Five Brain Chemicals Affected By Posture and Movement

Yoga and Brain Chemistry by Erik Brolin on Unsplash

The Movement of Dopamine

People with Parkinson’s disease or too little dopamine tend to develop a shuffling gait, in other words they walk with short steps and shuffle along. This is a sign of too little dopamine, the chemical that helps our muscles move as well as helps us decide which risks to take and which ones are the most rewarding. People with Parkinson’s disease are not restricted by their body to walking with a shuffle but rather it is a tendency based on brain chemistry. Think about an exercise that could, like power posing change dopamine levels. What if long walking or walking consciously with as long a stride as possible influenced the brain to produce more dopamine or get by on less? Try long walking for two minutes today.

Blood Pressure and IAA-RP

Imidazoleacetic acid-ribotide (IAA-RP) is a neurotransmitter or modulator thought to be a natural regulator of the general sympathetic drive (fight or flight response) and particularly blood pressure. This brain chemical is also associated with the vestibular system or our sense of balance and equilibrium. When we sit up suddenly our blood pressure is affected, typically rising. Sometime falls or black outs are caused by a drop in blood pressure when it should be getting higher. If we stand up from a seated position our blood pressure typically rises in part because of changes in the vestibular system, situated around the ears on both sides of the head. What if visualizing yourself standing up quickly from a seated position could change IAA-RP levels and improve blood pressure? Researchers put it this way:

Posture and Brain Chemistry Changes by Neal Kharawala on Unsplash

Lay on Your Stomach

Prone posture (lying on your stomach) alone seems to affect stress levels and biochemistry. When you add massage there can be a further increase in relaxation. The sensations we feel whether it is a smell, a taste, something we see or hear, or the way someone touches us can all change our brain chemistry and blood flow. In a study on blood flow to the brain, researchers noted,

Brain Chemistry and Anatomy

It can be interesting to look at the functions of a particular area of the brain and see how one chemical or one part of the brain affects several, often very different, functions. The cerebellum, for example, affects our balance as well as our language processing.

Stiff Person Syndrome

Sometimes an exercise can be reverse engineered from the information we have about what happens when brain chemistry is not working properly. For example, the symptoms of cerebral palsy can result from an imbalance of two neurotransmitters, the excitatory neurotransmitter, glutamate and the inhibitory neurotransmitter, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). Cerebral palsy causes spasms that result in the person’s body contracting into a flexed posture. What if extending the arms and legs could help restore the glutamate / GABA balance? The following exercise is from an article on using yoga with children with cerebral palsy but what if this posture could also influence brain chemistry and create a better balance of brain chemicals in everyone?



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Kimberly Burnham

Kimberly Burnham


Writer, Poet, Ekphrastic Writer-in-Residence, Nerve Whisperer, Brain Health Coach, Author of The Traveling Brain: Illuminating Peace Poetry in 5000 Languages.