Clarity is such a beautiful word. Evoking images of clear, fresh lakes, blue skies and all very crisp and beautiful. But the lack of clarity leads to images of stumbling in the dark, stumbling over rubble and sliding through the mud. Mental clarity is very similar: a clear calm mind or a confused and disordered mind. Without clarity we forget where we put the keys, we forget the names of the people, we forget the appointments, not only that but it is difficult for us to focus on the tasks. Our minds seem to spin in circles and we are exhausted.
Mental clarity is a wonderful tool that helps us to function easily and do our homework well and on time. For most of us who need a little more clarity, the solution is simple … we need to control our stress levels, exercise and breathe more deeply. The absolutely fantastic news is this yoga practices address all of these strategies to help our minds become a little cooler, calmer and clearer.
Stress and lack of clarity
The big culprit for stress is cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone produced in the adrenal glands that is in fact not only a criminal but also a friend. Cortisol is released regularly throughout the day to keep our energy levels high, to regulate blood pressure, and to keep inflammation at bay. An increase in cortisol is what helps us wake up in the morning and helps us cope with stressful situations. And here lies the problem.
Unfortunately, many of us experience stressful situations on a daily basis and, according to medical opinion, the resulting almost constant release of cortisol can damage the memory center of the brain. In cases of moderate to high chronic stress, we lose our ability to concentrate, and it becomes more difficult to remember or leave new memories. Also, to make matters worse, brain receptors become less adept at regulating cortisol as we age.
So what can we do? Although we can’t stop the aging process, we can’t tin addressing our reactions to stress with a versatile approach.
Yoga asanas to reduce stress levels
Consciously performed yoga asanas help to bring us to the present moment, help to increase our ability to concentrate, and help us to relax our brain. This awareness during our asanas is enhanced by a gentle, concentrated yoga breath that brings us to the present moment and also helps to relax our nervous system.
Staying in challenging positions for a while develops our strength. Strength is the ability to maintain a posture even if our mind tells us to get out of it. This strength is said to pour into our daily lives and help us withstand the onslaught of stress. Strength muscle is said to grow with yoga asanas and allows us to deal with the stress of our daily lives with strength, calm and determination.
Meditation to reduce stress levels
Many studies strongly support the calming effects of a yoga meditation practice. Even 10 minutes of meditation a day can have a profound effect on stress levels. During meditation, the brain produces alpha and theta brain waves that are associated with deep relaxation. This state of deep rest promotes the production of chemicals to feel good such as endorphins, serotonin and dopamine. The more we meditate, the more the harmful effect of stress will dissipate, our thought patterns will become clearer and we will see ways to avoid stress. Meditation is a wonderful tool to help us cope with stress, calming the nervous system and bringing clarity to our lives.
Other strategies to increase clarity
Get enough sleep. The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7 to 9 hours or sleep a night. It is believed that during REM sleep memories and information are being processed and organized in your brain. Without this, our mental clarity is severely hampered.
Low progesterone levels and an inactive thyroid also contribute to brain fog, so if symptoms persist, this could be a way to check.
Many people have vitamin B12 deficiency which can cause poor memory, fog and depression. Interestingly, people with higher B12 levels appear to have less brain contraction as they age. Get people out of B12!
Anemia is another cause of the lack of cerebral clarity, so make sure your iron levels are good – lots of green leafy vegetables.
The second part will arrive in March
Per Vrndavan Dasi
Founder and director of the Veda Yoga Teacher Training
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