The Science Behind Yoga and Stress
It’s no argument that yoga has a positive impact and influence on our stress. While mainly a holistic approach to healing and sustaining well-being, there is actually a science behind this beloved exercise, its series of poses and breathing movements, and philosophy of strengthening self-awareness that eases both the mind and body during moments of stress.
These are scientific factors behind yoga and stress:
Illustrates evident neurological changes
According to a study done by Chantal Villemure and Catherine Bushnell from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, it was found that in a group of individuals comprised of those who did yoga versus those who did not, there was significantly more brain volume in the yogis. In fact, the entire brain was overwhelming with positive changes. Through the pose movements, breathing patterns, and visualization techniques in yoga, the practice changes the pressure within the brain that activates the development of new brain cells. The list of changes is the following: sustaining longer attention and focus in the superior parietal cortex, deepening one’s sense of self through continuous introspection in the precuneus and posterior cingulate cortexes, and heightening mental and creative clarity in the visual cortex. Overall, the frontal areas of the brain reaped incredible benefits that improved one’s ability to process thoughts and emotions and control behavior.
Tames an entire nervous system
Our autonomic nervous system is comprised of two parts: the parasympathetic nervous system and sympathetic nervous system. What kickstarts the “fight or flight” response and arouses the body into an alert mode is stress, which sends the sympathetic nervous system into a frenzy. Furthermore, regardless of our source of stress, even the smallest thing, such as public speaking, is perceived as a “threat.” The body can’t tell the severity between that and getting chased by a tiger. Yoga combats this natural response since consciously moving between poses and slowing the breath activates the parasympathetic nervous system, thus releasing the automatic tension that constricts blood flow, tenses muscles, and induces anxiety.
Stress encourages the overproduction of cortisol and adrenaline: two of the body’s natural chemicals that are harmful in excess. Consequently, if the body is overwhelmed with these two hormones, the immune system weakens and the entire bloodstream becomes inflamed. In the long-run, if you suffer prolonged episodes or experience of stress, the gene activity of your immune cells can change for the worse, making you produce more white blood cells than necessary. As a result, you put yourself at risk for suffering additional inflammatory diseases and conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and cancer. To reverse inflammation in both the mind and body, try partaking in vigorous yoga practices like Vinyasa. Vinyasa involves sun salutation movements and deep stretching which ignite the production of endorphins and dopamine, the body’s natural painkillers, to quell oxidative stress. Furthermore, with reduced inflammation comes increasing one’s lifespan and longevity. When one grows old with age, diminishing strength and weakened organ optimization are inevitable. However, yoga and its healing properties slow down that process.
Regardless of one’s age or health level, anyone can thrive from practicing yoga: from young children, adults, the seniors with chronic conditions, yoga will positively influence their health and alleviate ailments – surprisingly, it can help recovering addicts as well! Not only does it improve overall emotional and physical well-being, but it is also scientifically proven to impact the quality of your life and organ function. Therefore, yoga goes to show that a holistic approach to healing oneself shouldn’t initially stir any skepticism. There’s a reason why yoga has been practiced for thousands of years! Overall, you can confidently participate in yoga knowing that it has a scientific backup for its benefits.