Though some people may choose to focus on their physical health, keeping your brain healthy should be of utmost importance, too. With symptoms of stress and anxiety at an all-time high, people are searching for ways to improve their mental health. Many people are finding that the best way to achieve this is through yoga. Whether you’re hoping to combat signs of ageing or you want to improve your memory and focus, continue reading to explore how yoga helps to keep your brain healthy. Before beginning, it’s worth picking up a breathable yoga top to wear to class. Breathable fabric will allow the body to oxygenate sufficiently, keeping your brain and body in tip-top condition.
While many people worry about the physical signs of ageing, mental ageing is a common concern, too – especially amongst the older generation. Thankfully, regular yoga practice can help to prevent certain symptoms of brain ageing before they begin.
Research has shown that the holistic therapy can prevent the brain from shrinking with age. Through the use of MRI scans, recent studies have shown a connection between yoga and increased brain volume. Older individuals that had been practising yoga for a few years had larger brain volumes than those who had not. While the difference is more prominent amongst older people, the correlation between yoga and brain volume was shown in younger individuals, too. On average, the difference was clearest in the area of the brain that deals with positive emotions and the relaxation response. For the participants that practised yoga regularly, these areas of the brain appeared healthier and more preserved.
Practicing yoga for just a few minutes each day can be a great form of stress relief. Yoga poses, breathing techniques, and meditation are all designed to release built up stress, so learning how to practice them correctly can work wonders for our mental health. In times of intense stress, the mind can sometimes go into overdrive. Through yoga we can learn how to focus the mind, allowing us to concentrate on one thing at a time. Once we have learned how to use this technique, it can be used in any place at any time for immediate anxiety relief.
Any yoga pose will encourage deep breathing – even the simple ones! Even if you just practice a basic side bend with your arms above your head, your breathing will begin to regulate which will instantly relax you. For best results, begin the side bend by breathing in. Secondly, hold your breath as you bend both your arms to the right. Hold this posture for a few seconds before exhaling and bringing your body back to centre.
Through a series of slow movements and deep breathing techniques, certain styles of yoga are thought to trigger the parasympathetic nervous system. By triggering this process, practitioners can reduce the effects of the fight-or-flight response. In addition to keeping the brain healthy by soothing the nervous system, this activation is thought to improve physical health, too.
Through various asanas and breathing exercises, yoga improves blood flow around the body. Not only will this keep you warm during the winter months, but it will increase the amount of oxygen supplied to your cells, helping them to function to the best of their ability. In addition to keeping your brain healthy, sufficient oxygenation will encourage clear thinking and prevent annoying symptoms such as brain-fog and recurrent headaches.
Twisted poses are thought to be especially helpful for improving blood flow. When the body is performing the twist, a build-up of blood is caused within the body; as the twist is released, the blood is flushed through your system supplying your organs with fresh, oxygenated blood.
Research has shown that yoga practice can improve coordination, reaction time, memory function, and even your IQ level! Encouraging practitioners to focus on the present, meditation can be a great way to remain focused, too. Meditating for just five minutes each morning will help you to become less distracted by your thoughts and allow you to remain focused throughout the day ahead.
In addition to stimulation, sufficient relaxation is important for brain health. Providing relief from the busyness of day-to-day life, yoga allows your mind to enjoy some well-deserved downtime. Not only is this beneficial for the nervous system, but complete relaxation is great for your mental health, too. When in a relaxed state, your body is able to sleep deeper, allowing your brain time to relax and rejuvenate ready for the next day.
Research has shown that yoga can physically make you happier. Proven to significantly increase serotonin levels in the body, regular practice can be beneficial for those suffering from depression. Better still, it is thought to reduce levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, too! Like most forms of physical activity, practising asanas regularly can release endorphins into the body. Often referred to as ‘happy hormones’ an increase in endorphins will leave you feeling happy and stress-free, ready to take on the rest of the day with a smile.
Whether you’re hoping to prevent signs of mental ageing or you’re more interested in relieving symptoms of stress and anxiety, practising yoga for just a few minutes each day can help to keep your brain healthy. For those interested in attending a local class, it may be worth picking up a spacious yoga bag. With room for your mat, water bottle, and any extra clothing necessary, a good-quality bag will allow you to transport your gear to and from class with ease.