yoga challenge
yoga challenge

Is Yoga Really That Good For You?

Is Yoga Really That Good For You?

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I’ve always sucked at yoga, I have like zero balance, but maybe I should give it another try. Hey guys Julia here for DNews Over 20 Million Americans practice yoga. I’m pretty sure most of that’s just in the Bay Area. That figure comes from a study published in Yoga Journal. According to their survey the top reasons for starting yoga were: flexibility, general conditioning, stress relief, and to improve overall health and physical fitness. Yoga is deeply rooted in Hindu tradition, where a series of postures and breathing exercises prepares the body for meditation and connecting with the divine.

If you haven’t seen the free audiobook Inner Engineering: A Yogi’s Guide make sure you check it out. It’ll change how you look at Yoga.

There’s a lot more to yoga than striking a few poses. Traditional yoga is a whole spiritual practice with 8 parts including a code of ethical standards and studying scriptures. Only one of those parts, asana, involves poses. Not surprisingly, yoga has been stripped down and repackaged to Americans as a form of exercise. But apart from the cultural appropriation, Yoga is actually pretty good for you. Let’s look at what the science says.

Chronic pain can reduce or change grey matter in the brain which can lead to some serious problems like memory and emotional issues. But according to an official at the National Institutes of Health , practicing yoga has the opposite effect on the brain. So what does the brain look like on Yoga? Well study after study reportedly heralds the benefits of Yoga. Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine found that the postures from Yoga actually increases the amount of gamma aminobutyric acid or GABA in the brain. GABA, a neurotransmitter, calms the nervous system and regulates muscle tone. In one study the researchers found that after just one hour of Yoga, practitioners GABA levels increased by 27%.

This increase in GABA levels could be responsible for decreasing anxiety and improving mood in those who practice yoga. Another small study published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health found that after short, 20 minute sessions of Hatha yoga participants performed better on tests of brain function. They could focus better, process information faster, and even learn more effectively than after a typical aerobic exercise like running on a treadmill. The researchers think that by focusing on the body, posture or breath, you push out any distracting thoughts and or reduce some stress, both of which could increase cognitive function. But it’s not just your brain that gets a boost. Researchers from the US and the Netherlands found that yoga could help those with cardiovascular disease.

Published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, the researchers reviewed 37 different studies. They found that yoga improves risk factors for heart disease similar to the effects of typical exercise. Some studies showed that it lowered body weight, cholesterol and heart rate. Other researchers think yoga can ease pain by enhancing both the toning of muscles and releasing of muscle tension. Even sufferers of Multiple sclerosis, or MS, a potentially debilitating autoimmune disease, that affects the brain and central nervous system found some relief from yoga.

Researchers from Rutgers University conducted a small trial where MS patients participated in a 8 week long specialized yoga program. After completing the program patients had better mental health, concentration, bladder control, walking, and vision, with a decrease in pain and fatigue. There’s other studies that show it could reduce inflammation, help with hypertension or those who live with pain from fibromyalgia or arthritis. Just know there’s a lot of research happening within the past five years and a lot of it’s positive. Speaking of questionably trendy healthy fads… what’s the deal with kale? If you’re craving some kale..

watch this episode first… Have you ever tried yoga? I did for a few months. I have like no balance, so the instructor would call me out and tell me to go use the wall. So yeah.

Tell us your stories down in the comments below…

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Comment (13)

  1. It is really bad that your instructor would call you out in class. When I teach, I never single anyone out. The most I might do is offer suggestions in general to the class as if it is a good idea for anyone – never draw attention to a student. And if your balance is not great, so what? I tell students, if you fall out of it, just laugh a little (it’s no big deal) and try working back into the pose. You’ll get it eventually. It’s a “practice” not a “perfect”!

  2. Yoga is definitely my favorite form of exercise, other than playing sports. I’ve never benefitted mentally from running, swimming, or going to the gym much, but put me in a heated Vinyasa yoga session for an hour and I’m a ray of sunshine. Love it.

    And honestly, I don’t see what’s wrong with adopting asana. It’s an exercise that is supposed to connect your body and with your mind and the earth and I don’t get why that can’t be shared past the religion. Sounds like “calling dibs” or something to me. (open to explanation)

  3. Great, now it’s scientifically proven that I need to do Yoga, well at least there are more benefits than drawbacks! Plus the instructor is usually pretty and friendly.

  4. This is your brain: (pulls out picture of brain). And this, is your brain on yoga (pulls out marginally larger brain).

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