When you create a consistent Yoga practice, you will gain flexibility, get stronger and tone your body. Studies have shown that if you do just one class a week where you focus on stretching your hamstrings for 12 weeks in a row, that on average you’ll be able to reach 4cm closer to your toes than when you started.
So if you want to get more flexible the obvious exercise of choice is Yoga.
I can hardly believe the body transformation I’ve had from Yoga. Especially as I come from a gym junkie, run/hiit-aholic background. I used to think I needed to lift heavy weights and do at least 60 minutes of cardio a day to look the way I do now… nope! Just consistent Yoga and Pilates every week has created the best body of my life to date. And I don’t plan on stopping the practice (not because of the outside benefits but because I LOVE it and it’s fun).
This got me thinking. If these are the changes I’m seeing on the outside… then what exactly is happening to my insides?
If I’ve seen my muscles tone and the flexibility happen right before my eyes I wanted to dig a little deeper into the REAL benefits of Yoga.
I wondered, what’s happening to my brain when I do Yoga? What’s happening to the inside of my body when I do Yoga?
Happily, I’ve found A LOT of good stuff that’s happening to my brain and insides from Yoga, that I can’t see… but oh YES I have definitely felt. The amazing thing… is that some of these benefits happen from the get-go.
YES, just 1 Yoga class can change your brain.
What happens to your brain when you do Yoga?
Relieves stress and anxiety
Ask anyone who walks out of a Yoga class if they feel any different to when they walked in and without a doubt, they’ll probably say… OMG I feel sooooo relaxed.
The number of times I’ve stepped onto my mat in a complete stressed, brain going a thousand miles a minute, to then walk off the mat a completely different human. I literally don’t feel like the same person as to when I started.
During Yoga the levels of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) increase. This chemical is linked to decreasing anxiety as well as elevating the mood. Not to mention we get a nice little hit of dopamine and serotonin, chemicals that allow us to feel more relaxed and capable to handle whatever situation comes our way.
Cortisol (the stress hormone) also lowers AND it’s been noted that the size of the hippocampus can actually GROW when you practice Yoga. This part of the brain helps us deal with anxiety and stress.
YEP, Yoga not only decreases stress but it helps us DEAL with stressful situations. Um, have you rolled out your mat yet?
Helps you make quick decisions (your brain gets smarter and sharper)
When you practise Yoga you’ll increase cortical brain folding… this is a thing that medical peeps call gyrification… but we don’t really need to know that. It happens in the cerebral cortex and the more folds that you have the better your brain processing. Which means you understand things faster and you will be able to make quicker, clearer decisions.
Improves your memory
The cortical folding will also improve your memory. It has been found that this folding thing can keep the brain youthful and alert. With the rise in Alzheimer’s and dementia, this is REALLY good news for Yogis. I’ve almost forgotten about the external benefits I see… I seriously want to go get on my mat so I can keep my brain awesome.
Better digestion and cell restoration
When you practise Yoga you activate your Parasympathetic Nervous System. This is your rest and digest state. Opposed to the Sympathetic Nervous System, your fight or flight mechanism, which in this day and age can be activated by the red light run you got on this morning’s drive to work. It’s a thing we need to survive BUT we don’t want to live in this state. Not only does it feel yuck but it can create inflammation in the body.
As soon as you begin to breathe in and out through the nose, nice deep breaths, like you would begin any Yoga class… your Parasympathetic Nervous System begins to kick in. We’re talking 5 minutes is all you need to start to feel and experience the benefits of Yoga.
Makes you feel more connected to your loved ones
This might be my favourite one… and I’ve definitely felt it! I seriously love everyone so much more than I did before I started Yoga.
When you practise Yoga you create Oxytocin in the body. Known as the LOVE hormone. Yep, it’s what you feel when you fall in love, it’s what happens when you hug someone.
More Oxytocin will make you feel more connected to your loved ones. You’ll be able to feel compassion, understanding, and patience much easier than before. You’ll find yourself feeling grateful for EVERYTHING: the sky, the rain, the clouds, the emails…even the red lights!
Yay for MORE oxytocin!
Makes you better at your job (better focus and more concentration)
When you practise Yoga your superior parietal cortex also GROWS in size. This is the part of your brain that helps you concentrate and focus. Say NO to multi-tasking.
Be one of those people who can stick to the task for longer than 20 minutes withOUT scrolling Facebook. :O I know right, sounds tough. For me I’ve seen this seriously increase when I introduced Yoga into my life. I’m soooo much better at Merrymaking now.
How you do one thing, is how you do everything. Because Yoga is very different from how you’d usually move throughout your day, you need to concentrate during your practice.
(I know you totally want to try Yoga if you never have before) So when you do start Yoga, you’ll probably hear your teacher say ‘FIND YOUR DRISHTI’ (you’ll definitely hear me say this in our MerryBody classes) and this simply means ‘find your one point of focus’.
The more you practice Yoga and the more you find that one point of focus while doing Yoga, the more you’ll find yourself concentrating during real-life moments… rather than a bazillion notifications here, there and everywhere.
You will become PRESENT. OH YEAH this feels good. And when you are present you can fully experience all that life has to offer.
So if you want to get flexible, tone your body and keep your brain healthy bring Yoga into your life.
Not sure where to try Yoga?
Join the MerryBody Online Studio. Experience the combination of Yoga, Pilates and Meditation to completely change the way you workout – AND how you feel about yourself.
The Studio is 100% accessible with unlimited 24/7 access… wherever you go, MerryBody goes with you.
MerryBody Online Studio will make you strong, flexible and toned. But the real magic? It’s movement driven by acceptance, respect and above all… JOY.