Fra bloggen «PreFrontal Nudity» i Psychology Today: Yoga: Changing The Brain’s Stressful Habits
As a neuroscientist, despite my initial incredulity, I came to realize that yoga works not because the poses are relaxing, but because they are stressful. It is your attempts to remain calm during this stress that create yoga’s greatest neurobiological benefit.
Your brain tends to react to discomfort and disorientation in an automatic way, by triggering the physiological stress response and activating anxious neural chatter between the prefrontal cortex and the more emotional limbic system. The stress response itself increases the likelihood of anxious thoughts, like «Oh god, I’m going to pull something,» or «I can’t hold this pushup any longer». And in fact, your anxious thoughts themselves further exacerbate the stress response.
Interestingly, despite all the types of stressful situations a person can be in (standing on your head, running away from a lion, finishing those TPS reports by 5 o’clock) the nervous system has just one stress response. The specific thoughts you have may differ, but the brain regions involved, and the physiological response will be the same. The physiological stress response means an increase in heart rate, breathing rate, muscle tension and elevation of cortisol and other stress hormones.
Some people might think that the stress response is an innate reflex and thus can’t be changed. To clarify, the response is partly innate and partly learned in early childhood. Yes, the stress response comes already downloaded and installed on your early operating system. However, this tendency is enhanced, by years of reinforcement. In particular, you absorb how those around you, particularly your parents, react to stressful situations. Their reactions get wired into your nervous system. However, just because a habit is innate, and then reinforced, does not mean it is immune to change. Almost any habit can be changed, or at least improved, through repeated action of a new habit.