Our bodies were designed to walk, jump, change, stretch and adapt. The same is true of the mind - by design you think, feel, change, adapt and overcome.  Yoga teacher Laura Galvin explores the links between mental and physical health and how keeping active during lockdown can help us feel happier. 

The evidence is overwhelming that moving the body helps the mind and moving the mind helps the body. Put in more scientific terms, movement and mental equilibrium improve cerebrovascular health. The body can change from day to day and the impact of mental health can change how well we perform basic functions. Some days you can freely move with no pain and other days even getting out of bed can be hard. And now, within the new world of coronavirus and social distancing, the reasons we can’t move are growing. The idea of getting out and exercising comes with a warning to stay a little further away from people and this can easily lead to maybe it’s better I stay at home.

As a yogi, I think movement should be steady and comfortable with room to explore where you are physically, as well as connecting your mind with your movement as described in the yoga sutras of Patanjuli. Let me put this into practical terms for someone who isn’t doing any yoga. Imagine you are walking and you become aware of how heavily you are breathing, now you begin to notice which parts of your body are moving and where you have any pain or discomfort, perhaps that will give you an idea of whether you are steady and comfortable, or overreaching. Now let's add a second layer to your walk, you begin to notice how you are feeling emotionally, you even notice the surroundings and the environment you are in. Gradually you become more aware of not just the physical impact this walk has had on your body but the mental impact too. These are the questions that encourage me and frame my kind of exercise.

I love to learn about the brain - even though a lot of it goes well over my head. What I have found is that the connection between what we think we can do  and what we can actually do is really important. By no means am I encouraging being unsafe, but if you talk to an ultramarathon runner they will tell you that your mental strength is vital in your ability to achieve your physical goals, along with training and diet.

The impact of movement on the brain is incredible. Exercise has been linked with helping treat mild forms of depression, anxiety, insomnia, ADHD, as well as improving memory, learning and cognitive function. Moving your body can even help connectivity between the brain and the body. Now, if it could only help social awkwardness I would never stop exercising!  For me at least, going from an unknown mental state to a comfortable mental state is the ultimate benefit of exercise and specifically yoga.

During a yoga session, you are moving the body and connecting with the breath consciously, and deliberately working with the parasympathetic nervous system which helps you destress. You are becoming more aware of your body allowing you to connect with your thoughts, emotions and physical self and lastly, you always get a chance to completely relax at the end of class with savasana.

If you are looking for movement during lockdown there is a small community of us practicing yoga twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We are chatting about what’s going on in our bubbles, we are trying to find that comfortable and steady edge and we are heading into deeply relaxing meditations outside of our homes.

Be moved and join us at  https://www.yogaatdownfarm.net/

May 22, 2020
Mind & Body

More from 

Mind & Body

View All