The science of Yoga


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As a student of yoga, I am one of thousands who have noticed the positive side effects this exercise form brings. After a session on the mat, I feel calmer, my limbs feel stretched out, and I'm more ready to take on the day. Not that I'm complaining that I feel great after a downward dog or two, but I've often speculated about why yoga seems so much more effective than other exercise. Have I simply been brainwashed to become an Om-chanting root eating Hare Krishna? Or does that weird leg-bendy thing have more than just a silly name?

According to Yoga Journal, Yoga is the prime exercise for disease prevention. Chanting and meditation are more than just a string of words. The pattern of the mouth when chanting helps light up the brain and accesses parts that are connected to the pituitary and hypothalamus glands. Both of these sections of the brain help slow the onset of Alzheimer's disease. In addition to the prevention of age-induced illness, yoga also helps activate detoxification and removal of toxins. Yogis don't just have an imaginary "young" glow...it can actually help you stay youthful and full of energy. A healthy lymphatic system is one of the main factors in keeping us energized and less bogged down by toxins. However, the lymph does not travel through the bloodstream on its own. Inversions such as headstand and shoulder stand help move lymph throughout the body and remove toxins. 

Few argue about the positive effects yoga has towards one's mood, but it is largely debated whether yoga can aid in weight loss. Traditionally, yoga is used as a spiritual practice, but in our image-obsessed culture, the introduction of hot yoga and power flow has turned yoga into a "work those glutes!" type practice. While those 90 minute flow classes can feel like your entire body is being twisted into a skinny mess of bones, yoga ultimately slows down your metabolism. According to William J. Broad, author of The Science of Yoga: Risks and Rewards, yoga teaches the brain to slow down and relax, thus slowing down one's metabolic rate. However, Broad goes on to say that a sustained yoga practice helps its students learn to eat in moderation and to reduce stress/emotional eating. In addition, yoga aids in one's sense of elation and energy, so people are more likely to engage in exercise throughout the course of the day after a session on the mat. 

I couldn't be happier that I've discovered yoga, and I can now be sure that the positive effects I've encountered are not just the Placebo effect. Twisting yourself into a pretzel can actually improve your mood, your age, and that lingering five pounds that never went away after hours on the treadmill.

And to end with a yoga term...
Namaste (the light in me greets the light in you). 

P.S. Yes it is hard to do yoga in jeans. I would not advise it. 



2 Comments

According to a NY Times article about author, science reporter, and yogi William Broad, yoga does have many of the benefits it has traditionally claimed. With an open-mind, Broad says, “Yes, yoga can reduce anxiety and improve mood. No, it won’t help the overweight shed pounds. Yes, it may actually slow the body’s biological clock.” However, he also notes that unless careful, yoga may actually lead to injury. The article also gives a brief overview of the background of yoga. In its origin, yoga (meaning “union”) was part of ritual sex and to show off and win money for twisting your body in a strange way. Broad also points out the contradiction between the formerly earthy, natural yogis with the clean, wealthy yogis of Western society. This is definitely an interesting article, and I think I’ll continue a yoga pursuit, with caution to avoid injury, and see if it delivers me the same benefits.

According to a NY Times article about author, science reporter, and yogi William Broad, yoga does have many of the benefits it has traditionally claimed. With an open-mind, Broad says, “Yes, yoga can reduce anxiety and improve mood. No, it won’t help the overweight shed pounds. Yes, it may actually slow the body’s biological clock.” However, he also notes that unless careful, yoga may actually lead to injury. The article also gives a brief overview of the background of yoga. In its origin, yoga (meaning “union”) was part of ritual sex and to show off and win money for twisting your body in a strange way. Broad also points out the contradiction between the formerly earthy, natural yogis with the clean, wealthy yogis of Western society. This is definitely an interesting article, and I think I’ll continue a yoga pursuit, with caution to avoid injury, and see if it delivers me the same benefits.

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