The nature of everyday life is a bombardment on the senses, the mind and the body. With such a load going on day to day, it is tough to find the time to engage in rituals and practices that serve to recharge those ever drained batteries.
From what I have observed, a lot more people are suffering from low levels of energy and in growing instances, fatigue. I guess you could class this as a different type of energy crises, one of human energy.
Energy is a precious resource. It is like a currency and more often than not gets spent on things that most would rather not be spending it on. Cue your errands, responsibilities and so forth.
A gentle solution to the energy crisis is yoga. An ancient practice that suits the needs of those who need to recharge. Yoga has an invigorating effect on mental and physical energy, increasing fitness and decreasing fatigue (2).
If you asked most people how they get their energy they would probably tell you from the food you eat, and they are right. A lot of energy comes from food. You may have guessed by now that there is another dimension to this phenomena (title give it away?).
This leads me onto the practice that energises, invigorates and charges the energy body in just a few magical (but not so mystical) ways.
Improves Utilisation of Oxygen
All those bends and stretches aren’t just for flexibility. Moving the body through a series of movements does loosen you up nicely. What it also cultivates is a more aligned posture over time.
Having better posture allows for less obstruction of airways. This provides an easier passage of air into the lungs allowing more oxygen per breath. It doesn’t take a genius to guess that lung function improves because of this.
The practice of yoga causes breathing to get slower and deeper, enabling the body to harness more oxygen (3, 8). Having more oxygen available enables greater oxygenation of tissues and organs. Levels of haemoglobin – the transport network for oxygen in the blood also increase (11). This increases blood flow to organs, muscles and tissues.
This is all well and good, but how does this provide more energy?
According to traditional Chinese medicine, oxygen translates to Qi (breath). Qi is the life-force that energises the body and mind.
Qi enables the body to burn fuel for energy, thus greater oxygen efficiency allows us to harness more energy. Increases in haemoglobin, and mitochondria (energy factories inside cells), means we can produce greater energy.
Oxygen is also cleansing and purifying. Ever noticed how energised you feel when the air is clear and fresh? or how heavy and tired altitude can make you feel before acclimatisation due to the lack of oxygen.
Next time you are on the mat, tune into the breath to feel energised and experience the richness of deep, flowing breath.
Improves Aerobic Conditioning
Yoga can be quite challenging at times, depending on what type you do. In vinyasa, or power yoga the poses flow from one to the next. Having to maintain good form and flow without pause gets the breath and heart really working.
Yoga is mostly an aerobic activity. Oxygen is the primary source of fuel.
Decreases in heart rate have occurred after 3 months of yoga practice (4), as the hearts contractions become stronger. Subsequently, this allows for more efficient transportation of oxygen.
Building strength with yoga can also develop oxygen efficient muscle fibres over time. This encourages the growth of new oxygen energy factories, the mitochondria. Greater numbers of mitochondria in muscle fibres, means oxygen is used to produce Adenosine tri phosphate more efficiently. ATP serves as the bodies energy currency.
Developing your aerobic capacity in this way can do wonders for your stamina, metabolism and lung capacity. Therefore you can expect a greater level of fitness as a result!
Neurotransmitters are the chemical messengers that allow our brain and nervous system to communicate. They play a large part in how we may be feeling.
Quite often people experience imbalances in neurotransmitters. Feelings of tiredness, restlessness, anxiety, depression and lack of focus result from imbalance.
Some neurotransmitters are inhibitory (calming, relaxation, sleep inducing). Others are excitatory (Motivation, focus, get up n go). They offset one another, operating like a see-saw.
Low levels of excitatory neurotransmitters show:
- low energy (fatigue)
- Lack of excitement
- Lack of focus
Yoga has an ability to influence levels of neurotransmitters and how they are recycled. The activity of monoamine oxidase was seen to decrease as a result of regular yoga practice (1). MA is an enzyme that breaks down neurotransmitters. Consequently, this reduces the lifecycle of neurotransmitters, capping that get up and go feeling.
The same study found that after 6 months of practicing yoga, glutamate levels increased significantly (1). Thats good news because glutamate is an excitatory neurotransmitter, which can help put some extra wind in those sails.
Increases in dopamine were shown after practicing yoga for 3 months (4). Dopamine is an excitatory neurotransmitter that accounts for motivation and reward. Having more dopamine in the tank could be the difference between showing up for your next practice or staying glued to the couch.
Yoga affects other neurotransmitters of the body as well. Thus, a greater balance in general may produce more of that get up and go feeling.
Yoga affects the way the autonomic nervous system behaves by balancing its two branches (5). They are the Sympathetic nervous system and parasympathetic nervous system.
Through pranayama (breathing) the activity of the sympathetic nervous system decreases. The SNS controls fight or flight responses. It is active in situations perceived as dangerous (shit thats a grizzly bear and its heading right for me, better get out of here).
In addition, the activity of the Parasympathetic nervous system is also increased. This branch encourages better rest and digestion (nothing to see here, just taking it easy, super easy).
Tibetan yoga helped lymphoma patients sleep faster, achieve better quality and duration of sleep (7). This is likely a result of the calming effect of breath and poses on the PNS.
Yoga practice also showed increased melatonin secretion, a hormone which induces sleep (9).
Regardless of the means, there is a good chance you can start to experience better quality sleep. Longer, deeper sleep can enable good rest and recovery, charging the batteries for the next day.
Everyone knows about stress, but how does it manifest? It has ripple effects throughout the body, especially in the gut. Just like the feeling of butterflies before a race, a job interview…… thats an example of the gut brain connection at work.
Being subjected to bouts of stress can affect bowel function, resulting in diarrhoea or constipation. Both of these aren’t ideal as they affect the way food is used for energy.
The opportunity to properly absorb nutrients is lost because of diarrhoea. In the short term this isn’t such a big deal but losing out on precious nutrients long term could lead to nutrient deficiencies and poor energy.
Constipation isn’t ideal either. It is called elimination for a reason; the body needs rid of what no longer serves it. Lingering waste is like a visitor to your home who has outstayed their welcome. Its annoying and tiring.
Blockages cause lethargy and fatigue and are uncomfortable, so its time to give the drain a good old fashioned unclogging.
Stretching can make the transition of food a lot smoother through the Gastrointestinal tract. This helps prevent and sooth bowel busting states.
Its well known that yoga can ease stress (6,10). Reducing stress can also prevent aggravation of the bowels. This insures proper digestion and absorption of food, promoting more energy for you to do the things you enjoy.
- Sanjenbam Kunjeshwori Devi , J. P. N. Chansuaria and K.N. Udupa. Mental Depression and Kundalini Yoga. Ancient Science of Life, Vol No. VI No. 2 October 1986, Pages 112 – 118. Centre for Experimental Medicine and Surgery, Institute of Medical Sciences, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi – 221 005, India.
- Carson JW, Carson KM, Porter LS, Keefe FJ, Shaw H, Miller JM. Yoga for women with metastatic breast cancer: Results from a pilot study. J Pain Symptom Manage 2007;33:331-41.
- Uday Sankar Ray, Anjana Pathak, Omveer Singh Tomer. Hatha Yoga Practices: Energy Expenditure, Respiratory Changes and Intensity of Exercise. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2011; 2011: 241294.
- Rameswar Pal, Som Nath Singh, Abhirup Chatterjee, Mantu Sahacorresponding. Age-related changes in cardiovascular system, autonomic functions, and levels of BDNF of healthy active males: role of yogic practice. Age (Dordr). 2014 Aug; 36(4): 9683.
- Pilkington K, Kirkwood G, Rampes H, Richardson J. Yoga for Depression: The Research Evidence. J Affect Disord. 2005;89:13–24.
- Jens Granatha, Sara Ingvarssona, Ulrica von Thielea & Ulf Lundberga. Stress Management: A Randomized Study of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Yoga. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy Volume 35, Issue 1, 2006.
- Lorenzo Cohen, Carla Warneke, Rachel T. Fouladi, M. Alma Rodriguez, Alejandro Chaoul-Reich. Psychological adjustment and sleep quality in a randomized trial of the effects of a Tibetan yoga intervention in patients with lymphoma. Cancer Volume 100, Issue 10, pages 2253–2260, 15 May 2004
- Birkel DA1, Edgren L. Hatha yoga: improved vital capacity of college students. Altern Ther Health Med. 2000 Nov;6(6):55-63.
- Kasiganesan Harinath, Anand Sawarup Malhotra, Karan Pal, Rajendra Prasad, Rajesh Kumar, Trilok Chand Kain, Lajpat Rai, and Ramesh Chand Sawhney. Effects of hatcha yoga and omkar meditation on cardiorespiratory performance, psychologic profile and melatonin secretion.The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. July 2004, 10(2): 261-268. doi:10.1089/107555304323062257.
- Smith C, Hancock H, Blake-Mortimer J, Eckert K. A randomized comparative trial of yoga and relaxation to reduce stress and anxiety. Complement Ther Med. 2007;15:77–83.
- Thromb Haemost. Chohan IS, Nayar HS, Thomas P, Geetha NS. Influence of yoga on blood coagulation. 1984 Apr 30;51(2):196-7.