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Yoga empowers People to take control of their Lives and achieve Better Health: UN forum

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Vastu Shastra is a traditional Hindu system of design based on directional alignments. Wikimedia
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  • Yoga can reduce medical expenses through preventing diseases
  • Citing the cases of amputees continuing to feel pain in their phantom limbs
  • Actor-activist Anupam Kher said that often one’s happiness is left in the hands of others

– by Arul Louis

United Nations, June 22, 2017: Yoga empowers people to take control of their lives and achieve better health at lower cost to society, according to experts at a forum here on Wednesday celebrating the Third International Day of Yoga (IDY).

Bruce Lipton, a developmental biologist, said the emerging field of epigenetics shows that “we are not determined by (our) genes” and can be “powerful mastersa of one’s own life. Yoga, he said, can help people overcome their genetic inheritance and change their health outcomes.

This year’s IDY theme was “Yoga for Health” and the science, health, business and yoga experts on the panel at the UN spoke of how its proliferation can lead the way to better health for all with a reduction in healthcare costs and achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

ALSO READ: Kung Fu Yoga: A Movie depicting Indo-Chinese Friendship!

The World Health Organisation (WHO), which co-sponsored the event, is in the middle of a year-long campaign, “Let’s talk about depression,” which takes aim at this specific mental health problem.

Nata Menabde, the Executive Director of WHO UN Office, said yoga combats depression and has a role in the campaign.

WHO was collaborating with leading academic institutions around the world, including some in the Ivy League, on scientific research on the health effects of yoga, she said.

Yoga can reduce medical expenses through preventing diseases, she added.

Swami Chidanand Saraswati of the Paramarta Niketan Ashram in Rishikesh said healthcare should move from medicine to meditation because of its power to heal.

In hospitals, he said, meditation should be used alongside medication as society moves from healthcare to “Yoga care”. This would lead to tremendous savings in healthcare costs, he added.

Keith Mitchell, a former US National Football League star who suffered a career-ending spinal injury during a game that virtually paralysed him, gave powerful testimony about the healing power of yoga.

Starting with breathing exercises and then through other yoga exercises, he was able to walk again, he said.

Lack of connection to family and society lies at the root of illnesses and yoga can help overcome this through bringing about a connection to family and society, said Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati, also of the Paramarta Niketan Ashram.

Citing the cases of amputees continuing to feel pain in their phantom limbs — the parts that have been removed — she said that experience of physical pain is in the mind and yoga, through its effects on the mind, can help control pain.

Another testimony to the power of yoga in a different area came from Stanton Kawer, the CEO of a US marketing company. He said that what he learned through yoga helped his business when applied to the work environment.

Workers’ engagement with their work and company ultimately boosts the success of the company and this could be achieved through yoga, he said.

Bringing the yoga principles of honouring and respecting people to the workplace makes a difference and this has worked for his company, he said.

Actor-activist Anupam Kher said that often one’s happiness is left in the hands of others, but yoga’s impact is enabling one to be oneself and finding happiness within. (IANS)

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New Study Shows Link Between Meditation And Greater Focus

Supplementation, a healthy diet, and daily exercise are key, with recent studies showing that aerobic exercise also increases brain size.

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Pranayamic breathing is just one way to improve brain health.

Pranayamic breathing – an important part of yoga and meditation – has a unique ability to strengthen our focus and a new study by Trinity College Dublin has unlocked its secret. The researchers note that pranayamic breathing affects the levels of a natural chemical in the brain called noradrenaline. The latter is released when we are challenged, curious, focused, or emotionally excited. When present at the right levels, noradrenaline helps the brain grow new connections and helps us concentrate better on important tasks.

The old masters were on the right track

The researchers noted: “Practitioners of yoga have claimed for some 2,500 years, that respiration influences the mind. We looked for a neurophysiological link that could help explain these claims.” The researchers did so by measuring breathing, reaction time, and brain activity in a small area in the brainstem called the locus coeruleus, where noradrenaline is made. Noradrenaline is affected by stress; when we are worried or anxious we produce too much, and cannot concentrate. When we feel lazy, on the other hand, we produce too little and once again, focus is lost. One way to boost levels is through yoga; another method which can complement the latter is the consumption of medical grade focus supplements, which contain compounds such as octopamine (which has a similar effect to noradrenaline).

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Conversely, those with lower mindfulness ratings had greater activation of this part of the brain and also felt more pain. Pixabay

Pranayamic breathing aces the right balance

In the above study, researchers noted that brain activity in the part of the brain where noradrenaline is produced raises slightly when we inhale and drops slightly as we exhale. Thus, balance is achieved and we can focus on what we have set out to do. Pranayama not only boosts concentration but also produces “changes in arousal, attention, and emotional control that can be of great benefit to the meditator.”

What is Pranayamic breathing?

Pranayamic breathing involves controlling and extending breath, with a view to manipulating your vital energy, battling stress, and improving your mood. It is often used in meditation and yoga and interestingly, many yoga experts rank pranayama as even more important than asanas (the postures performed in a yoga session). In yogic tradition, breath is said to carry a person’s life force. Interestingly, scientific studies back this assertion to the extent that pranayamic breathing is able to boost brain function and change the actual structure of the brain. In recent studies, pranayamic breathing has been found to lower or stabilize blood pressure, lower stress, and reduce anxiety and depression.

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In order to comprehend better the Indian seers constructed the special “BOAT” – named Yoga/Meditation.

Implications of the study for aging

The researchers are excited that their findings could signal a way to prevent brain aging. They stated that if brains typically lose mass as we age, practices such as pranayamic breathing greatly reduce the rate of brain shrinkage, thus potentially helping keep dementia and related diseases at bay. Because keeping noradrenaline levels at an optimal level can help the brain grow new connections, meditation is an ideal activity to pursue.

Pranayamic breathing is just one way to improve brain health. Supplementation, a healthy diet, and daily exercise are key, with recent studies showing that aerobic exercise also increases brain size. To make the most of the effect of breathing on focus, consider joining a yoga class or learning the essence of pranayamic breathing online or through an app like Prana Breath or Universal Breathing.