Unrolling your mat, playing some soothing music, and bending into child’s pose always serves to relax you. The sense of calm that comes after a good yoga flow seems like a reward in itself, but yoga can actually have some profound effects on your health. Even better: these benefits are rooted in science.
Holding bridge pose does more than just build up your core strength. It also helps you release neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). Serotonin can bring about feelings of happiness, while GABA can help you feel calm. One study found that women who performed extended yoga sessions three times a week for four weeks experienced decreased depression, anxiety, and stress.
When you’re stressed, your body goes into fight-or-flight mode and releases cortisol, a hormone that slows down non-essential bodily functions in an emergency situation. Unfortunately, the immune system gets put on the back burner during moments like this. Therefore, chronic stress can increase your risk of getting sick.
The sense of calm you feel after a good yoga session allows your body to switch out of fight-or-flight mode and enter a state of restoration. In one study, researchers mandated a weekly yoga practice for one group of students and had another group continue with their normal schedule. Around exam time, the students who didn’t participate in yoga experienced a significant decrease in interferon-gamma levels (a protein that’s necessary for maintaining cellular immunity), while those who regularly performed yoga did not.
Any type of exercise can improve your cardiovascular health, as it makes your heart stronger and can reduce your levels of LDL cholesterol. However, yoga offers the added benefit of relaxation. When you enter a state of calmness, your blood vessels dilate, allowing your blood pressure to decrease and your blood to flow more freely. In the same study on the students mentioned above, the group that didn’t practice yoga had higher heart rates and blood pressures around exam time than those who regularly participated in yoga.
Whether you’re new to namaste or a seasoned yogi, these benefits may make you want to start every day with a sun salutation and end every night with a half moon. For more helpful tips to reduce stress, maintain health, and improve your overall well-being, schedule an appointment with your Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Group primary care physician. Our team can work with you to develop a plan to help you achieve better health.
Forbes | Penetrating Postures: The Science of Yoga
Healthline | 13 Benefits of Yoga That Are Supported by Science
Healthline | What Does Gamma Aminobutyric Acid (GABA) Do?
Medical News Today | What is serotonin and what does it do?
NCBI | The Effect of Yoga on Stress, Anxiety, and Depression in Women
Healthline | Is Vasodilation Good?
ScienceDirect | Interferon Gamma
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