Yoga. A mindfulness practice first instilled by the Indus-Sarasvati civilization in Northern India over 5,000 years ago. To this day, yoga is practiced as a regular fitness activity by many but the real question lies in, is it actually good for you? Why? How?
As a yogi myself, I am passionate, and maybe even slightly biased, to the enormous amounts of positives that come with the practice of yoga. On the surface, yoga is said to improve flexibility, muscle tone, and core strength. But, there are many benefits to yoga that lie beneath the surface of our bodies. Let’s start off with mental health. The concept of parasympathetic nervous system activation, is the activation of our ‘rest and digest’ state in our bodies. This activation is due to yoga’s practice of breathing and “single-pointed focus”. It puts our bodies into this rest and digest state and pulls us out of our agitated ‘fight or flight’ state, also known as the sympathetic state. Anxiety, a stress inducing mental health disorder, increases the secretion of stress hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline, in the body. This elevated secretion causes an unbalanced nervous system. Yoga’s inherent goal, as stated in Is Yoga Good For You?, is to bring our bodies out of chronic sympathetic activation, this reverses the negative effects of anxiety in the body, reduces the secretion of stress hormones, and rebalances the body’s nervous system. As we learned in AP Biology this year, steroid hormones are a type of lipid. Cortisol, a stress hormone that increases production when anxiety levels rise, is a type of steroid hormone. We know that lipids work as insulators, store energy, and form the plasma membrane. Anxiety, as I mentioned, increases the secretion of our stress hormones. Anxiety causes the cortisol levels to remain elevated in a stressful situation, this can lead to several health problems linked to high blood pressure, heart disease, etc. Considering all of this, yoga’s breathing tactics to calm the body actually lessen our symptoms of anxiety, depression, and stress and can be a very beneficial practice for someone who has anxiety.
If the effects on mental health haven’t urged you to buy a yoga mat on Amazon just yet, keep reading. If they have, I recommend the link below 🙂
Yoga is not only a beneficial tool for someone looking to improve their mental health, but it is a capable practice for all ages. Myths surrounding yoga say that it is only for the young, but studies have shown that yoga does improve the physical function and mental wellbeing of adults over sixty years old! It is a great tool for the elderly due to its ability to lower blood pressure levels and aid in our cardiovascular health. For young kids, though, yoga can be beneficial to calm down the overactive ones and/or ones with behavioral issues. Yoga is actually being implemented into many schools in the form of mandatory classes due to all of its positive benefits on young kids’ minds. As kids, the frontal cortexes of their brains are not fully developed yet so they are literally able to take in ideas, essentially more open minded and creative. This allows kids who take up yoga to appreciate it in a much different way, their innate curiosity can even lead them to creating coping mechanisms and life skills that would have otherwise not been developed says Pearce.
So, is yoga beneficial for you? Though yoga can improve mental health, stress, and even help the elerdly, you don’t have to fall into any of these categories to participate in the practice. Yoga acts as a mood booster, stress reliever, strengthens flexibility, and provides you with an outlet of relaxation that you may not get in this busy world. Yoga is for everyone and the inclusivity of the yoga community will embrace you as you are; you don’t have to be “good” at yoga to participate either! Now, here is a link to buy a yoga mat… Come join me for hot yoga classes at Bikram Yoga in Roslyn, Namaste!
If I wasn’t able to convince you to buy a yoga mat by now, please comment below and tell me why not!