Your Brain on Yoga

Yoga and mindfulness practices are increasingly being studied by scientists and results are reflecting that these practices can help regulate various parts of the brain. One of the parts of the brain that has shown an impact is the amygdala, which sits deep within the temporal lobe of the brain.

The amygdala specifically relates to our “fight or flight”, fear, and anxiety responses. Whilst this part of the brain comes in super handy when being chased by a bear, it is not always so helpful in day to day life. When we operate in this highly reactive mode on a regular basis our physiological system perceives that we are chronically highly stressed and behaves accordingly, think high blood pressure.

A study published in the ‘Journal of Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience’ examined the impact a mindfulness meditation program had on the amygdala. The research indicated that mindfulness meditation was found to alter the amygdala’s actual structure and function, resulting in a decrease of perceived stress.

So imagine this, you’ve got a million things to do, thoughts swirling in your mind about all your concerns and obligations, and guess what? You are perceiving you are STRESSED. It feels like it’s really hard to focus and you can forget about doing anything to actually take care of yourself!

Now, let’s present an alternative scenario, you still have a million things to do but you are not perceiving yourself to be stressed, you’re actually fairly calm and relaxed in spite of all your obligations, and because you’re relaxed your mind is clear, you can focus, and you can be efficient and effective. Maybe you’ll even have time to take a bath or read at the end of the day, because taking care of yourself will help you be calm and relaxed. See how that cycle works?

Yoga and mindfulness practices are activities that support quieting the mind’s incessant chatter so that we can be clear and present in our lives, living in a way where we can be more connected to our families, friends, and communities and be authentically ourselves in life. Worthwhile pursuit, don’t you think?


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