The Power of the Brain-Body Connection | Mat Boulé | TEDxLaval
How to Improve Mind Body Connection with Yoga
There is a complex and unique connection between your mind and body. Your thoughts are powerful and can affect many aspects of your body and health. Conversely, the way your body feels can let your mind know if you need to make adjustments to your actions or routine. When you practice strengthening that connection, you can improve and change how your mind affects your body and vice versa. Yoga is a great practice and method of exercise that focuses specifically on the connection between your mind and body. It can engage and calm your mind and nerves and can be the physiological medium between your mind and body.
Strengthening Your Mind-Body Connection with Yoga
Start your practice with meditation.If you’ve ever done yoga before, you may have noticed that many yogis suggest starting your practice with a short meditation. This is one of the most beneficial ways to strengthen your mind and body connection and to get you ready to practice yoga.
- Prior to starting your yoga practice, sit quietly for about 10 minutes. Use this time to meditate prior to starting your practice. This quiet session can help prepare you to begin practicing on strengthening the mind-body connection.
- Work on calming your mind prior to your exercise routine. Try to let the day, your "to-do" list or other issues drift away from your mind.
- You may need to focus on your breath or a mantra you’ve developed for yourself. Practice letting go of thoughts as they arise and focus on your meditation.
Set an intention for your practice.This is another step of your yoga practice and is essential to allowing yoga to improve your mind-body connection. You can create and focus on your intention as you begin your practice with meditation. Keep in mind that you may not achieve your intention, but you can explore your relationship with it.
- An intention is a conscious focus of something you’d like to work on. For example, patience, mindfulness, awareness of breath, or being present in the moment are intentions.
- While you move through each pose during your yoga practice, focus on your intention and try to embody it. You may even want to repeat it softly or silently as you move through different poses.
- When you step off your mat after your practice has completed, continue to focus on your intention for the day. Try to make this a priority with how you act towards others and your mental state of mind.
Breathe with each pose.Proper breathing techniques are very important to an effective yoga practice—especially if you’re attempting to strengthen your mind and body connection. Focus on your breath and bring your attention to it during your practice.
- If you are taking a yoga class or even following a video online, your instructor will most likely guide you on appropriate breathing techniques. Most poses that are contracting of a muscle group are accompanied by an exhaling of your breath. Those that are releasing of a muscle group are accompanied by inhaling.
- When you’re practicing yoga, you will be forced to focus on your breath. It’s important that you focus on the rate of your breathing and whether or not your breathing is deep or shallow. This forced focus can help strengthen the mind-body connection.
- Even when you’re not practicing yoga, take time in your day to practice your breathing. Even if you spend two or three minutes focusing on deep, slow breathing, this can help extend the practice of strengthening your mind-body connection past your yoga mat.
Focus on the targeted muscles.Once you’ve focused your mind and set your intention, you’ll begin your practice. In addition to focusing on your breath during your practice also focus on your muscles. This solidifies the mind-body connection.
- As you go through each pose, your yoga instructor will guide you on what muscles you should be contracting and which ones you should be relaxing. Use this as a guide on what to focus on.
- When you’re in a pose, imagine what your muscles are doing. Focus on the individual muscle or muscle group that is being worked and try to focus and control that particular area.
- Many times when you’re contracting a muscle group, its advised to think of that muscle hugging your bone. Or if you’re doing a lengthening pose, try to imagine the muscle being pulled into a long, toned form.
Practice, practice, practice.Like any type of physical activity, you’ll need to continue to practice with your yoga. In addition, it’ll take continued practice to strengthen your mind-body connection through yoga.
- Most professionals will recommend doing yoga at least 2-3 times per week. This is appropriate for those who are beginners and even those who are advanced.
- Start with a simple routine and continue to advance yourself over time as you become more proficient and your muscles become stronger.
- Also continue to practice your meditations and intention. This can be even more difficult than the actual poses at first, but is just as important to improve over time.
End with corpse pose.Most, if not all, yoga practices will end with corpse pose, or Savasana. This pose, although easy to perform, can actually be quite challenging as this exercise totally focuses on the mind-body connection.
- Corpse pose is when you lie flat on the floor at the end of your yoga practice. You should work on quieting and focusing your mind. Many instructors say to focus on your intention for the day and concentrate on how you’re going to continue that intention outside of your yoga practice.
- If you’re having trouble keeping your mind quiet or focused, repeat your intention like a mantra or focus on your breathing.
- Aim to rest in corpse pose for 5-10 minutes at the end of each practice. Spend this time working on your relationship with yourself and listening to your inner voice.
Doing Mind Body Yoga Poses at Home
Start with lotus pose.Lotus pose is one of the most common yoga poses, though it is an advanced posture. This pose can help you settle into your yoga practice and calm your mind and body.
- Start by sitting on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Stack your ribcage over your pelvis to align your spine. Inhale and lift up toward the sky, the exhale and allow your body to settle. Continue until you are comfortable.
- Slowly draw your right foot up towards your pelvis. Rest the outside of your right foot up on the inner thigh of your left leg.
- Then slowly bend your left leg up and over your bent leg. Again, aim to lay the outside of your left foot on your inner right thigh. To open your hips, press your knees down and toward each other.
- Shift your body as needed so you feel comfortable. You can sit cross-legged or in another seated position. Rest your hands, palms facing up towards the ceiling, on your knees. Breathe in and out deeply. Keep this position as long as you can and until you're focused for your practice.
Relax into chair pose.Chair pose can help you focus on your body instead of your mind. It engages multiple muscles.
- Start chair pose by standing tall with feet hip-width apart. Keep your arms down by your side, relaxed, with your palms facing inwards.
- Slowly lower down as if you were about to sit down into a chair. Keep bending until your thighs are almost parallel to the floor. Squeeze your knees together and keep your weight in your heels.
- Lean your torso forward slightly while keep your back straight. Tuck your pelvis under to engage your core muscles and knit your ribcage together while lifting up through the chest.
- Sweep your arms upward so your elbows are tracking near your ears. Your arms should remain straight with palms facing inward toward each other. Lower your shoulders to avoid creating tension in your neck.
- Hold this pose for at least 30 seconds. Continue to breathe deeply as you hold this pose.
Stand tall in eagle pose.Eagle pose is great for strengthening your body and the connection between your mind and body. It relies on balance and forces you to concentrate on maintaining your balance, rather than focusing on your mental stress, and therefore relaxes your mind.
- Start eagle pose by standing straight with your feet hip-width apart. Keep your arms by your sides with your palms facing inwards.
- Slowly bend your knees (almost as if you were getting into chair pose) and then while focusing straight in front of you, lift your right leg up and over your bent left leg. Your right leg should rest just above the knee on your left leg.
- Try to bring the top of your right foot behind your left calf. It should be somewhat "hooked" behind your lower left leg.
- Bring your arms in front of you. Bend your arms so that your upper arm is parallel to the floor and your forearm is perpendicular to the floor. Hook your right arm underneath your left arm. Your elbows should almost be right on top of each other. Or, stretch through your upper back by wrapping your right arm underneath your lap and reaching for the left shoulder blade.
- Turn your hands so your palms are facing towards each other. Place your palms together flat against each other.
- Hold this position for at least 30 seconds or as long as you can hold it or maintain your balance. Keep your core engaged, square your hips toward the front of the mat, and sink deeper into your bent leg. Continue to breathe deeply while holding this position.
Focus your mind with warrior pose.Like eagle pose, warrior pose also relies on the strength of many muscles in your body. In addition, it requires you to maintain your balance and focus on continually contracting muscles to maintain the proper posture.
- Start by standing straight up with your feet hip-width apart. Your arms should hang gently at your side.
- Step your left leg forward about 4-5 feet (almost like you're starting a lunge). Turn your toes of your right foot out away from your body at about a 45 degree angle.
- Lower down, like a lunge, so your left thigh is almost parallel to the floor.
- As you lower down, sweep your arms upwards over your head with palms facing each other. Your arms should be straight, however elbows shouldn't be locked.
- Arch your back slightly and look up towards your hands that are over your head. Squeeze your buttocks and leg muscles to help you balance and hold this position. To square your hips toward the front of the mat, roll your back thigh up and open and press down through your back pinkie toe.
- Stay here for at least 30 seconds. Breathe in out and deeply as you hold this position.
End with corpse pose.Most yoga sessions end with corpse pose. Although one of the easiest poses to do physically, it requires a lot of mental concentration and meditation to be able to perform correctly.
- Lay flat on the floor on your back. Keep your head straight with eyes forward. Try to relax all the joints and muscles in your body.
- Position your legs so your toes fall out away from your body. Position your legs slightly wider than hip-width apart.
- Turn your palms upwards with your fingers pointing away from your body. Your arms can be at a 45-degree angle from your torso, close to your sides.
- While inhaling and exhaling deeply, focus on relaxing one part of the body or one muscle at a time. Try to keep your mind clear and focus on your relationship with relaxation.
- Hold this position for at least 5 minutes but you can stay here up to 10 minutes if you'd like.
Incorporating Other Methods of Strengthening the Mind Body Connection
Go outside.In addition to practicing yoga, there are other methods you can do or use to strengthen your mind-body connection. Going outside has been shown to be vastly beneficial to your health—especially in regards to your mind-body connection.
- Studies have shown that a walk outside, especially in a quiet, wooded area, is associated with a rejuvenated mind and an increased ability to pay attention and focus.
- If you can, make it a point to spend some time in the outdoors. You can just go for a walk and enjoy the peacefulness of the nature around you.
- You may also want to consider doing your yoga practice outside or even choosing to sit and meditate outside as well.
Take active breaks at work.Sometimes during the week you may feel like you’re losing your mind-body connection. The stress of our daily lives, commutes and jobs will test your mind-body connection daily. Taking an active break at work can help prevent this.
- If you find yourself getting lost in the business or stress of your day, consider taking an active break. Get up from your desk and do some light exercise or movement. You can go for a walk, sit and meditate in your office, spend some time journaling or even perform a few relaxing yoga poses.
- Taking an active break might be something you choose to incorporate into your daily schedule on a regular basis. This can help you refocus and pay attention to your work without losing your mind body connection.
Journal.Journaling is an excellent tool for many, many reasons. However, it can really provide you with great insight into your own mind and help strengthen your mind-body connection.
- Studies have shown that putting your thoughts on paper, especially stressful or worried thoughts, can help reduce your overall stress.
- To start journaling, consider purchasing a nice journal for yourself. You can always use your computer or online program, however there is something therapeutic about writing. Pick a journal that entices you to open it and write.
- You do not necessarily need to journal every little thing, each day, however making it a point to spend some time writing most days of the week will be helpful.
Get a good night's rest.Regardless of how much yoga you do, or how often you practice strengthening your mind-body connection, if you’re not getting adequate rest you will see very slow progress.
- Experts recommend getting at least 7-9 hours of sleep nightly for adults. Many adults get significantly less than this.
- Studies have shown with proper sleep each night you have improved memory, better attention span and more energy.
- Getting adequate sleep each night will rest your brain and mind and allow it to become stronger over time. Try to get to bed earlier or sleep in later to help you get enough rest every night.
- Aim to do what works best for you, and know that your mind-body connection will evolve over time.
- Yoga can be tricky to pick up. However, the more you practice, the better you'll get.
- Although some yoga poses may seem easy, make sure you find a class or session that is appropriate for your fitness level.
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