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What are mind-body practices?

Have you ever wondered what mind-body practices are and how they work? This section discusses the science behind these techniques.

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Strengthen mind-body connection

Mind-body practices use techniques that strengthen the connection between the emotional, mental, and physical aspects of ourselves. Examples include breathwork, meditation, guided imagery, progressive muscle relaxation, yoga, Tai Chi, and general relaxation techniques.

neuroplasticity brainBuild neuroplasticity

The brain is a dynamic organ that changes throughout the lifespan and is able to reorganize itself by creating new neurological connections in response to your experiences, behaviors, thoughts, emotions, disease, and damage.

This process of creating new neurological pathways is called neuroplasticity. One example is a person who lost the ability to move an arm due to a stroke but was able to redevelop this function as the brain built new neurological connections as they practiced in rehab.

Mind-body skills are built on the understanding of neuroplasticity. The more you practice, the more you build neurological pathways between the body and mind, and create a stronger connection. The practice is actually changing the structure and function of your brain.

Require practice

Mind-body practices help you develop skills that can be strengthened over time. The more you use them to respond calmly to stressful situations, the easier it is for your body and mind to remain in a calm and focused state.

For example, if you are someone who becomes angry and aggressive when you are cut off in traffic, you can use mind-body practices to train yourself to respond calmly and with more patience the next time you are cut off.

The practice becomes easier over time. 

Induce the relaxation response

Mind-body practices induce the relaxation response, which counteracts stress and the ‘fight or flight’ response throughout the body. In essence, the relaxation response turns off the stress response.

This is important because the stress response releases cortisol, adrenaline, and norepinephrine, which increase your blood pressure, heart rate, and respiratory rate. Frequent and prolonged activation of stress leads to chronic disease and increases your risk of death.

The relaxation response directly addresses stress by switching the body’s response from the sympathetic nervous system to the parasympathetic nervous system. What this means is that the production of stress hormones drops, your blood pressure lowers, and your breathing becomes deeper and slower. When the parasympathetic nervous system is functioning properly, individuals often find that their muscles relax, they can digest food better, and they can think more clearly and broadly.

Examples of mind-body practices
  • Meditation
  • Mindfulness
  • Breathwork
  • Guided Imagery 
  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation
  • Energy Therapy
  • Massage Therapy
  • Yoga
  • Tai Chi 
  • Qigong
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