A new film on UPLIFT, The Science Behind Yoga, interviews a variety of experts to discuss the scientific evidence showing the many benefits of yoga. This, along with other research on yoga and meditation, is good news for yogis to share with their more skeptical friends who often want to see “hard evidence.” As yogis, we have personally experienced and touted the benefits of our practices, and now modern science is reporting significant evidence supporting many of our claims!
Yoga and meditation can help re-shape the brain as well as reduce stress and anxiety
According to neuroscientists, as individuals continue to meditate and engage in meditative body-mind practices such as yoga, the brain actually begins to reshape itself. Studies have shown that yoga and other mindfulness-based practices can reduce stress and anxiety, and improve physical health by activating the parasympathetic nervous system which allows an individual to relax. Over 160 of these studies have shown that meditation had a positive effect on improving anxiety and stress, and research with people who had clinical levels of anxiety found that 90% of those studied experienced significant reductions in their anxiety.
Yoga and meditation can lower blood pressure and boost the immune system
Other studies have shown that yoga and meditation can lower blood pressure and boost the immune system. A regular yoga and meditation practice helps to reduce stress responses in your body, and reduces the inflammatory response to stressors on your body — which may help reduce your chance of stress-related conditions including high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.
Yoga builds strength and flexibility
Many Americans have sedentary jobs or lifestyles which can lead to reduced fitness and flexibility. Office work or spending significant time on our electronic devices can also increase neck and shoulder strain. The physical aspects of yoga focus on stretching, lengthening, and relaxing the muscles, and on building strength and flexibility. Increased strength and flexibility help us with daily movements such lifting a heavy suitcase, bending to pet the dog, or carrying a load of folded laundry up the stairs. And the relaxing aspects of yoga help our bodies feel at ease.
Yoga and meditation can improve our interpersonal relationships
Research also indicates that meditation and other mindfulness practices can improve our interpersonal relationships and increase personal happiness. Both yoga and meditation improve mental focus and provide a general feeling of well-being. A 2012 control study found yoga participants more happy, peaceful, and upbeat in contrast to the control group. We might say that because yoga and meditation practices help people become more comfortable within, they then become easier to get along with, are more pleasant to be around, and that they also find it easier to accept others as they are.
Yoga and meditation can lead to better habits and a healthier lifestyle
Studies also suggest that the mindfulness cultivated by yoga and meditation can lead to better habits and a healthier life style. Yogis and meditators often find that a consistent practice moves them towards releasing habits and patterns of behavior or thinking that no longer serve them; creating room to incorporate new habits, behaviors, ways of thinking, and indeed ways of being that do serve them – helping them lead a life with more joy, meaning, purpose and fulfillment.
Kathy Du Vernet is a certified advanced/experienced yoga teacher (E-RYT 500), yoga therapist (CYT), and Yoga of 12 Step Recovery facilitator with a master’s degree in counseling psychology and three decades of experience in the healing profession and movement arts. Kathy works from a heart centered approach, meeting her students and clients wherever they are on their journey. She is committed to helping people connect to their inner wisdom so that they can explore new and healthier ways of being, and put what they learn from yoga into practice in their everyday lives. To connect with Kathy you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org