We are thrilled to welcome the first ever guest blog post for Prana Fitness! This was written by a sweet friend of mine in the Denver yoga community, Michelle Lee Weldon. Incredible being. ❤
Fitness Exponentiated: The Psychology of Why Yoga Makes You Feel Soooo Good!
We as a society are no stranger to the benefits of physical exercise these days. We even understand that physical exercise has a direct link to mood elevation. Running, for example releases endorphins, which in turn increases our energy and elevates our mood. I often get asked, “Why is YOGA better than other exercise?” Rather than think of it as “better,” I like to think of it as a more complete experience in terms of Mind/Body integration. Yoga incorporates the following key elements:
- Unconditional Presence: Our full sensory experience is focused on the moment at hand, not fanaticizing about something in the future or replaying the past, or “zoning out.” Unconditional presence increases the alpha brain wave state which supports healthy immune functioning and other higher brain functions. Think of waking brain waves as trying to get from point A to point B on a bicycle during rush hour in New York City. An Alpha brain wave state would be more like traveling from point A to point B at 3 am in the country… free, open roads. This allows for more fluid conscious and unconscious processes to take place in the brain and body.
- Right Brain/Left Brain Integration: Increases the accessibility of both the refined and whole perception aspects of our brain… meaning when there is more fluidity of information processing back and forth we are closer to using our “whole” brain rather than just isolated parts… When we engage in activities where we intentionally use our non~dominant appendages (right hand vs left hand) we activate a whole brain experience. Additionally, mindfully-sequenced yoga asanas (poses) replicates our physiological developmental sequence and can heal places where we may have had interruption or injury in our childhood development.
- Autonomic Nervous System Regulation: Through specific Pranayama (breath~work) and asana, we develop greater control over our Autonomic Nervous System by balancing out the flow of energy activating either the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response) or the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest functions). In other words, when we begin to learn how to handle our own response to stressful situations on the mat, we can in turn shift our response to stressful situations in our daily lives.
By combining the general benefits of physical exercise with unconditional presence, right brain/left brain integration and conscious autonomic nervous system regulation, we are in effect engaging in an experience that is both medicinal in it’s physiological benefits and therapeutic in its psychological application towards everyday life stressors, thus elevating it far beyond simple exercise!
*Michelle Lee Weldon, LPC RYT is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Registered Yoga Teacher, and Workshop Facilitator, providing Yoga Psychotherapy and counselor supervision in private and group settings throughout the Colorado Front Range. For more information on the Psychology of Yoga or to schedule a consultation session, visit Michelle at www.SpandaTherapeutics.com