Despite popular belief, being a health nut is not a prerequisite to practice yoga. Neither is being flexible or thin but I’ll save that soap box for another blog! However, from the “outside” it can seem like an awful lot of people who practice yoga do health nutty things like drink green juice and carry reusable shopping bags. It’s easy to see how this myth got started. Truth is, you could eat Coco Puffs for breakfast and pizza for dinner every day and still reap all the benefits of yoga just fine. The thing is, yoga is kind of a gateway “drug.” Let me explain.
Yoga is different from a most other exercises. This centuries old practice that combines physical postures with controlled breathing affects the brain in some pretty powerful ways. Research has shown that a regular practice can increase the grey matter in our brains, primarily the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus regions. Yoga can also reduce blood levels of cortisol and adrenaline while increasing the amount a “happy” chemicals like endorphins, oxytocin, norepinephrine, and dopamine leading to feelings of contentment, happiness, and euphoria. The increase in grey matter, among many other things, helps us tune into our senses and with greater discernment.
So when you come out of your yoga class or home practice with your brain on fire with feel-good neurotransmitters and those regions of your brain all lit up like glow-bugs, you might find yourself easily coming up with things you want to do or eat that are more intuitive than impulsive or routine.
Every time I come back to yoga after a period of time without I always notice this tendency. I can’t help it! It’s like being high (not that I would know, wink) and you’re riding a wave of contented happiness looking for the next thing to do that might help sustain this feeling. Next thing you know you’re drinking that green juice and it doesn’t taste gross!
After coming back to yoga after months of neglecting my home practice I find myself drinking less coffee– something I’m not quit ready to come to grips with– spending time cooking meals instead of just eating whatever is close and easy, I’ve even subscribed to an environmentally conscious grocery delivery service and started a compost bin on my tiny apartment balcony! These are all things that before I came back to the mat I thought I didn’t have time for or was too tired to think about! I was only starting yoga again to bring more movement into my life, I was only looking to make a single change and it snowballed into a health-nutty mission to take better care of myself and my world. Again, I cannot stress enough that this is not what was intending; guys, it just happens.
Yoga is a catalyst for improving health, especially when it’s practiced regularly. There are so many long-lasting benefits that can be reaped for even a small investment in time. My challenge to you is to give it a solid try. At least 20 minutes of yoga 3 times a week for a month. That’s only an hour per week! Try it, see how you feel and let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear from you!
If you’d like to have a fully personalized yoga practice that you can take home and grow with, send me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org