You have probably heard about yoga, the ancient physical, mental and spiritual practice that originated from India. Millions of people go to yoga classes and bend their bodies in unusual shapes, claiming that it helps their body and mind heal. Thousands of doctors recommend yoga as well as a way of healing the body and mind and helping you relax from the stressful life we lead. Now, even science has confirmed how beneficial yoga can be for the brain.
Yoga has been commonly used as a way of treating pain, relieving stress and depression and lowering blood pressure as well. Many people think it’s some kind of new-age nonsense, but it actually works. It’s not magic – it’s actually neurobiology. Yoga poses can change the chemical composition and firing patterns in your brain, so a change in posture affects the activity of the brain. These changes are transient and long-lasting, especially if you make it into a habit.
During yoga classes, people are supposed to breathe through the nose while constricting the throat to produce a sound similar to ocean waves. It may sound silly, but it actually is one of the key factors of how yoga changes the way the brain works. The combination of deep breathing, staying in a certain pose which engages numerous muscle groups and bending while staying calm relaxes the brain and changes the way it handles pain. The poses aren’t relaxing – they’re highly stressful for the body, but the attempt to remain calm through it is the greatest neurobiological benefit of the ancient practice.
The brain responds to discomfort automatically by activating the neural chatter in the prefrontal cortex and the limbic system. The stress response creates a flood of anxious thoughts, which further increase the said response. It’s a vicious cycle that can lead to anxiety and numerous other problems.
The nervous system has only one kind of stress response – the thoughts may be different, but the actual physiological response always stays the same. During stress, your heart and breathing rate goes up and the muscles get tense, resulting in the release of stress hormones in the blood. Once the muscles get tense, negative thoughts start to develop. Relaxing the muscles will result in a more relaxed state and slow down your breathing and heart rate, effectively pushing you in a more positive way of thinking.
Just because the stress response is automatic doesn’t mean that it’s necessary. It’s only a brain habit which can be changed with some yoga or other relaxation techniques. Many people think that we can’t control the stress response, but we actually can. Any habit can be changed or improved, and new habits can be learned through practice. So, sign up for yoga classes and you will soon enjoy all the benefits the ancient practice offers.
Article and image source: superhv.com