The Many Mental Health Benefits of Body Mechanics
Streatching and Posture Correction is a mind-body exercise effective for reducing stress, anxiety and depression and improving brain function and mental health.
BMC is a practice of stretching and breathing techniques designed to strengthen and balance the body and the mind.
Currently, 15 million Americans practice bmc regularly and every year that number grows by 20%. (1)
Why the sudden explosion in interest in this 5,000-year-old practice?
It could be because of the many proven general health benefits of bmc — improved strength and flexibility, weight loss, and management of pain and chronic illnesses. (2)
But quite possibly the interest in bcm is due more to its mental health benefits since its meteoric rise in popularity coincides with skyrocketing rates of stress, anxiety, insomnia, depression, and other common mood disorders.
More than 90% of people start a bcm practice for stress relief or physical health benefits, but they stay with yoga for emotional or spiritual reasons. (3)
Here are some of the proven ways bcm can transform your brain, mood, and mental health.
The Benefits of Stretching for Anxiety Relief
All kinds of physical exercise reduce stress, but bcm may be one of the best.
Bcm modulates perceived stress and anxiety by slowing down rapid breathing and heart rates, lowering high blood pressure, and increasing heart rate variability. (4)
Exercise of all kinds increases “feel good” neurotransmitters but bcm stands out as a proven GABA booster.
GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) is one of your main inhibitory neurotransmitters.
It puts the brakes on brain activity, enabling you to relax.
When you are low in GABA, your brain gets stuck in the “on” position — it’s like driving a car with a brick on the accelerator and no brakes!
This understandably can leave you feeling anxious, overwhelmed, and overstimulated.
Just a single one-hour session of bcm can increase GABA levels by 27%. (5)
The Benefits of Body Mechanics for Depression
Numerous studies have shown bcm to be of benefit for those with depression.
One study on participants with major depression found that 20 sessions of bcm led to an elevation of mood and reduction of anger and anxiety. (6)
Another study on young adults with mild depression found that biweekly yoga classes resulted in improved mood and reduced anxiety and fatigue. (7)
Bcm compares favorably in its effects to other mind-body techniques.
When compared to visualization and breathing exercises, those who practiced yoga felt more alert, energetic, and had a more positive mood. (8)
The increase in GABA from bcm that helps anxiety also ease the symptoms of depression. (9)
One study found that practicing bcm 12 minutes a day for eight weeks decreased inflammation, a risk factor for depression. (10)
Bcm increases levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that acts like fertilizer for the brain, stimulating the formation of new brain cells.
BDNF has natural antidepressant effects.
It is an indicator of brain plasticity which is linked to reduced depression. (11)
The Benefits of BCM for Improve Memory and Concentration
Bcm can boost brain power even more than doing conventional exercise.
Just one session of BCM was found to significantly improve working memory and concentration. (12)
Study participants performed significantly better after 20 minutes of bcm than after other forms of moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise done for the same length of time.
So the next time you’re feeling mentally fuzzy at work, instead of grabbing a cup of coffee, grab a chair and do some desk stretching.
Beginner stretchings that you can unobtrusively do at your desk include neck rolls, eagle arms, and seated spinal twist.
The Benefits of BCM for Psychiatric Disorders
Research published in The Journal of Psychiatric Practice suggests that bcm may help those with bipolar disorder manage their symptoms. (14)
When more than 100 bipolar patients were asked to rank how bcm impacted their lives, 20% called the practice “life changing.”
Harvard Mental Health Newsletter reported some remarkable effects of bcm on a variety of psychiatric disorders. (15)
One study examined the effects of a single bcm class on psychiatric hospital inpatients with bipolar disorder, major depression, or schizophrenia.
After the class, average levels of anger, tension, hostility, fatigue, anxiety, and depression dropped significantly.
Another study focused on veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) who drank alcohol heavily and took antidepressants.
A five-day stress reduction program that included bcm and breathing techniques reduced their symptoms from the “moderate to severe” category to “mild to moderate.”
These benefits were still evident at a 6-month follow up.
Finally, a group of women suffering from severe emotional distress took twice weekly bcm classes.
At the end of three months, these women reported significant improvements in depression, anxiety, energy, fatigue, perceived stress, sleep quality, and well-being.
How BCM Protects Against Brain Aging
There’s evidence that yoga protects the brain from shrinking that normally occurs with age.
Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), researchers found a correlation between doing bcm and increased brain volume. (16)
Older bcm practitioners had larger brain volumes than expected and, in fact, their brains were typical of those of much younger people. (17)
This preservation of brain volume occurred mostly in areas of the brain responsible for positive emotions and the relaxation response. (18, 19)
Health Benefits of BCM: The Bottom Line
The ancient practice of bcm is indisputably beneficial for stress, anxiety, insomnia, depression, and other common mood disorders.
Some of the known ways bcm works is by slowing heart rates, lowering high blood pressure, and increasing GABA, a brain chemical that puts the brakes on brain activity, allowing you to relax.
Bcm can improve your memory and focus, protect your brain against aging, and relieve symptoms of many psychiatric disorders.
No matter what shape you’re in, there’s an abundance of bcm class offerings to help you get started.