Your students feel the benefits of yoga and feeling the results of practice causes them to believe in a yogic lifestyle for better health. However, medicine wants to know the deeper analytical reasons why yoga works to relieve so many different ailments. It is for this reason that yoga instructors should know the science behind yoga.
The health benefits associated with yoga can help in both the psychological and physical realms of health. Many health professionals are now considering yoga as a viable treatment for stress and other debilitating ailments that could benefit from physical therapy. Science has just recently begun to unravel the enigma as to how yoga can come to cause many of these beneficial effects.
The Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health runs a program titled, “Yoga and the Brain.” This program researches into yoga’s effect on the brain utilizing neuro-imaging techniques, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Evidence accrued by the program suggests that yoga works by reducing cortisol levels within the blood. Cortisol is a hormone that triggers our stress response within the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for our “fight-or-flight” response. When people are subjected to chronic stress, consistently high levels of cortisol can lead to many detrimental effects on the body.
Yoga has also been shown to increase levels of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, GABA and dopamine. GABA has been associated with feelings of relaxation. Thus, an increase in GABA will likely decrease the amount of anxiety and stress a person will experience, on average. GABA has been the main target of many anti-anxiety medications on the market. With yoga, though, you will not find yourself dependent on unnatural medication that has been shown to have addictive properties.
Serotonin is associated with aspects of a person’s mood. Many health professionals believe that a lack of serotonin is the leading cause in depression. Therefore, yoga can benefit many people who find themselves in an emotional and mental slump. An increase in serotonin can lead to a higher overall satisfaction with oneself, which displays the psychological benefit of yoga and other forms of exercise, in general.
Dopamine is commonly associated with the rewards center of the brain. This means that yoga can bring feelings of pleasure and euphoria to any willing participants. If yoga becomes a habit, the brain will regularly reward the participant with doses of dopamine, due to the brain’s ability to remember certain activities that lead to pleasurable feelings.
Along with regular doses of feel-good neurotransmitters, yoga can serve to activate the parasympathetic nervous system. This system can help calm a person, and restore their balance, after a particularly stressful event. The parasympathetic nervous system is most notably associated with healing and restoration. It enables better extraction of nutrients within the body, as well as eliminating any unwanted toxins more efficiently.
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