The Psychological Benefits of Yoga
For decades, creating and maintaining awareness towards the human breath is at the core of yoga’s foundation. “Ujjayi Pranayama” is a Sanskrit yogic respiratory exercise and phrase which translates into the Breath of Victory or Victorious Breath in English. To practice this exercise, keep your mouth closed during the full sequence time. Drop the tension from the mouth, teeth, jaw, and neck to focus on the flow in your throat as you deeply inhale and exhale. Types of deep breathing, like this technique, create a mind-body relationship that is extremely beneficial to improving individual’s mental states.
Yoga has a positive effective on not only the brain structure but brain function as well. Regular yogic habits that include deep breathing and meditation has profound effects on:
- the hippocampus (related to memory processing),
- amygdala (related to the flight or fight response),
- areas in the prefrontal cortex (related to attentional processes).
Studies have shown that the left hippocampus tends to be significantly larger in those who practice yoga than those who do not partake in those said exercises. An enlarged hippocampus allows for the enhancement of memory retention. Additionally, the increase blood flow in the prefrontal cortex suggest individuals still notice negative stimuli but are less affected by it (PubMed Central). Yoga provides space for the mind to relax while strengthening the brains functionality.
Meditation and breathing sequences can relieve chronic stress and loosen up tight muscles in hopes to reduce cramping and aching. From a psychological perspective, yogic practices instill a greater sense of self while doing so in a relaxing and judgement free environment. Yoga can also be used as an alternative method for medicine that treats anxiety, depression, and stress in conjugation with other methods such as medical and talk therapy.