Natural Awakenings Fairfield County September 2016

Page 34

Mastering Yoga

The Transformative Power of Yoga and Music Powerful Separately, A Transcendent Duo by Gloria Owens


here is no doubt that yoga and music can shift our mood. We love music that compels us to dance, sing, cry, create, workout, connect, relax or sleep. We’re hooked on downloads, playlists, concerts and customized radio services which will queue up tunes that meet our specific preferences. We are literally “touched” by music as sound enters our bodies and vibrates the eardrum, creating a unique personal, visceral and emotional experience. Yoga also works on the physical, energetic and emotional layers of our being, and invites us to notice where we are being enlivened, opened, soothed and moved. It is an ancient science of the body, mind and spirit that aims to peel away layers of stress, illusion and egoic attachments so that we can experience our true expansive nature.

The Brain Game

in sweet bliss during the relaxation at the end of a yoga class? The answer lies in the magic and mystery of the nervous system and the brain, and the myriad of ways the brain can rewire itself through experience. It’s the brain’s neuroplasticity—its ability to create new neuropathways—which helps humans to grow and change. As we change our thoughts and our “vibe” in positive ways, we entrain our brains to a new level of “normal”, thus subtly and consistently changing our lives for the better. As energy beings that are actually vibrating atoms, we literally “resonate” in different ways with different music or movements. Mindful movement practices like yoga, tai chi and qigong can be effective at attuning us to the energy body, and our physical, emotional and psychological landscapes. By doing so, we can deepen our capacity to navigate life with more awareness and skill. Although the focus in yoga is on postures, alignment and transitions, the true science of yoga is much more than

So what is it that’s actually happening when we immerse ourselves in our favorite piece of music or find ourselves 34 Fairfield County Edition natural awakenings

a fitness practice. It’s one of the most time-tested tools for transformation, helping us find places of resistance, fear, pain, patterns, judgment or illusion. “Research into the neurobiology of different types of exercise seems to demonstrate that yoga has an advantage over other types of aerobic activity, especially for emotional stability and well-being,” cites Rachel Grazioplene in her Psychology Today article “This is your brain on yoga.” This may be because of physiological responses in our bodies when we do yoga that signal our brains to release calming chemicals. These natural chemicals include endorphins which have a positive effect on our mood and pleasure responses. Coupled with the reduction of cortisol levels, the positive effects of a yoga class can last for hours.

Busy World, Busy Mind

In an overwhelming, anxious and busy world, slow and mindful styles of yoga—such as gentle, yin, restorative and yoga nidra—are particularly helpful for shifting out of our sympathetic nervous systems and supporting the parasympathetic nervous system response. The latter is where our bodies naturally reduce pain, improve creativity and memory, and heal. When we are in the fight-or-flight response, our bodies take blood flow away from the brain and into the periphery of the body, flooding the bloodstream with sugar and increasing the heart rate, blood pressure and respiration rate in order to prepare one for defense or flight. In this “on guard” state, our learning abilities, as well as other mental functions like problem solving and reasoning, are completely blocked. Both music and meditative yoga have the power to support healthier sleep patterns by calming the nervous system, and slowing down the heartbeat and brainwave frequencies. In his New York Times article, “Relax, You’ll Be More Productive”, Tony Schwartz suggests that our adrenaline and coffee-fueled, workaholic lifestyle is actually not the best way to be creative and productive. “More and more of us find ourselves unable to juggle overwhelming demands and maintain a seemingly unsustainable pace.

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