As a yogi, you most likely regard your body as your temple. And you should since your yoga practice is ultimately about you getting into a Zen state while you practice yoga and in your life off your mat. The state of your “temple” directly influences your ability to get into a Zen state, and now science proves it.
Your temple- the Microbiome
While the belief/knowledge about the body as your temple goes back to biblical times, it took technology to build that bridge and show us how our temple manifests as influential to our mental state. The term “Microbiome” is relatively new and encompasses the internal and external environments of your body. As a yogi, you understand there is no separation between body-mind-spirit, so it intuitively makes sense that your microbiome plays a role in your mental state– which plays a role in your ability to get into a Zen state.
Where Science and Yoga Come Together
Let’s tie science and biochemistry into your yoga practice. When you practice, you bring your body into a relaxed state, and this is the parasympathetic dominant state. This is your Zen state and why we all do yoga. The parasympathetic state balances your sympathetic nervous system, which most people know as the fight-or-flight mode- stress mode; without a balance to the fight-or-flight mode, we do not survive. Your parasympathetic nervous system is what allows you to fall asleep, allows your immune system time to heal from infections and injuries, as well as be creative, as just a few examples.
Here are some yoga essentials to help you achieve your zen state:
Your Zen State, the Parasympathetic Nervous System
Your body’s biochemistry plays a role in whether you operate from a sympathetic nervous system dominant state or a parasympathetic dominant state. Inflammation causes changes to your biochemistry, one of those changes is an increased cortisol level, which is also produced when stressed. So, just having inflammation keeps your body in a “stressed” state. This, of course, makes it a little harder to get out of a sympathetic dominant state and into a parasympathetic dominant state. Does that make sense? It’s all about balancing things; if there are high cortisol levels that have to be overcome to get into a parasympathetic dominant state where cortisol is not the dominating hormone and instead dopamine, serotonin and endorphins are.
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Inflammation Blocks Your Zen State
Having chronic low-level inflammation does make a difference to your yoga practice. This is where your diet makes a difference. If your diet contains foods that cause inflammation, you will have higher cortisol levels. If your diet includes foods that dampen down inflammation, your cortisol levels will be lower, making it much easier to get into a Zen state.