Thought yoga was just about twisting your body into weird and wonderful Insta-worthy positions? Nope. Here’s how practice gives you more than flexibility gains…
What seems like a slow start – breathing deeply in and out – actually fires up your prefrontal cortex, your brain’s centre for higher thought. You just got smarter: in a Journal of Physical Activity and Health study, people scored higher on cognitive tests after 20 minutes of yoga. Your intense focus helps quieten your amygdala, aka your emotional centre. That means more control over feelings like anger and fear. Happy brain chemicals, like GABA, may rise too, making yoga a natural treatment for a funk.
Your Nervous System
The triple threat of breathing, focus and movement ignites the parasympathetic – or “rest and digest” – nervous system, the antidote to the fight-or-flight stress response. The vagus nerve, one of your body’s neural highways, carries that chill-out message to all your internal organs.
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Your Lungs And Heart
Memo received: your lungs expand to keep the belly breaths (and oxygen) coming. Your heart also benefits. The effect is so strong that a regular yoga practice can lower your resting heart rate – in and after class.
Your adrenal glands ease back on production of the stress hormone cortisol, which has been linked to cravings for fatty foods. It may be easier to resist snacking post-savasana too.
Your Immune System
That vagus nerve may also alert your immune system, which releases immunity-enhancing cells. You’re now better primed to fight off infections.
Balance And Strength
Feel like Bambi learning to walk? Keep at it. Yoga – even just twice a week for a month – can improve your balance (key for cruising through your days uninjured). Folding yourself into positions also stretches your muscles, tendons and connective tissues close to their maximum capacity. The result: flexibility. Win!