Tuesday, January 28, 2014

This Is Your Body on Yoga

This is your body on yoga: relaxed, powerful, balanced, strong, and healthy.
This is your body on yoga: relaxed, powerful, balanced, strong, and healthy.
Image: Shutterstock
Remember those old scare tactics teachers and the media used to employ to convince kids never to smoke or do drugs? This is your body on drugs would show pictures of a brain lit up in just a few areas—a representation of the lack of activity some drugs would lead to. These are your lungs on nicotine would show blackened lungs side by side with healthy pink ones. Later, those scare tactics changed language, with campaigns like Meth: Not Even Once hitting billboards in areas where meth use was a problem. Being from one of those areas, I can remember cringing as we drove past the billboards every trip to and from college.

I never fell into the drug trap. Perhaps it’s partly attributed to those scare tactics, but I think it can mostly be attributed to my personal experiences surrounding drugs. Having a close family member suffer through serious drug use and then rehab leaves a permanent impression—or at least it did on me.

But as much as I respect those old campaigns and recognize how effective they can be, I would love to see positive versions of them: Crossfit: Not Just Once or This is your body on (insert exercise here). As humans, we seem to find a way to focus in on the negative so much that sometimes we forget the power of positive thinking.

I recently read an article from Women’s Health that explained some of the seriously cool things that happen to your body when you do yoga. Here are a few highlights from that article:

Practicing yoga
Practicing yoga is like practicing life: you fall down, you get
back up. You lose your balance, you find it again.
Breathing, which any yogi can tell you is a huge part of yoga, gets your brain really fired up. All those breathe ins and breathe outs activate your prefrontal cortex, which is the part of our brain responsible for higher-level thinking. You’ll also gain more control over your emotions as your amygdala relaxes and mood-enhancing chemicals are released.

Say bye-bye to stress, too: breathing, movement, and relaxation techniques are all used during yoga, which helps literally your entire body relax. Even your resting heart rate can decrease both during and after class.

Sometimes after I run or lift weights, I am seriously tempted to ruin it all with a big, greasy burger. But after yoga, that’s not the case. It turns out that all that relaxation cuts back on production of cortisol (a stress hormone), which has been linked to junk food cravings. So that’s why I always want a huge salad after class!

Practicing yoga regularly also amps up your immune system and slowly builds up your internal balance and strength as you stretch and tone muscles. The more I practice, the less clumsy I feel in real life—and the more graceful.

Be sure to check out the full article on Women’s Health here: http://www.womenshealthmag.com/fitness/yoga-body