The Basics of the Mind-Body Connection in Your Yoga Practice

How we feel has a deep and profound effect on our body. As a yoga instructor, in class I speak a lot about how our emotions and experiences can manifest themselves in us physically. I talk about how our hips store deep emotional and unresolved trauma and when we start to move and break up these areas, we may feel emotions come to the surface that we weren’t expecting. I also let my students know that unexpected tears can leap out of their eyes when we lay down in Savasana because we have awoken something that needs to be dealt with.

These are facts, and things like this have happened to me many times. I have also watched people in class go through similar experiences. So, I ask why is it so hard to believe that our feelings matter when it comes to our physical health? Why is it difficult to understand the relevance of our connection between the mind and the body?

Years ago, there was not enough science to back up how feelings can be directly correlated to our overall health, but now, that is not the case. One very mainstream and easy thing to understand is how chronic stress can negatively affect your health. According to the American Psychological Association, chronic stress can contribute to increased muscle tension, causing headaches, shoulder and neck issues and worse, cardiovascular issues such as heart attack, hypertension and stroke. Chronic stress can be attributed to many things in our lives, and we may not even realize it because we have become accustomed to this feeling in our bodies. Our home, job and even things we love can be contribute to feelings of stress.

So, now that we understand how stress can affect us, what about the other negative emotions that are running around inside of us. Look at grief, sadness, depression, guilt, shame and even being overwhelmed. Life hands us experiences to deal with that challenge us to move through these feelings, but instead, we ignore them or take a pill to cover the physical manifestation of symptoms. Sometimes, this feels easier than actually dealing with the issue, but at what cost to your body? Your feelings matter because they are changing you, from the inside out. What we cultivate within us emotionally, will inevitably show up in our physical lives.

We are complex creatures and how we feel does affect us, right down to our cells. This dance between our emotional well being and our physical well being can become a downward spiral because our emotional health is also connected to how we feel physically. For example, when we are in pain, it’s exhausting, frustrating and after time can lead us into depression. Once we understand that our body and brain are in constant conversation, we can see how each affects the other and how we need to take positive steps with our mind to improve our body and positive steps with our body to improve our mind.

That is why yoga is so effective in positively changing the way we feel. Having a practice that uses breath and movement to shift our mindset and open us up physically can literally change us on a cellular level. Yoga truly is a practice for life and what we experience on the mat gives us knowledge that we can use to tackle stress and uncomfortable situations. The breath work alone can teach you how to let go of stress and has a positive effect on your overall well being. Physically, as we move through parts of our body that have become stagnant, we let go of toxins and release trapped emotional energy.

Nothing happens over night but yoga is a tool you can use to start the journey to a healthier you. Tapping into and noticing your mind-body connection is just one of the benefits from a consistent practice. Just be ready, yoga can cause increased smiling and feelings of happiness!

– Angie Cherry is an E-RYT 200 Certified Yoga Instructor, a SUP Certified Instructor and a Reiki Master. She writes on all things life, including growth and evolution, energy, yoga practice, yoga philosophy and delicious foods!

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