By: Ann-Marie Berdar
Have you ever participated in a yoga class and experienced a change in your mood at the conclusion of your practice? Have you ever felt a sudden rush of emotion?
People do yoga for different reasons. Some participate in the yoga practice for the medical benefit, some for the stress relief, and others, especially those who participate in hot yoga, do it for the vigorous workout and detoxification the additional heat offers to the practice. Whatever the reason may be, there is always a guide or teacher who explains how the energy moves within our bodies when we control our breath or work toward perfecting a posture. But have you ever questioned where the energy comes from or if it even exists? We know that we feel different after a yoga practice, however, is it true that it is due to the contrasting movement of breath within our bodies, we emphasize different energy pathways? The answer is yes!
A study conducted by Dr. Stephanie M. Shorter in her essay “Yoga at the Intersection of Research and Service”, exemplifies why and how we feel the way we do in certain postures. Postures known as heart openers such as camel pose and full-wheel have been known to stimulate emotions. According to Dr. Shorter, while preforming these postures or asanas, the vagus nerves are essentially opened.
These vagus nerves are one of twelve pairs of cranial nerves that originate in the brain. These nerves can be opened through various postures, and can do so much as stimulate the unconscious mind. The nerves exit the brain via the face, neck, and periphery of the body to carry out various sensorimotor functions (such as moving the eyes and controlling the voice). The vagus nerves provide a bi- directional information highway between the brain, the autonomic nervous system, and the the recognition of yoga being able to stimulate these nerves is extremely significant because there is finally proof that through a practice comes healing.
Yogis are often misunderstood, and thought of as overly spiritual beings that believe that through postures and meditation comes healing and mental break through. It is hard for most non-yogis to understand this concept because there has been no scientific evidence to support this belief. But with this research it is now evident that yoga does do all of these things!
So the next time you come to your mat, I encourage you to do the following: Don’t allow the fear heart opening or a misinterpretation of the practice stop you from allowing your body to tell you what it truly needs or how it truly feels. We often fear backbends and other postures that contribute to heart opening because our mind wants to protect our heart from physical and mental pain. Understand your body and come to terms with your fears and emotions.
Allow yourself to feel all emotions, positive and negative because that is the only way to understand who you truly are.
Allow the energy within you to flow and allow the body and mind to connect and create a blissful union – the ultimate goal of a yogi, which is created during a certain posture. If you have ever wondered why these postures cause us to act or feel a different way now you know it is all due to our organs. Stimulate emotions and help heal the mind. Ultimate self.
Ann-Marie Berdar, also known on IG as @college_yoga_girl, is a yoga teacher based in New York City.