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The Brain Pose - Yoga and The Brain

Updated: Aug 25, 2022

Yoga aims to connect your mind, body and soul. To be honest, I’m not much interested in that. I’m interested, in what yoga connects in your brain.


This weeks blog post will:

  • Explain what yoga is

  • Go through research into yoga and it’s effect on the brain

  • Discuss what these effects to your brain mean in everyday life



What is Yoga?


Yoga is used a lot in relation to mindfulness. Chances are if you have a friend who meditates, they have also tried yoga.


Yoga is a mind-body practice. This means it seeks to connect your mind to your physical body through practising yoga.


Yoga involves lots of different (sometimes odd) poses that stretch and flex all sorts of different muscles in the body. Some common poses are downward dog, warrior and the tree pose.


I myself have partaken in a few yoga sessions which I found on YouTube during lockdown. I’m not going to lie I felt my muscles the next day!


Not only did I feel the effect on my muscles but I also felt a difference in my mentality. For the rest of the day I felt a bit more free than normal. What did them very stretchy yoga sessions do to my brain?




Emotional regulation


Grimm et al (2017) looked into whether there were changes in TBI individual’s ability to regulate their emotions after practising yoga. After the yoga intervention, the individuals with a brain injury got better at regulating their emotions by 16% on average.


Yoga also had an impact on their quality of life which increased by 6% on average among participants. Participants in the study also noted differences in their lives themselves.


They noted that they were better at:

  • Concentrating and focusing

  • Feeling calmer and more peaceful

  • Socialising

  • Physically managing their day

  • Developing themselves

This is an immense finding! The findings from the study support yoga as an intervention for those with a brain injury through clinical checklists like the quality of life scale AND self report from those with a brain injury!


How yoga influences connections in the brain


Krishnakumar et al (2015) suggested that meditation based practices such as yoga release certain neurotransmitters that decrease symptoms of different mental health disorders such as anxiety.


They also stated from their research that meditative practices enhance the production of new connections between new neurons (neurogenesis) AND new connections between old neurons (synaptogenesis), strengthening various connections in the brain.


They concluded that meditative practices such as yoga act as effective treatments for psychological disorders such as anxiety and have no side effects!


Yoga and Brain Structure


Neha (2019) reviewed 11 studies looking into yoga and it’s effect on the brain. The review found that ALL 11 studies showed positive effects on the brain from practising yoga.


Practising yoga positively influenced the structure of:

  • Hippocampus

  • Amygdala

  • Prefrontal cortex

  • Cingulate cortex

  • Various different neuronal networks

Neha went on to conclude from the review that practising yoga may combat age-related and Neuro-degenerative declines.


(This is a terrible downward dog)



Conclusion


So how does practising yoga influence your brain? Practising yoga seems to produce new, and strengthen old neuronal connections in your brain.


Yoga also strengthens and positively influences various different important structures in the brain. This is probably why people note that yoga has been enlightening for them. Not only does yoga incorporate physical activity (which we know, if you read my other posts, is excellent for the brain), but it gets people to become more mindful.


Research seems to suggest that these two, hand-in-hand, physically promote neuronal networks and structures in your brain! This makes people more focused, manage their fatigue better and feel calmer.


As you can see I’m not great at yoga… To be honest I don’t think many people are. But it keeps your brain healthy and reduces anxiety! So if your going to get down, make it a downward dog… What a terrible joke.






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