Well I tried something new yesterday and it was awesome! I’d never taken a yoga class before, but my friend was interested so I figured I’d tag along. I had always heard that yoga had calming effects and stimulated some parts of the brain while relaxing others, but I assumed that was just something that people said to get other people to try it. How could an exercise have that much impact on someone’s brain? I always thought of exercise as a way to change your body, not your mind. Well after taking this yoga class, I felt completely different and did a little research to find out why. We did a variety of poses and moves, and I felt like I was completely challenging myself during class because I wasn’t used to it. The instructor kept telling us to breathe through our noses and out our mouths, no matter how hard the position was. I tried to do this as much as possible, but it was a struggle at some points. I couldn’t imagine how people say that yoga makes them feel more focused and less stressed.
After I got home, I did some yoga research. It turns out that regular yoga practice actually does improve brain function! Many studies have shown that yoga seriously benefits mental health. One study shows that it increases the part of the brain in charge of lowering stress and also the part of the brain that is responsible for your sense of self. It also develops the part of the brain that controls attention. According to Scientific American, yoga helps the somatosensory cortex, the visual cortex, and the hippocampus increase in volume.
Another study found that the reason yoga is so beneficial is because it works to reverse the stress response, which is what usually causes people to feel anxiety or tension when they’re in a difficult situation. Yoga encourages deep breathing and relaxation while doing stressful or difficult poses so that when you do it regularly, you reverse your body’s response to stress because it learns to calm down and breathe through challenging situations, and so it can apply these yoga strategies in real life. Also, according to the study, yoga can allegedly improve depressive symptoms and immune function, as well as decrease chronic pain, reduce stress, and lower blood pressure.
Whatever the reason, I certainly think that yoga is worth the time and the practice!
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