Yoga and TCM: Cultivating Strength in the Physical and Emotional Body

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By Cailey Halloran

 

“Yoga can be understood as a set of behaviors that develops a holistic experience of the body, heart and mind.” - Sarah Powers

 

Very often a yoga class is first taken for the physical benefits that yoga affords. Many yogis love to get their heart pumping and sweat flowing during a flow or vinyasa based class, even upping the ante by taking heated yoga classes or yoga sculpt classes with weights. In time, however, many yogis discover that their physical yoga practice can evolve into a mental and emotional practice as well. Not only do yogis notice a change in their muscle strength and flexibility, but they also might find a more grounded perspective on their everyday interactions. One study showed that after a three month trial of two ninety minute yoga classes per week, women who had previously been categorized as emotionally distressed found a statistically significant improvement in overall well-being, stress, depression and fatigue levels. Women who had reported headache and back pain also reported noticeable relief.[1]

Similarly, once on the treatment table, patients experience this same phenomenon. Most patients initially try acupuncture for physical reasons, chiefly seeking treatment for pain relief. As acupuncture sessions afford the patient the opportunity to tune into their breath, body and thoughts, many people find it a way to increase mindfulness and relaxation. A Swedish study showed that after eight weeks of one weekly treatment, acupuncture was shown to improve quality of life, distress and depression.[2]

Acupuncture patients and yoga practitioners both have the potential to become more in tune with the inner working of their bodies and benefit from

the positive “side effects” of acupuncture and yoga such as improved digestion, energy, libido, sleep, and mood stability.

Studies have shown that both acupuncture and yoga work to calm the nervous system by inducing a shift from the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) to the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest). [3] [4]

 

Both acupuncture and yoga encourage the body to shift towards a state of balance, of homeostasis. Every yoga class a student takes encourages the body to develop strength and flexibility, muscle memory and both mental steadfastness as well as fluidity. Similarly, every acupuncture treatment a patient receives shifts the body towards health. Acupuncture treatments remind the body of how it should optimally behave. In both disciplines a foundation is established to protect the body from factors that have previously triggered ill health.

[1] Rapid stress reduction and anxiolysis among distressed women as a consequence of a three-month intensive yoga program. Medical Science Monitor. Volume 12, December 2005, Pages 555-561.

[2] BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Volume 14, June 2014, page 210

[3] Effects of Hatha yoga on blood pressure, salivary α-amylase, and cortisol function among normotensive and prehypertensive youth. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. Volume 20 (4), April 2014, Pages 241-50.

[4] Effect of sensory stimulation (acupuncture) on sympathetic and parasympathetic activities in healthy subjects. Journal of the Autonomic Nervous System. Volume 79, Issue 1, 14 February 2000, Pages 52-59.