Why You Feel Better After YogaFeb 11, 2023
When you finish yoga, do you ever wonder why you feel so darn good?
It’s a different feeling than any other physical exercise.
I never felt at peace and at one with myself when I was training for a Half Marathon. Instead, it was more a war – pleading with the body to keep going and to do it faster.
But, after yoga? You can feel energy at the tips of your fingertips and toes. The air seems easier to breathe. That low back pain, shoulder pain, hip thingy that was bugging you all day seems to have melted away. You feel peaceful. You have clarity. You can rule the world
So, I thought we’d dive into this today. What is happening in the brain and the body during and after yoga that makes us feel GOOD.
Let’s start with the brain because I get super geeked out when talk about neuroscience. It’s my favorite thing to study and read about.
So, when you move through your yoga practice, your brain cells begin to develop new connections, you begin carving out new neural pathways, as you attempt a new posture or make a new shape.
This actually changes the brain in structure, as well as function, and has been shown to improve your cognitive skills.
Yoga strengthens parts of the brain that play a key role in memory, attention, awareness, thought, and language.
It’s kind of why I tell you again and again that yoga = life-long learner.
In yoga, you are always learning something new (when you have a practice that continues to challenge you again and again with fresh material.)
Brain scientists urge you to get out of your routine as much as possible. Take a different way to work, or walk the dog a new route. Notice new things on paths you take often . Mix it up.
That’s why it’s so good to mix up your yoga, too.
If you are stuck on the same sequence… that’s not brain health, that a routine you’ve memorized. It’s like you press a button on your forehead and your body moves through it. (But, you know – if you LOVE it, do it… but play around with mixing it up with other types of classes. It’s so easy and accessible to do that nowadays.)
Also, during yoga, your brain releases all sorts of chemicals that not only help you relax but also lower your stress and anxiety levels including, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins. Each of which functions in its own way to help you calm down and feel better.
And, it has a direct effect on your nervous system, reducing sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight reactions) and increasing your parasympathetic nervous system (the space where you respond to the world around instead of react – and kind of the best way to be in your life.)
Your brain takes cues from your body, and your body takes cues from your brain, so when your body is calming down, your brain gets the message that all is well.
This is the reasoning for the huge amount of clarity you feel once you’ve finished your yoga session.
That problem you had before stepping on your mat that seemed like the biggest, dramatic situations EVER? It becomes a shoulder shrug, a hey-I-just-stood-on-my-head-so-this-is-no-big-deal-and-I-know-I’ll-figure-it-out kind of thing.
So, that’s just how yoga effects your brain.
But, the benefits to your body? We might be here a while, but I’ll try and keep this as concise as possible.
One of the best physical benefits to your yoga practice is that it creates space. Space in between your vertebrae, your joints, your bones.
Living under a gravitational pull where we are constantly leaning towards seeing a screen better has it’s effects over time and they are not great.
Taking the natural compressions out of your spine through deep forward bends and inversions is helpful to maintain your overall health and to help you to feel younger for longer.
Yoga helps you maintain your mobility. Or, even increase it.
Everyone thinks they want to be more flexible. It’s not flexibility you are seeking, it’s mobility. Mobility is the ability to move freely through your life.
You are born with your flexibility. It is passive.
Mobility is dynamic and active and can be improved upon. (But this might be a whole other blog post… so we’ll circle back to this thought someday soon.)
Let’s go to your organs… this is going to be FUN!
Yoga asana and pranayama exercises are thought to improve overall lung function by increasing chest wall expansion and activating oxygen circulation in the body.
When it comes to your heart, yoga has been thought to lower blood pressure, cholesterol, blood glucose levels and lower your heart rate.
Let’s move to the stomach and intestines… with improved blood flow, yoga has been shown to prevent constipation and bloating and help with the management of chronic conditions like IBS and GRD. So, so cool right?
In your yoga session, you stimulate, stretch, and strengthen the liver. Yoga postures get rid of the fat deposits in the liver using them up as energy for the body. In the meantime, pranayama breathing exercises can boost the health of your liver.
And, yoga can play an important role in the overall health of kidneys. It improves the function of the kidney through deep back bends and twists, and can improve the quality of life for those with kidney disease, while reducing the risk of kidney cancer.
Through the strengthening of pelvic floor muscles (which happens when you close your ribs and get the pelvis in the right place… practicing the Bandhas) you are reducing incontinence symptoms stopping your bladder from making you have the most embarrassing moments.
And, yoga, by helping to increase blood flow throughout the body, makes your sexual organs more sensitive – leading to longer and deeper orgasms. OKAY!
So…. If you needed an excuse to get on your yoga mat and move today, pick your favorite benefit and get to it!
The trickiest part is getting out of your own way.
The things in life that are so, so good for us? They are the most difficult to keep up.
Why? Because they ask us to change and to continue to evolve. To be better than we were the day before. And, to start opening up to fresh possibilities for our practice and our lives.
That’s why it also seems daring and out of your comfort zone when you spend too much time there.
So, you ditch it and go do that old habit that you just can’t kick.
But, there’s a reason why you feel better in your life when you practice. And, know that what we covered today is just the tip of the iceberg.
The benefits of yoga are endless.
So, get on your mat today. When your session is over, I guarantee you, you’ll feel better.
Less reactive, more responsive. And, most of all, more YOU.
Tori Hicks-Glogowski has been practicing yoga for almost 20 years and has been teaching for well over a decade.
With over 1000 hours of yoga education under her belt, she knows all too well how the practice of yoga can transform your life.
Beginning as a Bikram Yoga Instructor in 2011, Tori also sought out certifications in Level II Traditional Hatha Yoga and CYoga, among many others.
She is a Certified RAD Yoga Mobility Specialist with expertise in self myofascial release techniques and was a USA Yoga Coach, assisting yoga athletes to train for competition.
Tori published her first book in 2018, "Views from the Podium: The Life & Times of a Hot Yogi," which chronicles the first part of her teaching career as a Bikram Yoga Instructor.
Her superpower is to take a student stuck in "Beginner Yoga Land," and assist them to build into something much more empowering and fun, helping them tap into their limitless possibilities on their yoga mat and in their lives.
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