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YOGA'S Effect on the Brain

Ever wondered why we often feel more relaxed and at ease after a yoga practice? If you are like me, you have probably also wondered if we can replicate that same feeling when we are off the mat. The good news is... Yes we can!

During a yoga practice, the poses, breathing techniques, and other mental activities help activate the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex parts of your brain.

This reaction doesn't only occur while you are in a yoga class.. With a consistent practice you can train your brain to react in the same manner off the mat. The overall benefits of a consistent yoga practice start to filter into your daily routines improving your overall health. As with any change it takes creating good habits and staying consistent. Training your brain is similar to training your muscles.. Yoga can help train both the mental and physical body. With dedication and patience you will start to notice improved:

● Focus and concentration

● Emotional control

● Self-awareness

● Decision making

Stress Reduction and The Science Behind It!

Yoga practices help improve mood and emotional regulation, and therefore reduces the stress hormones in the body including cortisol and adrenaline.

The sympathetic nervous system (SNS) is responsible for the body’s fight or flight response, and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) is what tells the body to calm down. The breathing techniques and meditation in yoga help reduce the SNS and increase the PNS. This reduces heart rate and blood pressure, and when the body is calm, the brain will receive the positive signals and calm the mind.

There is still a need for the SNS, the goal isn't to eliminate its function completely. It is still very important in the body and helps with clarity and focus. Some of the yoga postures you are exposed to during a yoga practice are designed to activate the SNS so that you can train your mind to stay calm during them. Yoga gives you the ability to find balance between using your SNS when necessary, but still being able to maintain a level of calm during these situations.

All stress isn't bad - it can be necessary during emergencies or certain activities where you need to focus. The problem occurs when there is chronic stress every day. This will have very negative effects on your health. When most people think of stress, they may think of the mental and emotional effects, but stress impacts both the mind and body. This is the reason that a very stressful day can leave you physically drained even if the stress wasn't physically demanding. Your brain signals physical reactions in the body during stressful situations. It can cause an increase in blood pressure, release more sugars into the bloodstream, and cause inflammation.

Using Yoga to Cope with Stress:

The reduction of stress from yoga practices does not just apply when you are on your yoga mat. These techniques can be applied to your everyday life outside of yoga to help you cope.

During your yoga practice you are reminded to breath no matter what you are doing physically. This constant reminder and practice of focusing on the breath on your mat creates the habits that you can take with you off the mat. These same breathing techniques can be applied to stressful life situations. It is important to acknowledge your thoughts and mind and be aware of your emotions throughout the day so you can remind yourself to simply focus on breathing during difficult situations. The breathing will calm your body, nervous system, and mind, so you will be able to remain productive and focused, but also calm and relaxed.

Union of Body and Mind

It is important to be able to find balance between the healthy and harmful types of stress in life, and this is where yoga comes in. Yoga is about creating harmony between the body and mind, so when yoga reduces the physical effects of stress such as heart rate, blood pressure, and inflammation, it also helps the emotional effects of the mind.

The movements offered in a yoga class draw attention to the internal experience of the present moment. The slow steady pace of the movements helps relax us and reduce physical stress. The focused state of mind it creates allows us to let go of the negative feelings. Yoga in itself has many positive effects on mental health, adding the physical practice increases the positive effects and your overall well-being making the mind and body one. The mind can cause changes in the body and the body can cause changes in the mind.

Yoga is a versatile practice that can be adjusted to your individual needs. Through self study and acknowledgement we are able to train both the physical and emotional bodies. At A Dancing Yogi we offer a variety of classes to allow you to explore the pace and style you need to connect the mind and body. Are you ready to create that connection?

Visit us at and step on to your mat for some self exploration and transformation.

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Unknown member
Oct 09, 2022

The middle schoolers I teach have learned about the brain's stress response. I am going to share some of this infomation to them as it connects to what they have already learned as they are going to be introduced to very small parts of yoga/mediation practice as I learn to be a yoga teacher!

Michelle Pearson
Michelle Pearson
Oct 09, 2022
Replying to

I love that! The earlier we can learn how to deal with stress the better! I would love to know how your students respond! Please Keep us posted!

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