Your Brain On Yoga

Have you ever wondered why yoga makes you feel so great? Here’s what happens to your brain on yoga…

You probably already love the way your body feels when you do yoga, but yoga has some pretty awesome benefits for your brain as well! Yoga is known to relieve stress and anxiety, but why is that exactly? What’s really happening in your brain when you do yoga?

The truth is, every experience we have changes our brains, forming neural patterns that influence our future behaviors. Doing new activities – or changing the way we do things – actually builds new neural pathways in the brain. What we eat, how we move, and what activities we engage in – even the thoughts we think – can actually change the chemical reactions within our brains.

Through doing yoga, you can teach your brain how to handle stress and discomfort in a more relaxed way, leading to calmer thought patterns and a greater sense of ease – not just on your yoga mat, but in life in general. These lessons benefit your brain in more ways than one – helping to keep your mind sharp, improving your ability to focus and concentrate, and helping you to manage your moods more effectively.

Here are a couple of other interesting ways that yoga affects your brain:

People who practice yoga have more brain cells in key parts of the brain. A study conducted by Scientific American found that people who practice asana have more gray matter (aka more brain cells). That must mean yogis are smarter, right? Well, not exactly. The gray matter that appeared in MRI scans of yoga practitioners was focused in key parts of the brain. Specifically in the somatosensory cortex, the superior parietal cortex, the hippocampus, the precuneus and posterior cingulate cortex, and the visual cortex.

So what does that mean? The somatosensory cortex is linked to body awareness. The superior parietal cortex is linked to attention and our ability to focus. A stronger hippocampus means less stress. The precuneus and posterior cingulate cortex are the parts of the brains that determine our concept of self. This study shows what is happening inside the brain that causes yogis to make the claim that practicing yoga will improve your mind-body connection and help you de-stress.

Practicing asana can serve as a treatment for mood disorders and anxiety. GABA levels are intimately linked with the ability to regulate moods. People who have mood disorders or experience anxiety tend to have lower GABA levels.

Studies have shown that people who practice yoga have around 27% higher GABA levels. Scientists have long believed that walking and physical exercise can be beneficial for moods, and they assumed that this was due to an increase in GABA levels. But one study showed that people who practiced yoga had even higher increases in GABA levels than those who went on regular walks. This means more yoga can improve your mood and decrease your anxiety – even more than other forms of exercise.



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