How Yoga Makes You Happy

How Yoga Makes You Happy

Yoga has become increasingly popular over the years, becoming the newest workout trend. A lot of people focus on yoga as a form of exercise to increase their energy levels, tone their body, and drop a few pounds, but what most people don’t know is that yoga is beneficial to your mental health too; Yoga can actually make you a happier person!

One reason why yoga is so effective in improving people’s moods is that it creates mindful awareness (moment­by­moment process of actively and openly observing one’s physical, mental, and emotional experiences). Yoga literally means “union” and refers to the mind and body, and creates links between the two through postures, meditation and breathing techniques. This mindfulness throughout your body allows both your body and mind to heal.

A large proportion of the United States population struggles with anxiety and mood disorders, and people generally turn to prescription drugs as a way to decrease their anxiety and/or to regulate their mood. Multiple studies have been conducted that have concluded that yoga has a greater impact on improving anxiety and mood than other forms of exercise. People that suffer with with anxiety and mood disorders tend to have lower levels of of GABA. Yoga produces higher levels of GABA than most other exercises, therefore yoga is an amazing physical activity that chemically improves your mood! On top of improving your mood, there is evidence that yoga has the ability to improve your body’s stress response. Practicing yoga regularly helps increase heart rate variability, which is an indicator of the body’s ability to respond to stress more flexibly.

In addition to increased GABA levels and improved stress response, emotional stability is induced by brain waves that are increased after a yoga session. Scandinavian researchers measured brain wave activity before and after a two­hour yoga class and found that the waves

in the brain that create relaxation (alpha waves) and unconscious memory, dreams and emotion (theta waves) increased significantly. These results indicate that yoga relaxes the brain and allows people to be more in­touch with their subconscious and emotions.

Yoga is a practice that promotes health and self discipline, and has been a very powerful tool in helping people decline in self­destructive patterns. It has inspired people to live healthier lives and has even helped people overcome struggles such as addiction. It’s no secret that yoga has physical benefits but it’s psychological improvements are often overlooked. Timothy McCall, M.D., author of Yoga as Medicine, once said “ Change your posture and change the way you breathe. Change your breathing and you change your nervous system. This is one of the great lessons of yoga: Everything is connected...”

-Julia Weisberger

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