Research on yoga & brain changes
Yoga and the Brain
- In 2010 Dr. Streeter at Boston University found that one hour of yoga practice increased GABA levels in the brain as measured against a control group engaged in walking. GABA is the major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain. This means it inhibits action or transmissions in the brain. In the mental health arena we are interested in GABA as it helps to curb anxiety, partially because GABA prevents a brain structure called the locus coeruleus from producing too much of a stress causing neurotransmitter called norepinephrine. We are not yet aware of the domino like effect on the brain of increasing GABA levels from yoga practice, but certainly we can hypothesize it includes easier access to relaxation and reduction of stress related networks. Possibly other long reaching effects are also occurring.
- In a small study in 2000 researchers at Shimane Institute of Health Science, Izumo, Japan found that 1 hour of yoga decreased cortisol levels in the body and increased alpha waves. Alpha waves are a type of brain wave found during periods of wakeful relaxation. These brain waves are almost important as they indicate coherence in the brain. Coherence means brain structures are working together as a team. Low levels of coherence relate to a subjective feeling of fragmentation and poor emotional control. High levels of coherence indicate integration of experience and thoughts and coincide with emotional well-being. Alpha waves are likely to increase plasticity because brain regions are connecting well, talking to each other and strengthening their pathways. Cortisol is a hormone released during stress and an overabundance is common with those who suffer from mental health problems. High levels of consistently high levels of cortisol give rise to a host of health problems and cause atrophy in certain parts of the brain.
- In 2010 at Harvard University Lazar et al found that those who engaged in long term yoga practice had increased areas of volume in certain brain structures. Most notably, the insula cortex a center of emotional and sensory integration in the higher brain, and the prefrontal cortex, which modulates behavior and thought; showed increased volume. This is extremely important as those who suffer from PTSD and also other acute mental health issues often have reduction in insula volume, which may explain experiences of dissociation, while reduced prefrontal cortical volume signifying a reduced capacity to regulate emotions and engage in rational responses is found in depression, anxiety, and PTSD.
- Another study conducted in Japan using a special yogic breath technique called Sudarshan Kriya found that levels of neuro-chemical called Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) increased. BDNF is a necessary component in neuroplasticity. Hence if a yogic practice is able to increase levels of BDNF this means that change is likely to be taking place.
Source: The Minded Institute
Body postures change how we approach problems
Contemporary dancers use the Limon Technique to release their demons through dance. Movement to music means more energy, good mood and feeling of wellbeing, less dark thoughts and less anxiety.
We still believe in separation of the body and mind but they are connected. Using your body to help you with mental strength is best achieved in a community. Dance, yoga or Pilates in a church hall, anyone?
School of Life: Peter Lovatt on Good Moves Vimeo
I am attending seminars on Yoga & Mind in London next week and will be updating this blog with news.
Heart & Mind Connection
Our emotional health and wellbeing requires harmonizing the interplay between the heart and the brain and I advocate focused relaxation – an hour or so away from the daily stressful life – among my clients.
Alleviating Stress and Anxiety
By changing breathing patterns, we can alter the messages from the body to the brain. Through these pathways, we can see how specific breathing techniques can alleviate anxiety, insomnia, intrusive memories, over-reactions, distorted body perceptions, disconnectedness and loss of meaning. This research attracts worldwide attention and reflects a new development that crosses psychology, psychotherapy and physiology.
“By doing yoga, we are rooted in the body when the mind focuses and settles.”
Open Hearts – positive emotions induced by loving kindness meditation - help us to be healthier.
I have been invited to give a talk about Wellbeing in Skincare to the Society of Cosmetic Scientists (RGN) in summer 2013. I am looking into what constitutes our sense of wellbeing – and how can skincare help – and will be updating this blog with new findings regularly.
For now, just a few notes:
58 % of Americans say that their beauty and personal care products give then a boost of self esteem [Mintel by twitter]
Appearance and Self-esteem
Our society is ageing rapidly. Skin is a visible organ of emotional expression and social communication – skin condition impacts on how others perceive us and how we see ourselves. Both skin texture and colouration play a role and Professor David Perrett (University of Aberdeen) suggests that Face Can Monitor and Motivate Health.
Dissatisfaction with facial appearance causes distress, low self-esteem and compromised relationships [Kligman 1997] as our society views visible ageing differently to internal diseases [Morgan 1997]. Ageing women paid less attention and given less visual contact, making them feel invisible [Fink 2008]. Media have a negative impact, exposure to the ideal images are detrimental at times of greater self-monitoring (puberty and menopause) [Newton 2005].
Self Esteem Programme by Dove and CTPA
Dove has launched 2012 Self Esteem Programme to help self-esteem education in schools. They want to help teens to develop healthy body confidence and realistic beauty ideals. “The school years are such an important tim in the shaping of future confidence, and skincare and make up can make a real difference to how confident teens feel.” [Pure Beauty 2012]
CTPA argue that self-esteem is more important today than ever before. We lead increasingly open-ended lives, with fewer universal values, where people are responsible for creating their own individuality. However, we live in a society of high aspirations where our self-confidence is regularly tested as we struggle to meet the standards we create for ourselves. The CTPA report allows us to better understand what makes up self-esteem by analysing a range of influences including family, financial status and appearance.
“The more healthily you live, the better you look. You still want to look like yourself when you grow older. You lose your sensuality when you have surgery, it takes away a part of who you are.” Sharon Stone
- Mindfulness Research Update: 2008 by Jeffrey M. Greeson, Ph.D., M.S.
- Mindfulness and pain management
- Daily Meditations
According to a new report by Mintel, British Lifestyles, beauty has been on a rising tide ever since the beginning of the new millennium. Categories associated with pleasure, fun and indulgence showed the highest levels of growth, compared to the functional day-to-day products.
- Indulgence. Being seen as indulgence, facial skincare benefited, growing almost 70 % in 10 years (2000 – 2010) and driven primarily by interest in anti-ageing. Anti-ageing moisturisers, targetting particular concerns ie. wrinkles, make up nearly 40 % of the total category sales.
- Shopping from Home. More consumers are turning to the internet for advice on skincare products. Recent study by MyFaceBody, the online and TV beauty guide, has found that 55 % women aged 35 – 50 purchase beauty and skincare online. Online retail can offer a variety of choice, competitive pricing and information better than high street retailers. With a growth of interest in beauty blogging it seems that buying high quality skincare products for specific skin issues, such as acne, sun damage and anti-ageing will boom on the internet.
Please remember that 50 % of women misdiagnose their skin type. Go for the internet bargains but have a skincare consultation first to avoid expensive mistakes. Also, try before you buy – try the testers/get samples from a local beauty counter.
- Unconscious fantasies. Our mind desires – both conscious and unconscious – can help to identify future skincare trends. The trends agency By Lude uses psychology and anthropology to understand our psychological functioning and collective fantasies. These techniques go beyond the consious data used in traditional market research eg. questionnaires and observational data.
- Autumn-Winter 2011/12 Season. They forecast a preppy “back to school” feel with a Northern twist – milky skin and translucent make-up. We should want to go back to thick walled glass bottles and creamy white contents, reflecting our unconscious need to be protected and cocooned.
According to social scientists, beauty pays. Contrary to the old feminists’ beliefs, it is not degrading to be groomed and look attractive. Beauty and intelligence are not mutually exclusive – recent research shows a link.
- Learn to invest time and effort into looking your best.
- Learn to smile and the world will smile back at you.
The past two decades have seen research documenting the economics of return to good looks. Attractive people earn up to 20 % more than unattractive people (all else being equal). They are also seen as more competent, more persuasive, attract cooperation and have smoother relationships with colleagues. But beauty pays off in friendships, in social networks and in the politics of private life.
“Beauty is not superficial, trivial, insubstantial and futile. Investing time and effort into looking good is not an indicator of vanity or frivolity – for men or women.”
Everyone can highlight what they have to present themselves in the best light. The French insist that style allows even the ugly to become attractive – the jolie laide. But ugliness and beauty are also about attitude and a state of mind. Why let the uglies win, she asks?
Catherine Hakin is a social scientist at the London School of Economics and the author of Honey Money: The Power of Erotic Capital. http://www.catherinehakim.org
Source: Know Your Assets. The Sunday Times Style 11/09/2011.
Stress and anxiety make our skin prone to premature ageing, our facial expressions – transient at first – but repeated time and again become ingrained in our face as deep lines and wrinkles. Be it the frown lines that show the strain of a high management role or the exaggerated crows’ feet apparent in people who care for their relatives at home 24/7.
In a search for new ways of helping my clients to relax, I went to the School of Life in London, to listen to Mark Williams, a professor from Oxford University and a leading expert in mindfulness meditation. I always appreciate techniques that combine science with ancient tradition – and mindfulness meditation does just that. It has been proven to calm the mind and improve wellbeing (as well as well as dealing with more serious issues such as depression and anxiety).
Having experienced the relaxing benefit of touch and meditation first hand, I believe these techniques will come to the forefront of anti-ageing healthcare in future.
An interesting link to brain science
I like reading the Psychologies Magazine and found their Positive Beauty Manifesto inspiring!
This campaign aims to:
- encourage women to have a balanced approach to beauty
- celebrate women who enjoy looking after their appearance, whilst celebrating individuality in an increasingly pressured world.
The Psychologies Magazine 10 Point Positive Beauty Manifesto
- Beauty is the celebration of what is unique about each one of us
- Taking the time to care about ourselves boosts our self confidence
- Beauty and femininity are complex, and should not follow a simplistic set of rules or universal conversations
- Beauty should celebrate intelligent, individual and confident role models
- Being bombarded by unattainably perfect beauty ideals can damage that confidence
- True beauty radiates who we truly are, including all our imperfections
- Feeling beautiful is more important than looking beautiful
- A woman can play with her image, make-up and clothes without being superficial
- Neither neglecting your appearance nor obsessing about it are healthy signs for women
- We can be beautiful without being young, overtly sexy or thin
The manifesto will be published in the Psychologies’ June issues across the globe! It’s being supported by celebrities and beauty experts – please read the full list below – and FaceWorkshops would like to support it too!Please share this with your friends.
Eminé Ali Rushton, the Beauty Director of Psychologies and her team would love to hear what ‘Positive Beauty’ means to you. The prize is an amazing Beauty hamper! Email your entry to firstname.lastname@example.org, writing ‘Beauty Blog Competition’ in the subject line. Include your name and contact details, along with the blog you read about the manifesto on, in the body of the email.