THE SCIENCE BEHIND WHAT MAKES A YOGI SMILE
Yoga tunes the brain toward parasympathetic mode and positive states. Result.. smiley, happy people!!!
Most people are aware of the great physical benefits achieved through practicing yoga but aren’t aware of the way it can protect and even increase the size of the brain and even influence our emotions and the way we think.
A study published in the Frontiers in Human Neuroscience in May 2015 (ref) uses magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain, which show that yoga practitioners are protecting their brains from the decline in grey matter as they age and even have an increase in grey matter and a change in brain anatomy.
Yoga practitioners in the study correlated mainly with the protection of the grey matter in the left hemisphere of the brain. This side of the brain is associated with joy, happiness, positive emotions and relaxation.
The left side of the brain is also associated with the parasympathetic nervous system, often called the rest and digest system. This system conserves energy by slowing the heart rate, it increases intestinal and gland activity and relaxes sphincter muscles in the gastrointestinal tract. So yoga helps with many digestive issues, including IBS. So less time on the loo and more time to live life and do more yoga classes, something else to be happy about!
The study shows that the more you practice, the less deterioration of grey matter and the more protected your brain is against natural age related decline. The number of hours of weekly practice correlated with grey matter volume in the primary somatosensory cortex/superior parietal lobule, precuneus/posterior cingulate cortex, hippocampus, and primary visual cortex. So if you can get to Palmers Green in North London, lucky you, as we offer unlimited practice packages at Yoga Rocks so the sky’s the limit for dedicated yogis! Maybe we could set a challenge to make Palmers Green the place to be for the happiest, sharpest yogis in London!
When combined with meditation, the results are even better, so yet another reason you should stay right to the end of your yoga class for Savasana! At Yoga Rocks, we also offer yoga nidra classes, which will help you relax into a sleep meditation. Yoga practitioners who meditate have been found in brain imaging studies to have even more benefits. It was found that changes could occur in a matter of months and 50 year old meditators had the same grey matter volume of 25 year olds.
It gets even better; another study found brain changes after just 8 weeks of a mindfulness-based stress reduction programme. The regions of the brain responsible for cognition, memory, learning and emotional regulation grew and the areas of the brain responsible for fear, anxiety and stress shrank!
So it’s official, a yoga class a day can keep the blues, brain fog, ageing, insomnia and anger away! You could even save on loo roll…surely it doesn’t get better than that!