Last week we began an interesting discussion on The Neurophysiological Pharmacy That Already Exists Within Our Brains, and the amazing effect of the placebo. Though fascinating, this week we wanted to introduce you to a system that was briefly mentioned as one of the systems of the pain response – specifically a cell signalling system that among many other rolls, performs inhibitory pain processes, and can be tapped into through very simple practices.
The Endocannabinoid system
Experts are still trying to fully understand the ECS. But so far, we know it plays role in regulating a range of functions and processes, including:
- mood and anxiety
- learning and memory
- drug addiction
- feeding behaviour
- modulation of pain and cardiovascular functions.
Resent research has brought insight into how we induce the “natural high” from working into the pharmacy within our brains. The most interesting take from experiments was that many of the processes were relatable to the activities we see in yoga and meditation:
- Moving: On average, the group’s endocannabinoid levels increased by 19%
- Dancing: Endocannabinoids went up by 21%
- Singing: This showed the biggest increase in endocannabinoids of 42%. It was also linked with an average improvement in mood.
Which, by and by means that we are able to induce the natural high of the endocannabinoid system by practicing asana, pranayama, chanting, and meditation.
The Yoga High
Breathing, chanting, yoga asana, and meditations for the endocannabinoid system of pain releif.
Within BIYOME’s foundational training we teach our students how to utilise the power of chanting (singing), breathing, sankalpa (power of intent) and yogic exercises, including dancing and shaking meditation to assist their clients with chronic pain by stimulating the endocannabinoid system (among other inhibitory systems). Our training is formed on evidence-informed knowledge and understanding and as such we find confidence in what we offer, for example:
Breathing and Mental Training
Harnessing breathing can result in increased activity in the parts of the brain that are involved with perception and response, or thought and action. Your brain has the power to modify your pain perception. When we are exposed to nociceptive (the sensation of pain) experiences we can use breathing and mental training to activate our brain to release opioids and cannabinoids into the body. These components can inhibit the signals responsible for telling your body you are feeling pain or cold, and trigger the release of dopamine and serotonin. The result is a euphoric effect on the body that lasts for several minutes. (source)
When you practice yoga with good breathing techniques, you will start to essentially feel “high” in what is believed to be an increase in endocannabinoid receptors and one of their agonists (activators) AEA. This flooding of AEA in the body gives a blissful feeling to the person practicing yoga.
The Power of Intent: Sankalpa
The placebo effect is activated by generating a certain expectation (a positive outcome or intention – sankalpa), and this expectation is fulfilled. This expectation based on bettering yourself or your situation can trigger the release of more endogenous opioids and endogenous cannabinoids, in turn triggering the release of serotonin, and dopamine in a self-fulfilling cycle, which enables the yogi or meditator to get more confident in their expectations.
It is said that one in five Australians live with chronic pain, so, while the research is in its infantry and there is no solid evidence for yoga and analgesic effects, we can deduce that understanding the mind-body connection of pain more comprehensively has the potentiality to assist in the management and treatment of chronic pain.
Join us as we explore this and much more in our Yoga and Meditation Teacher Training.
References and Additional Resources