International Day of Yoga 2021. Yoga for well-being.

June 20, 2021 4:14 pm

Yoga is the dance of every cell with the music of every breath that creates inner serenity and harmony.

Popularity of yoga is on the rise. Those who practice it are also increasing day by day. Most people consider yoga as a panacea for all problems faced by mankind. Their expectations about its benefits are sky high. Over enthusiastic followers make tall claims of immediate and massive benefits in too short a period. The dropout rate is quite high because the unrealistic expectations do not match with the ground reality. Yoga is an exercise for a life-time and only those who practise it regularly and systematically will reap the benefit. It is time we knew the underlying reasons of the benefits of yoga.

All human activities and developmental stages we pass through whether physical or emotional, follow a predetermined pattern. They are tuned by the biological clock inside us. One can see an order, a pattern and a rhythm in our growth and development. Even death is programmed in our cells (apoptosis). The most obvious among the rhythms of life is our ‘sleep – wake cycle’. There are many others happening inside, notably in relation to the hormone production.

 We have a primary duty not to disrupt these rhythms of life because they are essential for healthy life. But we do disrupt them by choosing wrong life style and inefficient stress management, paving way for many health issues. By the time rhythm disturbance produces a disease state, lot of molecular abnormalities would have already set in requiring medical intervention to correct them. So for a comprehensive approach to wellbeing we need to adopt healthy life style and follow measures to reset the internal clock and improve neuronal health.

It is here that yoga has a crucial role. The exercise aspect of yoga (aasana) stresses on slow rhythmic breathing and synchronised body movements. This sends the right rhythmic signals to the brain which is rather abused  to the extent possible by long standing stress and abnormal life style (like sleeping too late , too much exposure to screen and abusing psychoactive drugs,  alcohol and sedentary life) causing dysfunction of the internal clock and consequent health problems. Sending right signals to the brain help reprogramme  the internal clock and bring wellness to the individual.

In addition, yoga improves mood and wellbeing. Recent researches point to a molecular mechanism for it. There are certain natural molecules in the brain known as Nerve Growth Factors (NGF), which function like chemical fertilisers in agriculture, facilitating  neuronal growth, sprouting new connections, activating long-dormant neural circuits or quietening circuits that once crackled under pressure (of drugs or stress) and help maintain stability of neuronal health essential for normal emotional wellbeing. One such growth molecule of prominence is BDNF, the acronym for Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor. BDNF has a significant role in areas of brain involved in learning, memory and emotion. It has antidepressant effect by itself (sometimes referred to as God’s own antidepressant) and its preeminent place in the process of recovery from depression is coming to the fore.

We are born with the necessary tools in the brain to produce BDNF. Yoga as well as other physical exercises are the only known ways to enhance the production of BDNF – the cheapest way to wellbeing.

Yoga basically is a ‘4 in 1’ exercise. It resets the internal clock by providing right rhythmicity to the brain centres through controlled breathing. It enhances production of BDNF, and improves the mood and wellbeing. Yoga is an excellent de-stressor. Systematic practice of yoga is an outstanding ‘Mindfulness’ technique too and carries added advantage as a de-stressor.

Start practising Yoga early in life with dedication and reap the benefits of this huge profitable investment in times of need.

– written by Dr. M. Chandrasekharan Nair