Yoga has been practiced for over 5,000 years and gives guidance on how to gain control of your mind and emotions. It is one of the oldest physical disciplines in the world but was introduced in America in the 18th century. It’s estimated that approximately 22 million Americans practice yoga in some form or another. The practice of yoga is continuously changing and as it becomes more mainstream, we can expect to see it evolve. It’s centered around a powerful mind, body, and spiritual transformation that can provide mental clarity and relief. A combination of breathing and stretching allows your body to slip into a natural state of relaxation, removing worries cluttering your mind.


 


Stress & Anxiety


Throughout the various poses performed during yoga, you begin to release tension throughout your body. Messages are then sent to your brain that it’s okay to take to relax. Your nervous system then becomes relaxed, and levels of cortisol are reduced. After some practice, you’re able to ease your mental chatter and take each thought with a grain of salt. Only clinging onto what positively serves you, and releasing the negative thoughts impacting your emotions. Coping with your emotions is one of the leading motivators for people to begin practicing yoga. Being present in the moment helps ease anxiety and creates a sense of peace that one was previously lacking. Yoga has been shown to increase levels of GABA, dopamine, oxytocin, and serotonin which are the chemicals in your brain that induce happiness.


 


Breathing Meditation


There are a number of breathing exercises that go hand in hand with yoga. Some are very simple, while others should only be performed under the supervision of a guide. The oxygen we receive eliminates toxins in our body, brings blood to your brain, reduces stress and anxiety, and helps us feel grounded to the universe. Your relationship with breathing is just as important as your movements, understanding how the two work together is the first step in achieving the maximum benefits of yoga. Learning how to control your breathing will also come in handy in your everyday life. If you begin to feel anxious or overwhelmed, focusing on your breath will help bring you back to reality and ground you. Deep breathing reduces your heart rate and blood pressure, allowing you to have more control over your fight or flight response.





Molding Your Brain


Yoga not only keeps your body young but works its magic on your brain also! A study conducted on adults (over age 55) with mild cognitive impairment, showed after 12 weeks of practicing yoga or memory training each of their memories improved. The group who practiced yoga saw an increase in emotional resilience and overall functioning. Studies show that the parts of your brain involved in attention, thinking, and awareness change in structure while an increase in volume after meditation. “After eight weeks of meditation training, the research found that the hippocampus, which is involved in learning and memory, developed more gray matter density,” states one expert. By strengthening your brain you are then able to respond to stressful situations and crisis in a more calm and composed manner.


 


Confidence & Self Esteem


Another psychological effect of yoga is an increase in confidence and self-esteem. When you are nourishing your body you often tend to feel at peace with yourself. Self-awareness is achieved through yoga poses and breathing meditations, helping create a concrete sense of yourself. Once you understand what your body and mind are capable of, you begin to head into each day with a more positive mindset. With your new expert problem-solving skills, you are developing healthy habits that improve your overall quality of life. Yoga takes practice, and may not be easy for all at first, but the results rely on you. Sticking with something to achieve a great outcome can be extremely rewarding.

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