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In this world we live in, many people are starting to take better care of their overall health. This includes keeping the mind, the body, and the spirit healthy. And what better way to do so than with mind-body exercises?
With these types of exercises, you can practically do them anywhere. You don’t need a specific type of clothing, shoes, or equipment. All you need is your mind and your body, and you’re good to go.
What Are Mind-Body Exercises?
These are physical exercises that combine body movement with mental focus and controlled breathing. They make use of four important principles. These are breathing, precision, control, and concentration. The aim is to improve strength, balance, flexibility, and overall health.
There are five characteristics mind-body exercises must possess:
- Inner mental focus
- Concentration on muscular movements
- Synchronization of movements with breathing patterns
- Attention to form and alignment
- A belief in “life energy” (basically, the energy present in living things and absent in nonliving things)
Benefits of Mind-Body Exercises
Balance of Mind and Body
This means controlling and balancing your own body weight. According to Joseph Pilates, founder of the Pilates method of physical fitness, “it is the conscious control of all muscular movements of the body. It is the correct utilization and application of the leverage principles afforded by the bones comprising the skeletal framework of the body, a complete knowledge of the mechanism of the body, and a full understanding of the principles of equilibrium and gravity as applied to the movements of the body in motion, at rest and in sleep.”
In simpler terms, you should not consider neither the mind nor the body more important than the other.
An ancient Greek saying says it best: “The nearer one’s physique approaches the state of physical perfection, the nearer one’s mind approaches the state of mental perfection.”
Eases Stress and Anxiety
When stress strikes, your body fills up with chemicals that give you that “fight or flight” feeling. Mind-body exercises stop stress in its tracks. They also bring your mind and body into a state of equilibrium. Next, the relaxation response kicks in.
Many things happen when the relaxation response is on. Your heart rate slows down. The blood flow to the brain increases. Blood pressure stabilizes, your breathing slows down and deepens, and your muscles relax.
If you suffer from insomnia, doing these exercises can help you get a good night’s rest. Again, the relaxation response plays a big role here. This is because for many people, sleep disorders have very close ties to stress and anxiety.
Strengthens the Immune System
According to a study, mind-body exercises promote a healthy immune system. They specifically have an effect on inflammation and anti-viral related immune responses.
With the exercises, there is a significant reduction in C-reactive protein levels. This is a substance that increases when there is inflammation in the body. An elevated C-reactive protein level acts as a marker for disease.
In addition, these exercises can also increase virus-specific, cell-meditated immunity at rest and in response to vaccinations.
Based on this study, links exist between the brain and the immune system. Also, psychosocial factors can directly influence health through behavior.
If people think that you’re too moody, doing some mind-body exercises can help you out. Doing these activities increases dopamine levels. This is the feel-good chemical. There are many studies that also prove that people who exercise are happier and have a more positive outlook on life. Regular exercise also reduces symptoms of depression.
Studies show that there is a connection between one’s thoughts and pain level. Doing regular mind-body exercises may get rid of body pain.
Our thoughts and feelings influence the body through two kinds of mechanisms: the nervous system and the circulatory system. These are the pathways of communication between the brain and the rest of the body.
The brain communicates with the body via the nervous system. This allows it to send nerve impulses into all the body’s tissues. This then influences their behavior. The brain affects the behavior of the immune system. Its nerve endings extend into the bone marrow, the thymus, the spleen, and the also lymph nodes.
It also reaches into all the glands of the endocrine system, all the bones, all the muscles, all the internal organs, and even the walls of veins and arteries. It influences the behavior of the heart. Its nerves penetrate the heart tissue, affecting heart rate and other aspects of the heart’s functioning. The entire body is literally “wired” by the brain.
The brain is also a gland. It manufactures thousands of different kinds of chemicals. It then releases them into the bloodstream. These chemicals circulate throughout the body. This influences the activity and behavior of all the body’s tissues.
The cells of the body also have receptors on their surfaces. These are like satellite dishes. These receptors receive the chemical messages from the brain. They then respond accordingly.
In addition to sending messages into the body’s tissues, the brain also receives feedback. This is through the form of nerve impulses and also its own receptors that sense what chemicals are being released by other tissues in the body.
Exercises to Try Out
Yoga is from the ancient Indian practice of hatha yoga. It involves holding stretches as a kind of low-impact exercise. Yoga is often used for therapeutic purposes. It involves music, meditation, breath work, and also imagery.
Yoga is considered relatively safe to practice, and there are different types of yoga people can try out for specific purposes.
Pilates is a method of exercise that consists of low-impact flexibility and also muscular strength and endurance movements. It improves physical strength, flexibility and posture. In addition, it also enhances mental awareness. It is similar to yoga, but it emphasizes on the body’s core.
Joseph Pilates developed this method in the 1920s. Its initial intention was to improve the rehabilitation program for World War I casualties. It was initially designed to help injured soldiers regain their strength by stretching, strengthening, and also stabilizing key muscles.
This is a movement method that addresses the entire body. It is a slow and fluid exercise based on the seven natural elements of spinal movement. These are forward, backward, right side, left side, right twist, left twist, and circular. It opens up energy pathways, stimulates the nervous system, increases the body’s range of motion, and also creates functional strength.
This ancient tradition originated from China. It is a noncompetitive martial art known for its defense techniques for overall health benefits. Over time, its gentle and fluid movements have evolved as a means to alleviate stress and anxiety. It promotes serenity and inner peace.
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