ECS and Yoga
Yoga as a Cure
Yoga is an ancient mind-body practice that may be the ideal cure for many of our modern day ailments. Despite society’s ever-accelerating scientific and technological breakthroughs, people are increasingly at risk of dying from diseases caused by psychological stress and sedentary lifestyles, such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Chronic stress and inflammation are common factors in these diseases, and yoga has been shown to help alleviate both (Stephens). Yoga focuses not only on the physical side of wellbeing (often leading to increased flexibility and weight loss when practiced regularly), but it also taps into the mental, emotional, and spiritual components of pain and healing (Taneja).
With an emphasis on breathing, mindfulness, and deep states of meditation, yoga not only gets people moving and bending in their bodies, but it can also lead to greater self-awareness. In a culture where mindless consumption and chronic stress are the norm, yoga can give people much needed time and space to observe their old patterns and choose healthy new ways of living.
McPartland, J. M., Guy, G. W., & Marzo, V. D. (2014). Care and Feeding of the Endocannabinoid System: A Systematic Review of Potential Clinical Interventions that Upregulate the Endocannabinoid System. PLoS ONE,9(3).
Stephens, I. (2017). Medical Yoga Therapy. Children, 4(2), 12.
Taneja, D. K. (2014). Yoga and Health. Indian Journal of Community Medicine, 39(2), 68-72.
Yoga and Your Endocannabinoid System
Since a yoga practice can help us combat stress, promote relaxation, and bring our overall health into balance, it can be a powerful ally in caring for our endocannabinoid system. Our endocannabinoid system is responsible for bringing us back to homeostasis after danger or stress triggers our flight-or-fight response, sending a rush of the stress hormone cortisol all throughout the body. High levels of cortisol have been shown to be toxic to the brain, resulting in
impaired memory and the ability to learn
increased anxiety and fear
Research shows that yoga can effectively reduce cortisol levels, and with regular practice, the part of the brain where panic and fear originates is diminished (Stephens). Yoga also increases the presence of beneficial hormones and neurotransmitters, like GABA, serotonin, and dopamine, which are natural antidepressants. It can also improve levels of melatonin, which promotes higher quality sleep. With its ability to regulate stressful chemicals and encourage beneficial neurotransmitters, yoga perfectly complements the endocannabinoid system’s mission of helping us “relax, eat, sleep, forget, and protect.” Scientists believe that mind-body practices like yoga are sensible ways that we can care for and protect the endocannabinoid system, which has the sole purpose of caring for and protecting our total wellbeing (McPartland et al).