Guess what’s in your saliva! A lot of good stuff, that’s what. And it turns out that when we do our breathing techniques in yoga class, we are stimulating saliva production.
We know this thanks to the research of Dr. Sundar Balasubramian.
Dr. Balasubramanian is a pioneer in the area of research combining Pranayama (yogic breathing) with salivary biomarkers. He discovered that Yogic breathing promotes salivary secretion and it contains factors that are important to our healthy living. The components stimulated in the saliva include:
- nerve growth factor that helps our nerve cells (good for Alzheimer patients)
- immunoglobulins that are important for keeping immune system strong
- tumor suppressors that have the capacity to prevent cells from becoming cancerous
- and factors that reduce stress and inflammation
These findings are first of its kind, and provide novel insights into bridging ancient wisdom of Yoga and modern biology.
Dr. Balasubramanian is a Cell Biology researcher and founder of PranaScience Institute. He is currently studying mechanisms involved in resistance to cancer therapy at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC). He is also a Yoga Biology researcher.
Dr. Balasubramania’s research work is mentioned in this New York Times article. You can also listen to him explain his work in this TED talk or go to his website.
And of course, with all this inspiration (Latin for breathing in!), we’ll be focusing on our breathing techniques in class this week!
(This post is adapted from Dr. Balasubramania’s website).
This week I had my first colonoscopy. Wow, what an experience! As some of you may know, the hardest part is preparing which involves some fasting and then an uncomfortable period of evacuating. The interesting piece for me is the fasting, the renunciation. No grains, no nuts, no seeds, no corn; the process starts about five days before and on the day before, no solid food, only clear liquid.
I’ve fasted before and also done month-long cleanses so this renunciation is not new to me. It is such a good lesson in seeing where I cling and watching the body and mind’s conversation. The body says “HUNGRY!” and these days I say, “Good, it’s good to feel hunger.” And then I realize how emotionally dependent I’ve become on food – that it relieves my stress, it is my comfort, it is my reward after anything challenging – such that I rarely experience hunger in a big way anymore. So I think it’s good to feel this hunger during fasting. Not only because reveals this emotional pattern, but also because the body goes through a cleansing process when it is in a fasting state. And, I should clarify, for these colonoscopy fasts, there are filling juices and drinks to be had so that hunger does get sated. It is not one long period of hunger.
Luckily, I know that the hunger will end soon. That it’s healthy for me to feel it. I’m grateful that it’s not a life situation where I have no choice. I have food if I really need it. Then I pray for those who are suffering from serious hunger and starvation, those who have no choice. They have no food. May they find relief soon.
I’ve been thinking about anxiety a lot lately and about how to deal with it – it can be so overpowering at times! The following are my thoughts and suggestions on how to get control of this troubling mental state.
Sometimes anxiety is just a big hairy beast that sits on your chest. Nothing will make it go away – it is too big and ominous. What to do? In this situation, the best you can do is to just accept it. It just is what it is. Get present in THIS moment and just acknowledge it. Okay, I’m anxious. This is anxiety. Fine, I’m anxious. Then breathe. Notice exactly what anxiety feels like in the body. Observe it like a scientist, without judgment. From there continue to investigate the present moment. Tune into your senses: look at your environment, notice the sounds, smell the smells, notices textures and temperatures. This is the present moment. Does your anxiety have to do with this exact moment? Acknowledge that you are doing the best you can. Try some diaphragmatic breathing which is good for these anxiety beasts. Know that before long, the situation will change. Everything changes.
Understanding the importance of our breath is a key part of any successful yoga practice. In my class on the breath, I share lots of information about the physiology of breathing and how yoga’s breathing techniques actually change the body’s inner chemistry.
One key area to understand is cellular respiration, and particularly how oxygen and glucose are metabolized into units of energy called adenosine triphosphate (ATP). This is the energy you use to climb a flight of stairs! Apparently our cells have several methods of converting glucose into energy, depending on whether oxygen is available or not. In short, more ATP, or energy molecules, are generated when oxygen is present – 34 molecules to be exact. So when we breathe shallowly, and are not providing as much oxygen to our blood, cells resorts to glycolysis which produces only 2 molecules. So, more oxygen, more energy.
This is a very simplified explanation of something that is far more complex. And it’s important – especially for cancer patients – to understand what’s happening in the body and how we benefit when we engage in yoga practices.
If any medical practitioner or researcher would like to add to this discussion, in layman’s terms, please contact me.
Now let’s all take a big breath!