Yoga has been linked to neuroplasticity

The healing properties of yoga

Who doesn't know these moments when everything becomes too much for you. Tired, stressed, and in a bad mood, one quarrels with God and the world. And every now and then it happens that - God knows how - you find yourself in a yoga class on such days. Reluctantly, however. Even putting on your yoga clothes becomes an infinitely exhausting act. And these good-humored yogis on site will give you the rest. So just put the lesson behind you, now that you are already there.

The initial mobilization and breathing exercises are carried out half-heartedly. And the first few seconds of the sun salutation feel neither soft nor smooth. And then after the first, the second, or at the latest after the third sun salutation, something happens. Let's call it magic at this point. My breaths become slower, my mind calmer, my body softer. I straighten my back, open my chest, stretch my flanks. The initial frustration gives way to deep gratitude for having found the way to the yoga class to do something good for body and mind.

Effect on the brain

Yoga has a healing effect on body and mind, has been proven by numerous studies in recent years. For example, the renowned brain researcher Richard Davidson used brain scans to determine that experienced monks have the ability to stimulate the left prefrontal cortex (the seat of positive emotions). And the activation of the left lobe of the brain simultaneously reduces the right prefrontal cortex, which in turn is considered to be the seat of negative feelings. Further studies have also shown that these positive changes in the brain are also possible with meditation beginners.

It is no longer a secret that the brain has neuroplasticity. It is, so to speak, able to regenerate and restructure itself. Our brain is adaptable. Synapses, nerve cells but also entire areas of the brain can - depending on their use - be changed. Frequently used circuits are expanded and strengthened, rarely used circuits are reduced. Yoga gives us the tools to change our brain and thus our spirit in a positive way. The more we practice yoga, the better we feel.

Those who suffer from frequent stress and anxiety should know that practicing yoga increases GABA levels in the brain by around 30 percent. As one of the four most important neurotransmitters in the brain, Y-aminobutyric acid alleviates both stress and anxiety. So the feeling of happiness after a yoga class is less due to magic than to complex biochemical processes in the brain. And we have the opportunity to steer this positively for ourselves. Sounds good!

Effect on genes

Another important approach for the thesis that yoga has healing power is epigenetics. So we are not the only product of our genes. The latest research shows that we are in principle able to change on a genetic level. Whether lifestyle, diet or our relationship with the environment - all of this has a major impact on our gene expression.

So did Dr. Perla Kaliman's research team found in a large-scale study that mindfulness and relaxation techniques have a positive effect specifically on the genes that are responsible for immune function, energy metabolism and insulin release. According to Dr. Frank Lipman, a pioneer in the field of integrative and functional medicine, we can turn healthy genes on and disease-causing genes by bathing them in the right environmental factors. So it's worth paying attention to what you eat, think, feel, and do.

Effect on physical pain

According to a study by the John Hopkins University School of Medicine, yoga can improve symptoms and improve mood in arthritis patients. Of the 75 participants who practiced yoga regularly for eight weeks, their physical health improved by 20 percent. These participants reported less pain, more energy, and better mental health.

But yoga is also an excellent remedy for everyday ailments. Whether tense neck muscles, tendinitis, back pain or sports injuries - regular yoga practice often relieves the pain or completely eliminates it.

To take responsibility

So the good news is that we all have the opportunity to actively control our wellbeing. The bad news is we have to take matters into our own hands. Nobody else can do it for us. Another important learning from these studies: It is not the length of a yoga class that determines success, but the regularity of our personal yoga practice.

If you want to deal with this topic in more detail: Yoga Vidya offers a comprehensive list of various scientific studies on yoga and its effects on the human body and mind.