Yoga benefits: physical fitness to mental well-being!


We all know how exercise as a whole affects our brain and overall health. Yoga, another form of exercise, from the early traditions of India, also has a lot of overall benefits. The primary way yoga affects health is by maintaining the equilibrium and balance between the mind and the body. The positive impacts range from physical strength to mental well-being from different asanas.

It is also a way of mindfulness. While performing the asanas, it helps you focus on your body. This focus helps alleviate the negative thoughts in your mind. In other words, it enables you to focus on the elements that you’ve been ignoring otherwise. 

The stretching and breathing methods of yoga profoundly impact the body. After stretching, you feel calmer. To support the health and nutrition of your plants, you create space between each other to avoid suffocation, promoting better health. Similarly, stretching helps create space between your cells, which were clumped otherwise.

Yoga helps relax your body.

The autonomous nervous system comprises the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems. The flight and fight responses in the events of stress are a consequence of a hyperactive sympathetic system. The sympathetic system is always almost active in conditions like PTSD and anxiety— they always look out for triggering signs. The system is ready to move on to consciousness under the event of a stress-triggering cue.

Yoga helps take control, with the parasympathetic system to counteract the effects of stress. This system promotes relaxation, reducing the symptoms of PTSD, anxiety, and depression. Hence, therapists also suggest yoga for the treatment of various mental illnesses. 

Moreover, diaphragmatic breathing provokes the parasympathetic system to consciousness. Meanwhile, it also induces blood flow to the endocrine glands and other digestive organs, reducing blood pressure and heart rate. 

The two vital factors of yoga asanas– holding and relaxing

A hyperactive emotional brain can disrupt the emotional state of an individual. The Amygdala is responsible for emotional well-being. Hyperactive state induces emotional overdrive.

On the other hand, the logical brain comprising the Hippocampus and other parts of the PFC– always tries to turn-off the emotional brain for a balanced state. Hence, we can attain a stable emotional state by training the logical mind. While holding a posture in yoga, you focus on the physical balance of your body. This pattern helps train your logical brain, eventually shutting off the emotional overdrive. 

When the emotional brain turns off, the parasympathetic system turns on for the calmer and relaxed state after yoga. While you start relaxing the posture, the soothing senses intensify. The stretching, holding, and relaxing give your mind and body the senses it craves. This pattern helps improve the logical and emotional brain at the same time. 

Yoga benefits your health by hormonal and neurotransmitter release.

The hormonal and neurotransmitter release from specific activity defines the positive impacts. Yoga asanas also induce the release. Yoga helps us take control of the hormonal system so much so that it can cure hormonal imbalance complications. 

  • Cortisol: Cortisol is by far the primary release observed while and after yoga. It alleviates stress, and the impact intensifies with serotonin release, which helps cure depression and anxiety.
  • Oxytocin-the love hormone: This hormone makes us feel closer to over loved ones. Moreover, it can reduce stress.
  • Endorphins: Regular yoga practitioners report better physical strength and health. The endorphins released can reduce pain and negative emotions.
  • Melatonin-the The sleep hormone: Regular yoga also reports melatonin release promoting sleep. Enough melatonin can regularize your sleep schedule for efficient and productive work.
  • Antioxidants: The sunlight exposure and the highly polluted environment makes us a victim of free radical deposition. These free radicals on our skin can undergo various unnecessary oxidations, making it look older. The antioxidant release by yoga can counteract the effects making you look younger and healthier.
  • Dopamine: The release of Dopamine with yoga is almost equal to the release by drug or alcohol abuse. Hence, they can cure addiction. Moreover, this controlled release is always better than spiraling out of control due to intolerance in drug and alcohol abuse. 

Other benefits of yoga

Other benefits of yoga include better immunity. It induces the release of WBCs into the immune system, ready for action. The inflammatory response action in yoga always plays a role in increasing resistance.

Additionally, it induces neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is the growth of alternate neural connections in the brain for better memory and learning ability. It also helps thicken the cerebral brain cortex’s wall for more memory retaining capability. Hence, therapists also suggest yoga for the treatment of Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis– to prevent atrophy (neural cell death). 

How yoga pranayama benefits us?

Pranayama is a part of yoga. It is a breathing exercise, which involves inhaling through one nostril and exhaling via the other. The one nostril method of pranayama helps in the individual development of the respective side of the brain, unlike the claims of nostril cleansing.

Research proves that while we inhale, some nanoparticles can directly reach the brain passing through the blood-brain barrier, while the significant part reaches the lungs. Since this passage can directly influence the mind, it is always better to perform it in the early mornings with fresh air. You wouldn’t want the toxic particles in this polluted environment to directly reach and affect your brain. Moreover, pranayama on a hot sunny day can make you feel more relaxed.

The pathway for the particles to directly reach the brain is olfactory tubes. Thus, researchers are working on drug delivery methods via nasal sprays for an effective and fast response.

What is Yoga Nidra? Will it benefit us?

Yoga Nidra is a sleeping pose in yoga. This is usually performed in groups or individuals, along with a trainer. It is just a 30-minute sleep, which feels like a couple of hours. The person moves from the higher frequency brain waves to the lower waves, where he/she eventually enters deep sleep. The primary aim is to reach the border where the body is inactive, but the mind is lucid.

With deep attention to the trainer’s instructions, you begin to focus on different parts of your body. You begin to let go of the burden on your head and focus only on your body. All your attention to the outside world diverts to your inward self. The logic behind this process is to reach your subconscious memory and repressed emotions.

Science also supports all the facts of yoga Nidra. Many PTSD suffering individuals reported less aggression and anxiety, supporting its therapeutic use for mental illnesses. Moreover, other subjects also reported low blood pressure, a balanced heart rate, and fewer glucose metabolism fluctuations.

Hence, all the facts of yoga backed by the scientific explanations open an opportunity for therapy. However, you can always treat yourself with a few minutes of yoga asanas every day. You don’t need to consult a professional trainer. You always have youtube and other peer suggestions. But, make sure you don’t start your training with hardcore exercises, which can have a direct effect on your muscles.

Related: Exercise for brain health: What can exercise do to your brain?

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