It is not a surprise to those who practice yoga regularly, but doing so can greatly increase the joy in our lives and leave us with a greater general sense of well-being. While one is engaged in their asana practice, the mind and body are at work together to maintain a sense of balance and steadfastness, creating a new way for the brain to process and react to stress and pain. With practice and dedication to the yogic methods, this technique can eventually spill over into other aspects of one’s life, making them stronger, not just in their bodies, but also in their minds.
The stability within the mind of a yogi who can maintain a difficult pose for an extended period of time will also be important if a crisis erupted in their lives. Being able to put oneself in an altered state of consciousness and go deep within while utilizing proper pranayama techniques can fill an individual with positive energy and reduce blood pressure, slow the heart rate, and keep the mind steady.
During a medical study in 2010 at Boston University Medical Campus, Chris Streeter , the Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Neurology, attempted to help validate the potential of yoga to treat depression and anxiety. He monitored GABA (gamma-amino butyric acid) levels in 34 randomly selected, healthy individuals. GABA levels, when elevated, are associated with improved moods, and some GABA medications are used to treat depression, anxiety, ADD, and more.
The 34 participants were split into two groups. One group was instructed to walk for one hour, three times a week. The other group was instructed to practice lyengar yoga for that same duration of time, the same amount of days a week. The GABA levels of these participants were monitored during this time, and, according to the study, those in the yoga group showed in increase in GABA levels, which matched what they reported: better moods then those reported by the walkers.
Although this is just one study, it is one of many emerging and exciting studies which show links between regular asana practice and well-being. When the body is being challenged but the mind is meditating, a new individual emerges, one free of anxieties and able to face each day in an empowered state of joy.
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