Ohmm... your way to hap­pi­ness


Yoga doesn’t just get you strong. Re­search shows that it makes you happy too. We spoke to OhanaJo Stu­dio founder and cer­ti­fied yoga in­struc­tor, Jojo Struys, for thoughts on that, along with some day-to-day yoga moves!

TThe Sun­day morn­ing pranayama class at Jojo’s OhanaJo Stu­dio in Sun­way SPK, Kuala Lumpur is a quiet af­fair. Well, mostly. Ex­cept for the oc­ca­sional ner­vous gig­gles from a first-timer when per­form­ing the al­ter­nate nos­tril breath­ing, the ses­sion led by Jojo is med­i­ta­tive, and easy to fol­low. “Ev­ery pos­ture is linked to the aware­ness of your body and the breath, which is the store­house to many mus­cu­lar ten­sions and stag­nant emo­tions. Breath­ing tech­niques or pranayama, has the abil­ity to in­ter­rupt the body’s stress re­sponse and en­gage the re­lax­ation re­sponse to trig­ger the re­lease of en­dor­phins, which are the body’s nat­u­ral painkillers,” ex­plains Jojo, who’s been prac­tis­ing yoga for 15 years.

How does yoga af­fect your hap­pi­ness?

There are many stud­ies that sup­port yoga’s men­tal health ben­e­fits. This in­cludes stress relief, sleep dis­or­ders, de­pres­sion, anx­i­ety and more. A study by the Ben­son-Henry In­sti­tute for Mind/Body Medicine at Mas­sachusetts Gen­eral Hospi­tal and Beth Israel Dea­coness Med­i­cal Cen­tre finds that the deep, phys­i­o­log­i­cal state of rest in­duced by prac­tices such as deep-breath­ing, prayer and meditation, pro­duces im­me­di­ate pos­i­tive change in im­mune func­tion, en­ergy me­tab­o­lism and in­sulin se­cre­tion. Ac­cord­ing to the founder of Psychology in Ev­ery­day Life and clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist Dr Deb­o­rah Khoshaba, yoga prac­tice changes the fir­ing pat­terns of the nerves and chem­i­cal makeup of the body’s flu­ids and blood gases that ac­ti­vate a re­lax­ation re­sponse. By fo­cus­ing on a spe­cific pos­ture and hold­ing it as you breathe deeply, Dr Deb­o­rah says that the body shifts from a state of ten­sion, to calm and re­lax­ation. This re­lax­ation low­ers the brain’s re­sponse to threat, and the body starts to turn off arous­ing nerve chem­i­cals that dis­rupts the mech­a­nisms, by which nerves transfer mes­sages to or­gans. This state of bio­chem­i­cal re­lax­ation oxy­genates the blood, re­stores blood acid­ity and al­ka­lin­ity bal­ance, and re­duces heart rate, blood pres­sure, and mo­tor ac­tiv­ity. “Stress trig­gers off mul­ti­ple bio­chem­i­cal re­ac­tions in the body in­clud­ing ac­ti­vat­ing a por­tion of the brain that pro­cesses threats, which in turn af­fects one’s men­tal ca­pa­bil­i­ties like prob­lem solv­ing, hence re­duc­ing your pro­duc­tiv­ity level,” says Jojo. She adds that breath­ing tech­niques alone can specif­i­cally train the mind to cul­ti­vate mind­ful­ness. For in­stance, mod­ern day sci­en­tists have ver­i­fied that the nasal cy­cle cor­re­sponds with brain func­tion. Neu­ro­sci­en­tist Prof Richard David­son found that peo­ple who suf­fered from de­pres­sion tended to have brain ac­tiv­ity bi­ased towards the right hemi­sphere. “Since the al­ter­nate nos­tril breath­ing helps to sup­ply equal mea­sure of oxy­gen to both hemi­spheres of the brain, it ac­ti­vates and max­imises ac­cess to the whole brain. Breath­ing an­chors the mind in the present as it tries to screen out other men­tal dis­trac­tions,” says Jojo, adding that some par­ents who en­rolled in her pranayama class, ended up bring­ing their kids along af­ter ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the ef­fects of proper breath­ing tech­niques.

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