How Does Yoga Affect Your Mental Health?
Yoga sharpens our intellect and gives us the tools to really help heal the mind and body. Asana, Pranayama and meditation practices have a powerful effect on our nervous system. It activates the rest-and-digestion mode, from the sympathetic nervous system to the parasympathetic nervous system, or from fight-or-flight mode. Especially in the pandemic environment we find ourselves in, we are constantly in flight or fight mode, which causes the level of cortisol in our body to rise and we are never really in a state of complete relaxation. As soon as you take a deep breath, you calm your nervous system. As an exercise, it naturally produces serotonin, also known as the happy chemical, as it contributes to feelings of well-being and happiness. Serotonin in the brain is a natural mood stabilizer and has been linked to helping regulate anxiety and stress. Yoga makes you smarter and improves your general cognitive skills. When you lift weights, your muscles get stronger and bigger.
When you do yoga, your brain cells develop new connections and changes occur in brain structure and function, resulting in improved cognitive skills such as learning and memory. Yoga strengthens parts of the brain that play key roles in memory, attention, consciousness, thinking and language. Think of it like lifting weights for the brain. According to research done and published in the Harvard Medical Review, the use of MRI scans and other brain imaging technologies has proven that people who regularly practice yoga have a thicker cerebral cortex (the area of the brain responsible for processing information) and the hippocampus (area). These brain areas tend to shrink as we age, but older yoga practitioners showed less shrinkage than non-yoga practitioners. This suggests that yoga may prevent age-related decline in memory and other cognitive skills. Meditation also decreases activity in the limbic system, the part of the brain devoted to emotions. As your emotional reactivity decreases, you react more thoughtfully when faced with stressful situations. Research also shows that yoga and meditation can improve executive functions such as reasoning, decision-making, memory, learning, reaction time, and accuracy in mental ability tests. Yoga helps improve your self-esteem and sense of self, making you a happier, calmer person .