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Benefits of yoga: Physical and Psychological
Benefits of yoga: beyond exercise, there are brain changes
Before beginning with the explanation about the benefits of yoga, it is worth mentioning that yoga is much more than an exercise: it is a philosophy of life. But, at least for now, I do not want to just tell you about this philosophy but give you a little introduction about what yoga is and the changes and benefits it produces in our body and mind.
A few years ago, I decided to enter this wonderful world, and although I do not practice as often as I would like, I knew how beneficial it can be at the physiological level. However, I never imagined that the benefits of yoga could be so positive in the brain and in our minds. Therefore, I decided to write this article and share it with you.
But first, what is yoga?
Etymologically speaking, the word yoga comes from the root ” yuj “ which in Sanskrit means: “add”, “join” or “join”. So when talking about yoga , we talk about a connection or combination of forces that result in: firm body, stable mind and spirit open to possibilities.
In addition to being a physical, mental and spiritual practice, yoga connects us with what we are in the present and links our human nature with that which is considered by many of us as divine or superior ; This allows the higher to direct the lower through the control of our mental processes.
In most yoga practices, breathing ( prana ) and coordinated movement (postures or asanas ) play an important role. The main objective of this combination is to make the breathing and postures become one with the continuous practice, generating significant changes in us, therefore in our health.
What are the benefits of yoga?
Yoga, being such a complete practice (of mind and body), has multiple benefits that have been studied by scientists worldwide over the last few years (as well as perceived and lived by yogis from all over the world).
Some of the main or most known benefits of yoga are:
- Helps create (feel and perceive) a better mood , thanks to the production of two neurotransmitters: serotonin (responsible for: the inhibition of anger and aggression, body temperature, mood, appetite, among others) and the GABA (which reduces neuronal excitability throughout the nervous system and regulates muscle tone).
- Increase our health and physical capacity . By reducing the risk of having heart problems and lowering cholesterol, as (or better) than many more conventional physical exercises. And, by favoring the stimulation of metabolic and anabolic processes and oxygenate our muscles , therefore, our body.
- Improves our quality of life, by alleviating various health problems, including chronic pain, fatigue, obesity, asthma, or irritable bowel syndrome (among many others).
- It reduces stress, depression and anxiety . Yoga can act at the level of the hypothalamus for its “anti-stress” effects by reducing cortisol , (hormone that is released in response to stress), and producing a feeling of greater well-being in the person . For the relief of depression and anxiety , the practice of yoga contributes to the production of serotonin and GABA , neurotransmitters that play a major role in the improvement of these disorders.
- It produces significant changes in the brain. With only 15 minutes a day, yoga prevents the gray matter volume of the brain (especially the left hemisphere related to emotions and positive experiences), decreases significantly as we age, that is, it protects the brain from shrinking as aging. In addition, it generates an increase in the size of the hippocampus (important brain structure in the formation of new memories, learning and the handling of emotions) among those who also cultivate the art of meditation and practice it together with yoga.
- Improves sleep by increasing serotonin levels, hence melatonin which is the hormone responsible for regulating circadian rhythms (sleep and wake cycles), regulation of blood pressure, seasonal reproduction in animals, among others.
- Improves “executive” functions (cognitive ability). 20 minutes of yoga a day are enough to increase the speed of brain functions, the ability to concentrate, retain and use the new information learned. That is, practicing yoga helps us increase our memory capacity, to be quicker to learn and solve problems better or more efficiently .
If this does not seem enough, the practice of yoga could be useful for:
- The development of healthy exercise habits in general,
- Create strength, flexibility and balance throughout our body,
- Cultivate cognitive (executive) functions and / or important skills such as creativity, self-control and discipline.
In addition, yoga:
- It has the ability to change your brain, it is useful because if you can control your mind, you can control your life.
- Reduces depression and anxiety by at least 33%.
- Increase resilience, and the ability to experience life positively.
Psychologically speaking, yoga makes our mind clear and “cleans” of all those impurities that disturb it . Biologically speaking, it produces a series of beneficial and significant changes throughout our body including the brain. In addition to leaving us that beautiful feeling of tranquility, yoga is a great way to start or end the day.
For all this, we can affirm that practicing yoga is much more than creating one posture after another, because it induces the student to self-reflection, to the practice of kindness and compassion, to the continuous growth and to the knowledge of oneself and of others.
Yoga also serves as a form of alternative therapy to heal mind and body together, improve our balance, mobility and strength. The practice and benefits of yoga are visible among children, youth, adults and the elderly, no matter how novice or professional they are, they seek to feel more connected to themselves, to others, to the world in general and, in addition, have more energy and vitality.