7 Bizarre Reasons To Try Yoga
By Laura Beil
Turns out, there’s a lot more to yoga than we thought…
1/ It makes you smarter
What seems like a slow start – breathing deeply, in and out – fires up your prefrontal cortex, the brain’s centre for higher thought. You just got smarter: In one study, people scored higher on cognitive tests after 20 minutes of yoga.
2/ It cheers you up
Your intense focus helps quiet your amygdala – a.k.a. your emotional network. That means more control over feelings such as anger and fear. At the same time, happy brain chemicals like GABA may rise, making yoga a natural treatment for gloomy moods.
3/ It chills you out
The triple threat of breathing, focus, and movement ignites the parasympathetic, or “rest and digest,” nervous system, the antidote to the fight-or-flight stress response. The vagus nerve, one of your body’s neural highways, carries that chill-out message to all your internal organs. Ahhh.
4/ It lowers your heart rate
Memo received: Your lungs expand to keep the belly breaths (and oxygen) coming. Your heart also benefits. The effect is so strong that a regular yoga practice can lower your resting heart rate – in and after class.
5/ It staves off snack-attacks
The adrenal glands ease back on production of the stress hormone cortisol, which has been linked to cravings for fatty foods. Post-yoga, it may be easier to resist snacking.
6/ It helps fend off colds and flu
That vagus nerve may also alert your immune system, which releases a stash of immunity-enhancing cells. You could now be better primed to fight off infections.
7/ It makes you less clumsy
If you feel like a human see-saw at first, keep at it. Yoga – even just twice a week for a month – can improve your balance (key for cruising through your days uninjured). Folding yourself into positions also stretches your muscles, tendons, and connective tissues close to their maximum capacity. Repeating these movements – under the watchful eye of a certified pro – can strengthen your core and limbs. And it will ramp up your flexibility, protecting your joints and muscles from damage.