Yoga Can Change Your Brain

 Yoga Can Change Your Brain

By Jennifer Kelleher

Dr. Bruce Lipton says, “The more control we have in our mind, the more power we have in our life.” In today’s column, I dive into how the ancient practice of yoga can create positive changes on the brain.

As you practice yoga, you will realize that it has four components. First, there are the physical postures, movements, stretches, breathing techniques, and relaxation techniques. Second comes the self-regulation piece, or the ability to control your internal stress and emotional response. Third is the cultivation of mind-body awareness, or the capacity to observe and experience what is going on in the body and thoughts, which leads to increased mindfulness that can change behaviors in a very positive way. Fourth is the experience of transcendent states that you get from deep meditation. Even if these experiences are short, they can result incredibly transformative for people, redirecting them toward more positive lifestyles and goals, along with enhanced life meaning and purpose.

Those who have experienced yoga don’t need any evidence to know that the practice can greatly improve your wellbeing. However, for those who have not, it can be helpful to learn some of the research (there has been a lot) that has been done on yoga. One of the most significant findings of yoga’s impact on the brain is its ability to reduce depression. One study, for example, that took place over the course of six weeks, gathered people diagnosed with depression and split them into two groups. The control group continued with their regular treatment, and the other group practiced yoga for an average of 12 minutes daily. What they found was a 33% reduction in depression in the group of people practicing yoga. They also saw a significant reduction in anxiety and overall physiological stress, and an increase in resilience and the frequency of reported positive experiences.

Touching on the second component of yoga as stated above, the yoga postures throughout a class create challenges for the mind. In order to stay, we intentionally use our breath to regulate our thoughts and enhance the parasympathetic nervous system, which brings us into a place of calm, despite the demanding situation. This part of the practice trains us for how to handle stressful situations outside of the yoga room.

Modern technology, like neuroimaging, actually shows that meditative practices change brain activity and, over time, brain structure. Many studies prove that the expression of our DNA and the activity of our genes change with yoga, enhancing beneficial gene activity and downregulating that which is not.

Based on his work in the field of epigenetics, Dr. Bruce Lipton’s quote above shines a light on the power of the mind. Yoga has the capacity to positively change your brain, and if it changes your brain, it changes your nervous system, physiology, and anything inside of you that might need transforming.

Personally, yoga has helped to clarify many things in my life, bringing me into balance and giving me focus out in the world. The perspective, tools, and health that I gain from yoga keeps me calm and centered in a storm. No matter the goal I am trying to achieve, I can confidently say that yoga has given me the mental power and stability to bring it into fruition. Over the past few years, I have changed my thought process, habits, lifestyle, body, and so many aspects of my life for the better. My experience of life, in this body, is completely different from how it was during the first quarter of my life, and, in large part, I have yoga to thank for that.

So now, I invite you to join me for a class at Ocean Bliss Yoga. Never practiced? No problem! We offer classes and workshops in-studio and online for a variety of levels. Check out our schedule a sign up at Call or text me with any questions at 917-318-1168.


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