The benefits of yoga for an injured brain.
A new science has emerged called neuroplasticity, or brain regeneration. The realization that an injured brain can repair itself. What is an injured brain? Simply put, an injured brain can be defined as not completely healthy. The word injury means harmed or damaged in any way. The scale of injury can vary from minor to major.
There are many things that can injure a brain. The first and most obvious is called traumatic brain injury, or TBI. A TBI can be caused by a physical force, witnessing or being in a traumatic event, oxygen supply interrupted, or a drug, alcohol or toxic substance overdose. The second and less obvious is called insidious brain injury, or IBI. IBI creeps in over time but can be equally devastating. It's causes are chronic poor blood flow, chronic lack of nutrition, chronic lack of sleep, chronic stress, and chronic use of drugs, alcohol, and sugar. It would be safe to say that most people have suffered some level of brain injury sometime in their life.
The human brain is the most complex thing in the known universe. The brain is the only organ that has the miraculous ability to constantly renew itself. The process is called neurogenesis. It's the brain actually creating new brain cells called neurons and new pathways called synapses. Here's how it works. If given the right conditions, the brain produces something called brain derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF. BDNF is responsible for neurogenesis, preventing the death of existing brain cells and supporting cognitive function. The #1 way to increase BDNF is doing strenuous and complex exercise, consistently.
Yoga to the rescue!
Yoga is the perfect exercise to activate BDNF. Yoga offers the person with an injured brain the ability to choose a level of strenuous that coincides with their level of physical ability without causing further damage. Yoga offers the person with an injured brain the ability to engage in complex body movements without causing further damage. Once a neuron, or new brain cell, has been created, it must find something new to learn, or it will die. This is why "complex" exercise is so important. A blend of compound movements combined with balancing will activate the most neurons. Just trying to balance on one leg forces the brain to coordinate an array of complex muscle movements.
The 5 steps of an injured brain towards a healthy brain.Due to life circumstances, a brain is damaged.
Yoga, the perfect exercise for creating BDNF is introduced.
BDNF stimulates neurogenesis
Yoga, due to its complex movements and balancing requirements, creates a need for neurons and synapses so they do not die.
The injured brain is in full repair mode. Increased levels of BDNF do not happen over night.
It can take several months of consistent effort to obtain maximum levels. There is an element we can add to this already brilliant form of brain and body maintenance to magnify the effects of BDNF. Heat. Heat causes increased heart rate and blood flow. The increased heart rate and blood flow cause the release of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is a recently discovered, barely detectable gaseous molecule that is produced in the walls of the vascular system. Nitric oxide causes vasodilation or expansion of the blood vessels. Nitric oxide improves function of neurons and synapses. Indisputably, increased blood flow is good for the brain.
In conclusion, the latest science and data affirms the ancient practice of yoga.