Week 1 | The Science Behind Yoga
I was a 2 time All American volleyball player for UCLA. Training was intense, we lived in the gym. For preseason we would spend a couple of weeks in the mountains for high altitude training, but regularly after an hour of lifting weights, conditioning + sprints on the track and 3 hours of practice, our coaches used to make us meet up and do this thing called yoga with a man named Jack who smelled like vanilla perfume.
My days as a fast twitch athlete at the most winningest athletic school in the country, where the condition of your body was everything, is where I first encountered this practice of both mind AND body. I've carried it with me ever since, including every January when I set a goal for myself to complete 30 straight days of yoga.
This will be my third year doing a 30 day yoga challenge! It is an intense endeavor, but I love opening the new year with a tough yet worthy commitment to bettering my body and mind. I find incorporating practice everyday at the start of the year forces me to really prioritize my health and combat the many anxieties that accumulate as a result of living in New York City.
If you need reason to start a consistent practice that should include posture poses, awareness + regulation of breath and meditation, I have sorted for you some of the science to support improving your quality of life via integrating a regular yoga regime. I hope this helps inspire you to something that has helped me so much for over 10 years now.
1. Because Yet Another Guy Ghosted You: Yoga Makes You Happy
Consistent yoga practice improves depression and can lead to significant increases in serotonin levels coupled with decreases in the levels of monamine oxidase, an enzyme that breaks down neurotransmitters and cortisol. (NIH)
In depressed patients, even those already on antidepressants, yoga was associated with improved sleep, increased positivity, and decreased suicidal ideation. (Science Magazine)
2. For All Those Brain Cells You Lost Last Weekend: Yoga Can Regenerate Brain Cells and Improve Memory
The brain has the ability to change itself.
A new, May 2015 study published in the Frontiers in Human Neuroscience uses magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain to show that yoga protects the brain from the decline in gray matter brain volume as we age. People with more yoga experience had brain volumes on par with much younger people. (Psychology Today)
And you may even be able to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and fight age-related declines in memory through the meditation component of yoga. In fact, yoga does so much for your health that studies show people who do yoga use 43% fewer medical services. (Harvard)
3. Because You Had One Too Many: Yoga Reduces Inflammation
What is the big deal with inflammation anyway?
Inflammation is a normal physiological response that through immune response allows tissues to heal. The point is, not all inflammation is bad and our body needs inflammatory response. It is chronic inflammation that is linked to disease, including cancer. (Cancer.gov)
Prolonged inflammation can damage your body’s healthy cells and tissue, and weaken your immune system ... Other causes of chronic inflammation can include obesity, smoking, stress, lack of exercise, exposure to secondhand smoke and diet choices. And worse, chronic inflammation often shows no signs.The good news is you can reduce chronic inflammation and lower your cancer risks. (Stephanie Maxson, senior clinical dietitian at MD Anderson’s Integrative Medicine Center)
Researcher Ronald Glaser: examined three cytokines, proteins in the blood that are markers for inflammation. Blood tests before and after the trial showed that, after three months of yoga practice, all three markers for inflammation were lower by 10 to 15 percent. That part of the study offered some rare biological evidence of the benefits of yoga. (National Geographic)
Research has also shown that those who practice yoga regularly have higher levels of leptin and adiponectin in their bodies. Both of these natural chemicals work to alleviate inflammation in the body. (Mind Body Green)
4. Because Time Flies: Yoga Slows Down Aging
Stress accounts for between 60% and 80% of visits to primary care doctors. Chronic stress has been linked to accelerated biological aging, and increased chronic inflammation and oxidative stress, two processes that cause cellular and genetic damage. In an exploratory study published in Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, researchers found that 12 weeks of yoga slowed cellular aging. (Harvard)
5. For The Cab Driver Who Yelled At You On Your Way To Work This Morning: Yoga Lowers Anxiety
Yoga encourages one to relax, slow the breath and focus on the present, shifting the balance from the sympathetic nervous system and the flight-or-fight response to the parasympathetic system and the relaxation response. The latter is calming and restorative; it lowers breathing and heart rate, decreases blood pressure, lowers cortisol levels, and increases blood flow to the intestines and vital organs. (NIH)
The brain chemical GABA, a neurotransmitter associated with control of anxiety, peaked in experienced yoga practitioners after they executed 60 minutes of postures. (Science Magazine)