Just a short post this week to draw your attention to a couple of articles reinforcing the benefits of movement in general, and mind-body practices in particular. Many of you probably know that as scientists learn more about brain function and how genes work, researchers have also learned that brain pathways and gene expression continue to change throughout our lifetimes. It was once thought that brain function automatically declines as we get older. Recent research has shown this is simply not true. In addition, researchers are learning that the changes in gene expression brought about by mind-body practices may actually have the ability to reverse the effects of chronic stress.
A recent article in Yoga Journal , cites a study published in Frontiers of Immunology that sought to examine whether our genes actually change after engaging in mind-body practices. The conclusion? Engaging in these practices can actually create molecular changes that have long term effects on your health. As quoted in the article, “ ‘Mind-body techniques like yoga or meditation are the most effective ways of reducing stress that are known to science,’ lead author Ivana Buric, a doctoral student and research assistant at Coventry University in England”.
Another article from National Public Radio (NPR) discussed a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association’s Internal Medicine. This showed that exercise in general works better at providing relief from and even preventing chronic lower back pain than a variety of commonly prescribed interventions such as back belts and shoe insoles. According to the article “It didn’t really matter what kind of exercise — core strengthening, aerobic exercise, or flexibility and stretching.” Dr. Tim Carey, an internist at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill who wrote an accompanying commentary to the study, said that “health care providers don’t prescribe exercise nearly enough, given its effectiveness.”
So if you’re still on the fence about whether or not yoga, Pilates and other practices that connect mind and movement will help you, the evidence shows that its worth a try. Any movement is better than no movement. If you’re not ready for yoga or can’t find a class that works for you, try walking. It’s simple, effective and you can do it anywhere, any time. Just remember that if you are brand new at any movement practice, start simple and take it slow. The point of these types of practices is to help you learn more about how your own mind and body work. Every body is different. So even when you’re in a class, there is no rule that requires everyone to do the same thing. Take the time to tune into your own inner workings. Learn what works for you. You may be surprised to learn that you can do more than you think you can. And if you stick with it, you’ll get even better. If you can approach any new effort with curiosity you’ll be much better off than if you let your ego take over. Include a little self-compassion and even humor and you’ve got all the ingredients to improve your health. Give it a try!