Research has shown that changes that yoga and meditation has positive effects on the brain. Participation in these activities has been linked to better cognition and emotional well-being. Yoga triggers the release of chemical gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, a neurochemical responsible for regulating nerve activity. The good news is that heightened levels of GABA lead to positive changes in mood.
What yoga does to your body and brain – Krishna Sudhir
The ancient practice of yoga
Yoga is an ancient practice for the body, mind, and spirit. It has its origins in Indian philosophy. Yoga takes a holistic approach to life and encourages equilibrium and harmony. H. H. Swami Sivanda (1887-1963) and Swami Vishnudevananda (1927-1993) were two of the first Indian yoga masters to bring the practice of yoga to the West.
Sivanda and Vishnudevananda aimed to ensure yoga was accessible to anyone whatever their age, status, background, or geographical location. According to Sivananda, “yoga is a science perfected by the ancient seers of India, not of India merely, but of humanity as a whole. it is an exact science. It is a perfect, practical system of self-culture.” Yoga is now the most popular approach to complementary health practiced today.
Traditionally there are four paths of yoga. Combining these paths fosters a harmonious interrelationship between the emotional, intellectual, and physical aspects of life. In the West Hatha and Raja are the most widely known and practiced and combine postures with breathing exercises for mental and physical well-being.
Swami Vishnudevananda taught five principles of yoga designed to improve mental and physical and spiritual well-being. The five principles are as follows:
- Proper exercise ––asanas work the spine and central nervous system and rejuvenate the body as a whole
- Proper breathing ––pranayama stimulates the energy reserves of the solar plexus thus revitalizing the body and mind. Deep conscious breathing helps combat depression and stress
- Proper relaxation ––a natural method for re-energizing the body and mind
- Proper diet ––the yogic attitude is ‘eat to live, not live to eat’
- Positive thinking and meditation ––essential for peace of mind. Meditation techniques help calm the mind and encourage focus
The euphoric effects of yoga practice
Yoga is highly beneficial. It has the potential to prevent mental ill-health and the capacity to offer its practitioners the power of immediate relaxation. Studies have shown that in depressed patients already taking antidepressant medications the practice of yoga was associated with improvement in sleep, increased emotional well-being, and a decreased risk of suicidal ideation.
Amazingly similar results have been found in people who practice mediation in association with religious practice and prayer. The positive brain changes elicited by yoga match those of religious euphoria. Researchers found that those who believe in God experienced positive brain changes when engaged in these religious practices comparative to atheists who experience no such changes. Yoga of course has its roots …….