Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Science of Yoga - Body and Mind

The Science of Yoga
by Susan Reeves

I've recently read two great articles about the benefits of yoga, both physically and mentally (links to the articles are at the end of this post).  I've been practicing yoga for almost 14 years now, and I find what the articles say to be true. 

When I first began my practice, I noticed an almost immediate improvement in my flexibility.  At the time, I was a new mom, chasing a toddler around and spending lots of time on the floor, playing with her.  Whereas before, I could not sit cross-legged because of a knee injury, after a few classes of vinyasa I was able to sit easily in that position.  I also noticed that even though my weight did not change, my clothes began to fit looser.   As my child grew, my physical strength was growing, so that picking her up was not putting as much of a strain on my shoulders and back as it used to. 

Throughout the past several years, I've become particularly aware of how I feel internally when I have a regular asana and meditation practice.  I experience my day with a peaceful clarity. When stressful events pop up, I'm able to take a step back and evaluate how to calmly respond.  I still appreciate the physical benefits of my practice, but I have a deeper sense of gratitude now for the mental and emotional balance yoga brings.

The Science of Yoga article gives evidence from recent scientific studies about how yoga can affect the levels of cortisol in the body.   Practicing yoga can also increase levels of "feel-good" brain chemicals and boosts immune function.  Yoga can also reduce inflammation in the body, one of the main causes of disease.  Read more about The Science of Yoga here.

I love the way Stephen Cope, psychotherapist, author and director of the Institute for Extraordinary Living at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, explains the relationship between body and brain in the article:  “yogis came to believe that the mind and body are linked in every way, and indeed, that the mind is just a subtle form of the body, and the body a gross form of mind.” What we do for the one benefits the other. Read more about The Psychology of Yoga here.

Susan Reeves, MA,  E-RYT 500, teaches yoga in Highland Village, Flower Mound, and Lewisville areas of Texas.  She is also the co-founder of Yoga Bridge, a non-profit that offers free services to cancer patients/survivors.  Visit her web-site at www.susanreeves.com .

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