If you spend any time at all researching your health, you've probably stumbled across some impressive claims touting the benefits of yoga. It reduces stress, anxiety, and depression. It can help you live longer. It may change your perception of pain. But what's behind all this hype? Yoga isn't just a quick fix for common ailments. It has the power to fundamentally alter the way your brain works, setting you up for a lifetime of sound psychological health and sharp intellect.
1. It makes your brain more efficient
In our increasingly busy world, you need to be efficient if you want to get anything done. The same goes for your brain. Yoga may help your brain work smarter, not harder. At least, that's what one recent study found. Researchers were surprised to learn that a single 20-minute yoga session could improve brain efficiency enough to boost scores on cognitive tests shortly after the yoga session. So if you're dreading a test or presentation tomorrow, don't pull an all-nighter. Try some yoga.
2. It changes your brain chemistry
Your brain is home to dozens of chemical messengers. When these chemical signals get out of whack, depression, anxiety, and foggy thinking can result. But research increasingly suggests that yoga changes brain chemistry. One study found that yoga could decrease levels of GABA, a neurotransmitter associated with anxiety, in the brain. Other research suggests that yoga could help your brain's neurotransmitters work more efficiently.
3. It reduces mental illness
Mental illness is a serious public health crisis, with about a quarter of Americans struggling with depression, anxiety, and similar ailments each year. Research increasingly shows that yoga can improve mental health by reducing depression and anxiety. Better still, the results are immediate, with a brief yoga session getting you well on your way to sounder mental health.
4. It promotes circulation and blood Flow
Blood flow to your brain is a key predictor of brain health and efficiency. But environmental pollutants, smoking, drugs, exhaustion, and a host of other risk factors can decrease circulation to your brain. Yoga helps correct what our hectic, unhealthy lives have sent into disarray. Research suggests that yoga can improve blood flow to the brain, thereby reducing your risk of a host of circulatory disorders. Increased blood flow also means increased brain function, which could mean more efficient and effective thinking.
5. It lowers blood pressure
High blood pressure increases your risk for a host of ailments, most notably heart attacks and strokes. It can also leave you feeling stressed and overwhelmed, and may even undermine your brain's ability to function. The research is clear: yoga lowers blood pressure, improving both physical and mental health in the process. The effect is immediate, offering quick relief to those with hypertension, but long-term yoga can indefinitely lower blood pressure.