Ways to Improve the Mind Body Connection

What is Mind Body Medicine?

Yoga For Improving the Mind and Body

- Mind body medicine can be defined as the capacity to have a positive influence on mental function, emotions, and physiology. Mind body medicine encompasses a wide range of therapies such as meditation, guided imagery, hatha yoga, Qi Gong, and Tai Chi.
There is solid scientific evidence regarding the benefits of mind-body approaches over the last 40 years1.

Mind body medicine recognizes the need for us to exercise and act as one unit, which in turn can add so many benefits to our health and how we live life.

The first studies were conducted at Yale and Rockefeller universities in animal. Yogis of India were also studied and found to have significant control over autonomic nervous system functions such as heart rate and pain perception2.

Your hormones and your immune system can also be affected in a positive way by practicing some type of mind body exercise. Psychoneuroimmunology (the connection of the mind and the immune system via the nervous system) and psychoneurendocrinology (the connection between the mind and your hormones via the nervous system) have shown to be affected by exercise. The same neurotransmitters that send messages to the central nervous system also send to the endocrine system3.

Anatomy and Physiology Review

Autonomic Nervous System – Our fight or flight system, controls our cardiac muscle, smooth muscle, and glandular epithelial (sweat glands, pancreas, liver). This is the system that tells us whether to fight the bear, play dead, or run in fear.

Limbic System – Located in the cerebral cortex, dealing with emotional memory. Good and bad memories ares stored here and can trigger reactions throughout the body.

Hypothalamus and pineal gland, located in the brain, has influence on hormones, sleeping patterns (pineal gland), and considered to be a key link between the mind and the body.

Yoga for Strengthening the Mind and Body

Yoga is an exercise that is thousands of years old and began in India. It involves holding physical postures, breathing techniques,  meditation, and relaxation of yourself. The first time I tried it I thought it wasn’t going to be that hard, I’ve stood around before.  But I was wrong, and it was a hard, fun, peaceful workout which really gives you a chance to work on your balance and centering your mind.

The practice of yoga exercise has been shown to significantly decrease finger pain during activity and improved finger range of motion in osteoarthritis patients4. It is also also used to promote self-awareness, emotional stability, and peace of mind. In addition, Yoga has also been show to improve communication, attention, energy,focus,and enhance feelings of overall wellness and well-being5.Mind Body Exercises for Stress Relief

Biofeedback at a Glance

I just wanted to touch briefly on this subject because I will dive more deeply into this in future posts, but mainly it involves using instruments and devices to monitor bodily activity and induce a state of calmness.

It has been used in management of diseases such as hypertension, stroke, and  Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, or SLE.

TaiJiQuan for Mind and Body Enhancement

TaiJiQuan or Tai Chi Chuan was developed around the 1300′s, but qi gong breathing exercises have been around for a few thousand years.

They are slow moving meditative exercise that focus on breathing and attention.

Qi Gong is more focused on circulation and vitality, while tai chi is focused more on meditative movement and self defense. They both  are used to inspire inner awareness and increased longevity, as both are needed in to progress to higher levels.

Benefits of Tai Chi included:

Increased relaxation
Increased focus
Decrease blood pressure
Improve lymphatic function
Improve the immune system
Promotion of alpha/beta waves activity

Meditation

Meditation is a method to focus on your breathing and inner awareness.

There are multiple methods of meditation but abdominal or solar plexus breathing is the main concept amongst all.

Work up to meditating for longer periods, it’s not meant to be conquered in a day.

According to the National Center For Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) meditation has been used for:
Anxiety
Pain
Depression
Stress
Insomnia
Physical or emotional symptoms that may be associated with chronic illnesses (such as heart disease, HIV/AIDS, and cancer) and their treatment.

This is a small list and anyone who wants to rests their mind and focus on their breathing will benefit from meditation.

Integrate Mind Body Training into Your Routine

Hopefully this has been a good introduction for you into the reasons why mind body medicine is important.  Make sure to train under a professional so that you learn proper technique and lessen the chance of any kind of injury.Just know that mind body medicine entails a variety of different exercises and techniques, and really it comes down to whichever methods work best best for you, as long as you take that first step forward!

guided meditation music

References and Sources:
1,2,3,Rakel, D. Faass, N. 2006. Complementary Medicine in Clinical Practice. Jones and Barlett Publishers, Inc.
Thibodeau, G. Anatomy and Physiology, Mosby Inc.
4,5,6, Complementary and alternative exercises for management of osteoarthritis.Arthritis. 2011;2011:364319. Epub 2011 Jul 25.