Last weekend I went to an incredible workshop about the neuroscience of the mind body connection. Something I’ve been fascinated with for years, but this weekend seriously re-inspired my passion for exploring the unbelievable potential of our mind-body and how important it is to work with it on a regular basis.
Before we dive into how to work with mind-body connection let’s start by busting a few myths.
1) Adult brain cells don’t regenerate — total BS! While it is true that the majority of our brain development occurs in our early years, neuroscientists have now documented that adult brain cells do keep growing and changing. In other words, you can teach an old dog new tricks!
Nerve cells grow, change and develop networks of connections based on environmental stimuli and repetition throughout our whole life. As Dr. Joe Dispenza explains, learning is forging new connections, and every time you learn something new your brain physically changes. Nerve cells that fire together wire together, and as you begin to learn new information you biologically wire that into your brain architecture.
So even if you feel super stuck in an old pattern, know that you have the power to change it! If you’re starting yoga, meditation or any other practice stick to it, you’re brain will develop new synaptic connections each time you practice and eventually it will become easier and automatic.
2) The brain is the command centre — not quite. Our brain is amazingly powerful, but scientists are beginning to discover that it’s not the penultimate control centre of our existence. For example, the heart has it’s own independent complex nervous system often referred to as the “heart-brain” composed of about 40,000 neurons that can sense, feel, learn, remember and communicate messages back to the brain. In fact, studies show that the heart sends more neurological commands to the brain than the brain does to the heart.
“One important way the heart can speak to and influence the brain is when the heart is coherent – generating a stable, sine-wavelike pattern in its rhythms. When the heart rhythm is coherent, the body, including the brain, begins to experience all sorts of benefits, among them greater mental clarity and intuitive ability, including better decision-making,” says Deborah Rozman, Ph.D. and president of HeartMath Institute.
Scientists are also making great discoveries about the independent nervous system in our digestive tract, called the enteric nervous system, or the “gut-brain” and how it not only controls digestion but has a massive influence on our moods.
So remember, there’s a lot more behind trusting your heart and gut feeling that you may realise! The yoga system actually recognises that we have 5 bodies, the mind being just one of them (read my last blog for more details on that).
On top of that, something yogi’s have been exploring for thousands of years, and what scientists called “meta-cognition,” is the ability to observe the mind. If we can observer our mind it implies there is a cognitive part of ourselves separate from our mind. What is that? Our higher self or consciousness according to the yogi’s of yore.
3) Everything is genetically determined and we can’t change our genes — wrong! It’s commonly thought that we’re stuck with what we’re born with genetically and that familial patterns of health and disease are passed down generation to generation. The new field of epigenetics however, has made groundbreaking discoveries on how environmental factors actually control our gene activity and proving we are not prisoners to genetic heredity.
“Bottom line: While each of us inherits our own unique, hardwired, unchangeable version of the genetic code, epigenetic factors such as lifestyle and diet can radically change what our genes do,” says Dr. Frank Lipman. “There are thousands of genes that render you susceptible to the classic, chronic diseases so many people are experiencing today, such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes and cancer. But whether or not these genes are expressed, and blossom into disease, may be determined by how you live your life, how you eat, the toxins you’re exposed to, the supplements you take, your beliefs and how you handle stress. This means that though you may be susceptible to heart disease or diabetes, you do not necessarily have to succumb to them. That is, your genes are a predisposition, not a fate, and the expression of your genes is much more dynamic and modifiable than previously realised.”
Further research shows that what we think and believe is itself an environmental influence on how genes express themselves. So remember, that you have choice and power even with regards to genetic predisposition.
Stay tuned for next week’s blog where I’ll discuss five simple ways to use your brain, and mind-body connection to live a healthier, happier life!
I love hearing back from you! What experience or thoughts do you have about these topics?