The science of yoga…

I’ve been practising yoga for a few years. Sometimes with more vigour than others.

I’ve found many benefits and, whilst I am no expert, I’ve practiced enough to realise there’s more to it than stretching and strengthening the body. (Even though that is a great benefit, and has helped my kitesurfing no end).

I had a phase, last year, of at least two hours a day until I overstepped it, inured my shoulder, and had to wind my 40-year old body back in. (Very humbling, and cue staged yoga pose).


Until yesterday I hadn’t been to a yoga class in a year. Intead, I’ve been practising at home on my own. It’s a different style to do this, but I’ve still felt the benefit, and this brings me to an article I read a few weeks ago on ‘the science of yoga’.

It’s to do with stress, brain chemistry, nerve connections, and yoga poses. I’ve distilled a few main points. I hope you find them interesting.

– There are two parts of the brain that play a key role in stress.  The ’emotional’ brain and the ‘logical’ brain.

– The emotional brain is able to initiate a ‘stress response’ via the sympathetic nervous system which culminates in adrenaline and cortisol released in the body.

– The logical brain trys to ‘turn-off’ this stress response and restrain the emotional brain.

– When the stress response is turned off, our parasympathetic nervous system signal is turned on. This relaxes the body.

– As these ‘responses’ and ‘signals’ travel through the body, we can physically manipulate them on or off.

– Every time you concentrate and hold a posture the logical brain is activated. When you bend forwards a relaxation signal is turned on. Done together triggers the logical brain and the relaxation signal at the same time.

– Bending backwards triggers a stress response signal. Contracting a muscle triggers the stress response signal. When we bend backwards and contract our muscles while having to stay still and concentrate on holding a pose, our logical brain is given an extra challenge (in overcoming the stress response signal).

– At the end of a series of yoga postures, the logical brain has had a ‘workout’ and is ‘buzzing’ with activity. You feel mentally calm as it is keeping your emotional brain quiet. With regular practice, it’s possible to rewire nerve connections within the logical brain.

– New circuitry enabling you to control thoughts is then formed. It may be easier to channel thoughts in a direction you want, and not dwell on negative thoughts / experiences. This may be why yoga can have a positive effect on depression / anxiety / stress.

Quite amazing really.

This is the full article here The science of yoga

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