By Sarah Hunt, AZFB Communication Intern
Yoga has many health benefits, including regulating the nervous system, improving balance and flexibility, providing a stronger core, and reducing physical, mental, and emotional stress.
I feel like there is this stereotype around yoga, that “just stretching” can’t really give you all these benefits. It might be because yoga did not originate in the United States, and that could be why it has had a harder time being introduced and used widely in western culture.
But the scientific research and evidence of stress relief from yoga doesn’t lie. “This calming effect happens because of your spine, which is like a channel between your brain and the rest of your body. “Forward folds [which are a common yoga pose]… stretch and create space between the vertebrae in the spine, which is the commander of our autonomic nervous system,” says Savanna Stevens, founder of S3 Yoga.
This system directly affects our response to stress, so folds in yoga are really soothing to the nervous system, mind, and body.” While you’re in a folding pose, you’re also creating space for better circulation to your spinal cord, which further sends a calming signal to your brain, adds Mara Olney, yoga teacher and founder and CEO of LÜM Health Studio . “Forward folds are a quick way to move out of fight-or-flight and into a rest and digest,” she says. (Well + Good)
As you can see, our brain, nervous system, mind, and body are all connected. When we exercise by doing yoga, we are helping all of these at once.
Even my cardiologist, Dr. Huy Phan of Valley Rhythm Heart Specialists, highly recommends people to practice yoga. In my case, my heart rate is too high. It is mostly back to normal with medication, but flare ups can occur when I’m stressed, nervous, or excited. This high heart rate causes my nervous system to panic, because your heart is connected to your nervous system, which runs through and is what allows feeling across your entire body.
It’s basically an exaggeration of symptoms that we all experience when we’re stressed, nervous, or excited: not being able to think clearly, difficulty breathing (when in fact, there is nothing wrong with your respiratory system), feeling hot and sweaty or cold and clammy, nerve pain, tension headaches, stomach aches, and digestive issues.
Yoga is incredible because it soothes and relieves all of these symptoms at once. I also have low blood pressure so I need to intake enough salt, water, and protein as well, but when combined with yoga and rest, I start feeling so much better and more like myself again. It may not work the same way for everyone and their personal health conditions, but it has certainly helped me tons.
Here of some of my best resources for finding wellness through yoga. From instructional workout yoga videos to research and articles, you can find it all here.
Yoga with Adriene is my favorite yoga channel on YouTube. Adriene has hundreds of yoga instructional videos for all levels of yogis.
This virtual option is awesome, because as a beginner, I didn’t want to start at a gym or studio and make a fool of myself. So with these videos, you can practice yoga from the comfort of your own home, or download an episode and take it outside, and build strength and gain practice for when you’re ready to hit the gym or studio classes.
Or if you are like me and always on the go, these are perfect for when you’re short on time and can’t make it to the gym, but you really need to relax or work out, even if you only have five or ten minutes available (see Fill Your Plate’s article, Even Just Some Exercise Each Day Can Lengthen Your Lifetime).
Find more articles on exercise, yoga, wellness, and nutrition on Fill Your Plate’s blog!