as two different things but connected and so it’s one of the more holistic health systems like tai chi and other martial arts. Yoga means “union” and it’s a way to integrate our mind and body together. Practicing regularly improves our confidence and mood in a positive manner as well as improving our physical health . Here are some other mind and body benefits of yoga to encourage you to make some changes:

Mental and emotional benefits of movement

Improved mood – Any physical activity has been shown to improve mood and feelings of happiness as it triggers endorphins, the brain’s ‘feel-good’ neurotransmitters. Yoga particularly has beneficial effects on stress and anxiety levels, leaving us more calm and relaxed.
Promotes self-esteem – All physical activity has positive effects on our self-esteem and confidence. These can be related to self-perceptions of attractiveness, physical condition and strength. 10 minutes a day is all we need to help boost our confidence and there are several yoga sequences like sun salutation that you could try each day to get you moving and get you started.

Better sleep – Several research studies suggest links between regular exercise and improved sleep. Survey participants consistently cite physical activity as an important factor in being able to fall asleep and enhancing the quality of their sleep. At the end of a yoga class we practice Savasana, after our physical movement we go into a posture that calms the brain and relaxes the body and relives stress.

Focus and clear thinking – If you find yourself losing focus or getting forgetful, here’s another reason to exercise regularly. Physical activity delivers oxygen to the brain and related tissues. 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise, five days a week is recommended to release brain chemicals that support memory, focus and mental concentration. There are many postures in yoga, particularly balance that require you to focus on only your body and manage the fear factor in your mind and thus improve your ability to concentrate in daily life.

Stress relief – Yoga practice deals not only with the physical body: its purpose is to work with the mind as well. Some yoga poses both stimulate and still the brain as well as activate and energize the vital organs. Practicing yoga influences the chemistry in the brain, leading to improved mental health. This is due to reduced adrenaline and cortisol and increased serotonin and norepinephrine, which moderate the brain’s response to stress.

Physical Benefits of yoga and all forms of movement:

1.Heart health – Physical activity is associated with a healthy heart and studies suggest that people who exercise regularly have lowered risk factors for cardiovascular problems and can also lower the bad cholesterol.  
2. Strong bones and healthy joints – Exercise can slow age-related losses of muscle mass, bone density and joint lubrication and flexibility. Weight-bearing activities cause new bone tissue to form and muscles to push and tug against bones, which strengthens both muscles and bones.
3. Immune function – Regular exercise is associated with improvements in immune system health, meaning you may be less likely to catch a cold if you keep up your physical activity. 
4. Energy levels – If you’re feeling lethargic, your first instinct might be to have a lie-down or grab a coffee. But evidence suggests that doing the opposite may boost your energy levels.
5. Skin health – Exercise can help protect your skin from damage caused by oxidative stress. Physical activity can boost blood flow and stimulate the body’s response to oxidative stress, including the production of protective antioxidants.