I have practiced yoga, on and off for the last 15 years. After becoming a teacher in 2014 I started to study the philosophical aspect of yoga much more extensively but I was also curious about what the science has to say. about it.
As a regular practitioner I didn’t really need any confirmation as I could deeply feel the healing powers of yoga on myself, nevertheless, I knew some people would feel more comfortable with scientific evidence supporting the benefits of yoga.
So I started my research, becoming more and more fascinated with my discoveries.
There are numerous bodies of research published in world-renowned journals as yoga is now becoming an interest in the biomedical modern world. It seems that western science is now able to prove something that Eastern philosophy has known for thousands of years.
Below find 4 ways in which yoga can literally change your brain activity and even its structure.
1. Yoga can activate your Parasympathetic Nervous system
Our autonomic nervous system consists of the sympathetic nervous system (flight or fight) and parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest). The latter one is our best friend. When active you feel relaxed, calm and balanced. Yoga practice stimulates our ‘rest and digest’ mode, helping us to decrease our stress levels, reduce our heart rate and in consequence regenerate our body faster.
2. Yoga can change your brain structure
MRI results show that just by focusing our attention we can change our brain activity in a very discreet way. Moreover, regular yoga practice can even change our brain structure over time. How does it work? Some parts of our brain literally grow in size and in density. Yogis have a larger somatosensory cortex (the mental map of the body), hippocampus (combating stress and anxiety) and the part of the brain responsible for focus and the sense of self.
3. Yoga produces feel-good hormones in your body
Have you heard of the name: Yogasm? Well, it is actually not that far from the truth. Similarly, as during intimate moment, yoga practice significantly increases the secretion of GABA – a brain boosting, anxiety-buster chemical, as well as dopamine and serotonin levels.
4. Yoga can positively affect your gene expression
Yoga, that some people call just a stretching practice, can affect our body not only at the cellular level but also at the molecular. Regular yoga practice enhances the gene activity responsible for boosting our immune system and reducing inflammation in the body.
Suddenly yoga feels like something more than just a stretching practice, doesn’t it?
If you would like to read more on the subject I recommend checking the book: “Your brain on Yoga”. It is written by Sat Bir Khalsa, Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. He has spent more than a decade on researching the scientific effect yoga has on our mind.
I hope I have persuaded you to jump on the mat and try it out on yourself. Yogasm is guaranteed! And additionally you will improve your brain function and your mental and physical health that will have a positive effect on all areas of your life.