Under the Hood

How Yoga Changes Your Brain For The Better

Yoga is widely known for helping improve flexibility and strength. Gently stretching your muscles can make you feel less stiff or tired during the day. 

An international survey by Yoga Alliance and Yoga Journal found that nearly 37 million people practiced yoga in the U.S. in 2016. That was a significant increase from 20 million practicing Americans three years before the study. 

The survey also looked into the growing yoga market. Researchers said that Americans spent $16 billion on classes, gear and accessories in 2016, with $5.8 billion going to yoga sessions.

To date, the exercise continues to be appealing to many people. And there are new reasons to add yoga to your daily routine. 

The health benefits of yoga not only improve your body physically, you may also experience changes in your brain that promote better mental health. Researchers found that regular yoga sessions could lead to improvements in the brain chemistry. 

The changes reduce the effects of serious mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression. In addition, yoga appears effective to improve an individual’s pain tolerance. 

Effects Of Yoga In The Brain

Combats Anxiety

Yoga helps increase the levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. It is an amino acid described as the body’s “chill out” neurotransmitter. 

GABA provides calming effect during stressful times by suppressing neural activity in the brain. People who practice yoga may have higher levels of the neurotransmitter, which helps them reduce the effects of anxiety, according to DrAxe.com

A 2010 study showed that yoga produces more GABA in the brain than walking and pleasure reading.

Reduces Chronic Pain

Another previously unknown effect of yoga is improved pain tolerance. Researchers found that the exercise supports formation of gray matter in the brain.

Low levels of gray matter has been linked to emotional problems, memory impairment,  problems with cognitive functioning and poor pain tolerance. Yoga and other activities that involve meditation could boost levels of gray matter in brain regions involved in pain modulation. 

Helps Avoid Depression

Gray matter also plays an important role in people battling depression. Similar to its effects in people with chronic pain, yoga increases gray matter in the brain that helps treat depression.

One study showed that the exercise could act as a natural antidepressant in women during pregnancy. 

yoga An international survey by Yoga Alliance and Yoga Journal found that nearly 37 million people practiced yoga in the U.S. in 2016. Pixabay

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