How Yoga Heals Your Brain and Body

If you’ve ever practiced yoga or know anyone who does, the physical benefits are indisputable. Posture becomes improved, aches diminish, and overall flexibility resumes. But did you ever think about how this ancient practice of “holding positions” results in enormous positive shifts in physical health as well and attitude, mood, and brain power?

Yoga’s healing power on your brain and body and are simply based in science.

Let’s Begin Simply

One of the beautiful things about yoga is that, in essence, it is a simple practice. The perfection of achieving a pose—and then staying focused to maintain it—is the challenge. But this challenge becomes a reward. The more one practices, the greater and more numerous the rewards become.

Yoga and Your Mind

One of the most beneficial results from practicing yoga is stress relief. Two parts of the brain play a part in stress—one, it’s activation, the other, it’s deactivation.

The amygdala, the ancient fight or flight part, is emotional; it’s also been called “lizard brain.” This area of the brain is linked to the sympathetic (and reactionary) nervous system. It promotes the increase of adrenaline and cortisol (the stress hormone), which then rushes throughout our body.

Parts of the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex areas of the brain are more logical. These work in conjunction with our parasympathetic nervous system. When we engage in yoga, this “logical” part gets switched on. It works to shut down our stress response.

Research has shown that habitual yoga practice literally increases the grey matter density in those parts of the brain that aid in keeping us “relaxed.” Conversely, the grey matter density of the amagdyla showed a decrease in size. Incredible.

A German study back in 2005 revealed that cortisol levels (in the participants’ saliva) were decreased even after just one yoga session. So, even if you aren’t an avid yogi, practicing whenever you can, will provide you with mental health benefits.

Yoga and Your Body

When the parasympathetic nervous system is activated, it begins to calm the body down. It sends oxygen-rich blood to our digestive organs, endocrine glands, and lymphatic system. Healthy circulation is increased, which lowers heart rate and blood pressure. It also aids in releasing toxins. And with that, begins an improved ability to absorb nutrients from the healthy foods we’re eating.

Yoga Pants
Yoga Pants

Yoga and Your Mood

Everyone knows about the endorphins released from aerobic activity. Yoga, too, promotes release of other feel-good chemicals, such as GABA. Also, dopamine and serotonin levels increase. Neurotransmitters in the brain are targeted by those chemicals, elevating mood and decreasing anxiety. Many prescription anti-depressant/anxiety medications target the same areas for a similar result.

Yoga and Your Aging Brain and Body

As studies have shown, yoga helps “grow” parts of the brain. As the brain ages, its ability to learn and memorize isn’t as sharp as it once was. The denser grey matter in the hippocampus, resulting from yoga practice, can help with improved memory and learning skills. Yoga also increases neuroplasticity in the brain.

Yoga aids in building stronger bones. It’s a practice that uses strength-training, which will keep your balance and bones safer as you age. Overall immune health has also shown to be another invaluable perk of the practice.

Just think—a few minutes a day to practice something that makes you feel good, and may keep you younger longer—why not choose yoga?

For more reading on best physical and mental health practices, click here.


Our Top 5 at Home Mud Masks

The Mud Masks Every Woman Should Try!

You don’t have to go to the spa to pamper your body. Mud therapy offers dozens of benefits, and you can make packs, baths, or masks at home. Check out some ideas…

Get Your Muds Straight

For mud baths, there are generally three different types of mud used. They are all high in mineral content, and each comes from different parts of the world.

1) Moor mud is the kind often used at spas. This mud is taken from the bottom of ancient lakes. Much of it is found in the moorlands of Austria, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. Besides minerals, this mud contains decomposed herbs and flowers.

2) Reduce Wrinkles: Mud from natural hot springs. There is also mud from geysers that contain volcanic ash.

3) Mud from sea beds. The most popular is the Dead Sea mud.

For mud packs or facials, you can use any of the bathing muds or clay, or  there’s:

4)-volcanic ash sediment (fuller’s earth and bentonite.) This is often used for acne or oily skin.

5)-green clay (kaolin and Rhassoul), or Moroccan clay.

Mud Bathing

One successful recognized form of therapy is reclining in a mud bath. Once you get beyond the initial bizarre sensation, your body truly relaxes. The heat from the mud and water relieves aches and pains. Many arthritis sufferers have found some respite from pain using mud therapy.

The mud and its minerals have anti-inflammatory properties. Circulation improves as well. It also helps draw out toxins from your body through your skin. Mud is a natural exfoliant.

To make your own mud bath, run hot water in the tub. Add in your mud and mix thoroughly. Some add a couple of drops of their favorite essential oil. Others mix in a little honey. Another option is to add a bit of milk powder to lend a soothing effect. Once prepared to your liking, soak for about 15 minutes. Rinse with warm water when finished.

Note: Mud will clog your drain, so use a screen or sifter before letting the water out.

Another note: Don’t soak in mud if you have any open cuts or sores. Because heat is an element of the soak, if you have heart disease or high blood pressure, check with your doctor first.

Mud Packs

You can use the mud as an anti-inflammatory on specific parts of the body. Packs are suggested for those with arthritis, especially to manage pain in the knees and hands.

Mix 1 cup of mud with enough warm water or green tea to make a thick paste. Add a drop of essential oil or honey. Smooth the mud over the sore area, and then cover with a warm, wet towel. Let the mud soak in for 20 minutes, and then rinse with warm water.

For facials, simply apply the mud and let it dry for 20-30 minutes. Rinse with warm water and then apply a conditioning lotion. For other tips on pampering you can do for yourself to feel and look better, check out Thrive.