The Science Behind Yoga
Yoga helps dampen the body’s stress response by reducing levels of the hormone cortisol, which not only fuels our split-second stress reactions, but it can wreak havoc on the body when one is chronically stressed. So reducing the body’s cortisol level is generally considered a good thing.
Yoga also boosts levels of the feel-good brain chemicals like GABA, serotonin, and dopamine, which are responsible for feelings of relaxation and contentedness, and the way the brain processes rewards. All three neurotransmitters are the targets of various mood medications like antidepressants (e.g., SSRIs) and anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) drugs. The fact that yoga is linked to improved levels of these coveted chemicals is nothing to sneeze at.
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Yoga has another bonus, says Sarah Dolgonos, MD, who has taught at the Yoga Society of New York’s Ananda Ashram. She points out that in addition to suppressing the stress response, yoga actually stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which calms us down and restores balance after a major stressor is over.
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Categories: Health & Wellness, Yoga & Meditation