Fact: Your thoughts and actions actually change the chemical makeup of your brain. This means that when you regularly respond to stress by panicking and thinking negatively, you train your brain to react to all similar situations in the same way. You get stuck in a stress rut with high cortisol levels, tense muscles and a never-ending train of negative thoughts.
The good news is that researchers say you can retrain your brain to respond to challenges more calmly and positively, just by breathing deeply, relaxing your muscles and thinking positive thoughts. Sound like a familiar exercise? Thats probably because its everything that makes yoga yoga.
Your Brain on Yoga
One Harvard scientist is changing the way we understand the yoga-relaxation connection. In his study, John Denninger used neuro-imaging and genomics technology to better understand how yoga affects genes and brain activity in people who are chronically stressed. The result? Just one relaxing yoga or meditation session was enough to reduce the expression of genes linked to the inflammatory stress response in the participants. Additionally, its long been proven that yoga can lessen depression and anxiety and improve mental health.
Rewiring on the Mat
Whether its hatha, yin, power or whatever type of yoga your neighbours teaching, all yoga styles share one thing in common: the practice of cultivating mindfulness. You train your thoughts to stay focused and calm on your mat, which enables you to stay centred in your everyday life especially when the going gets tough. This is one well-rounded practice that truly benefits both your mind and body, building resilience on all fronts.
The best thing about yoga is that its a personal practice. You dont have to know what to do on your mat, you just have to show up and leave it to the pros (book a session with one of of ours here). Your instructor will help you learn how to breathe fully and place your attention on the content of your thoughts. Youll be guided towards being mindful. You can practice privately to make it customized or join a class for peer support. Its your yoga so do it your way and your brain will be just as happy as your body.