呼吸法背後的科學 The Science behind Pranayama

呼吸法是瑜珈八支之一。體位法移除身體的障礙,靜坐冥想幫助我們的心靈,而呼吸法是結合身體與心靈的橋樑。呼吸法古老而神祕。 在練習而親身體驗呼吸法的奧妙後,我還是忍不住要來研究一下這東西到底有沒有科學根據. (以下有註明科學研究出處) 可惜我們現代上課的模式,不太可能每節課花一半的時間練呼吸,, 但呼吸法最好還是在體位法後練為佳 自律神經系統主宰身體的壓力賀爾蒙,分為兩類,交感與副交感神經系統. • 交感神經啟動時,我們身體進入緊急狀態負責"跳跑或是留下來作戰"兩種選擇都必須把所有能源送到肌肉,瞳孔放大 身體修復的工作則放一旁 • 副交感神經則是讓身體靜下,放鬆,身體的能源轉移到修復的功能 "迷走神經”控制我們的副交感神經系統。所謂叫"迷走",就是因為它到處都是,從腦,胸,包住心臟,橫隔膜,腹腔, 胃, 腸子等等。當迷走神經被刺激時(例如: 橫隔膜深而長的呼吸),會產生一種神經傳導物質叫 "乙醯膽素"(Acetylcholine), 副交感神經系統便開始啟動. 身體便開始放鬆 乙醯膽素和刺激迷走神經有一些不為人知的功效 • 乙醯膽素幫助記憶及學習能力 *1 • 最新的研究指出,乙醯膽素還可以阻止減輕身體的發炎症狀,壓力大的人常常到處發炎 *2 • 研究指出,迷走神經連結到"幹細胞"(stem cells),刺激迷走神經還可以讓幹細胞長出新的細胞來修復我們的器官 *3 • 迷走神經還可增進腦細胞的生長,産生(BDNF) 幫助修復腦組織及身體組織的修復 *3 • 迷走神經被刺激後,你的肌肉會放鬆,減輕你的煩惱及焦慮,氧氣也比較能進入細胞,身體也產生多巴胺(endorphins),讓你覺得體通舒泰 • 減少皮質醇,皮質醇是可能讓我們肥胖的一種壓力賀爾蒙

1. Sloan, R. P., et al. 2007. RR interval variability is inversely related to inflammatory markers: The CARDIA study. Mol Med 13 (3-4):178-84 2. Pavlov, V.A., and K.J. Tracey. 2005. The cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway. Brain Behav Immun 19 (6):493-99. 3. Theise, N.D., and R. Harris. 2006. Postmodern biology:(adult) (stem) cells are plastic, stochastic, complex, and uncertain. Handb Exp Pharmacol (174):389-408.

After receiving and experience the amazing effects of Pranayama, I cannot help but doing some research on the scientific basis of the mystic ancient art of Yoga. Pranayama is one of the 8 limbs of Yoga. Unfortunately many gravitate toward the Asanas (yoga posture) or mediation but missing the Pranayama which is said to be the bridge between mind and body. Too bad in the modern classroom, the time is limited and it’s not likely to spend half of the time doing Pranayama. Also the way of the practice is not likely the same for everyone. However, I will start to introduce it as much as I can when I am back to Taiwan. Remember, Pranayama is better practiced immediately after the Asanas.

Your body stress hormone is controlled by autonomic nervous system (ANS). The ANS has two components that balance each other, the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). • The SNS turns up your nervous system. It helps us handle what we perceive to be emergencies and is in charge of the flight-or-fight response. • The PNS turns down the nervous system and helps us to be calm. It promotes relaxation, rest, sleep, and drowsiness by slowing our heart rate, slowing our breathing, constricts the pupils of our eyes, increases the production of saliva in our mouth, and so forth. The Vagus nerve is the nerve that comes from the brain and controls the parasympathetic nervous system, which controls your relaxation response. It is a very long nerve running from the hypothalamus area of your brain, chest, diaphragm, and to your intestines. It wraps around your heart and core area . And this nervous system uses the neurotransmitter, Acetylcholine. When the Vagus Nerve is stimulated,(ex. Deep slow breathing by inflating your diaphragm) your parasympathetic nervous system is activated. Therefore, it triggers the relaxation response in our body. What is not known is the Acetylcholine is responsible for many important functions which are not wildly known: • Acetylcholine is responsible for learning and memory *1 • New research has found that acetylcholine is a major brake on inflammation in the body [4]. In other words, stimulating your vagus nerve sends acetylcholine throughout your body, not only relaxing you but also turning down the fires of inflammation which is related to the negative effects from stress *2 • Research found stems cells are directly connected to the vagus nerve. Activating the vagus nerve can stimulate stem cells to produce new cells and repair and rebuild your own organs. *3 • Research has linked the vagus nerve to improved neurogenesis (creation of new brain or neuronal cells), and increased brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) factor. BDNF is like a fabulous super-food for your brain cells. It helps with repair of brain tissue, actual regeneration throughout the whole body *3 • As your Vagus system is stimulated, your muscles will relax, dropping your worries and anxieties. The oxygen supply to your body's cells increases and this helps produce endorphins, the body's feel-good hormones • Once you turn on the parasympathetic nervous system, your cortisol levels are reduced, and your brain heals. Cortisol is also linked to obesity to several studies. 1. Sloan, R. P., et al. 2007. RR interval variability is inversely related to inflammatory markers: The CARDIA study. Mol Med 13 (3-4):178-84 2. Pavlov, V.A., and K.J. Tracey. 2005. The cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway. Brain Behav Immun 19 (6):493-99. 3. Theise, N.D., and R. Harris. 2006. Postmodern biology:(adult) (stem) cells are plastic, stochastic, complex, and uncertain. Handb Exp Pharmacol (174):389-408.

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