The stretching feels awesome, and it’s a great excuse to buy more stuff at Lululemon. But devoted yogis know there’s a lot more to yoga than the fashion and flexibility perks. New research shows the ancient practice triggers deep, almost fundamental shifts in the way your brain functions. And the benefits of those shifts can improve your mood and banish anxiety in remarkable ways.
Happy Genes, Happy Brain
You read a lot about stress and its attendant health hazards (inflammation, disease, poor sleep, and more). But your body has a built-in mechanism to counteract stress. It’s called the “relaxation response,” and yoga is a great way to fire it up, shows a study from Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. Among both novices (eight weeks of practice) and long-time yogis (years of experience), just 15 minutes of yoga-like relaxation techniques was enough to trigger biochemical changes in the brains and cells of the downward doggers. Specifically, yoga enhanced activity among those genes that control energy metabolism, cell function, blood sugar levels, and telomere maintenance. Telomeres, if you’re not familiar with them, are caps on the ends of your chromosomes that protect the important genetic material inside. (An oft-used comparison: Telomeres are like the plastic tips that prevent your shoelaces from fraying.) Lots of research has linked long, healthy telomeres to lower rates of disease and death. So by protecting your telomeres, yoga may help your body ward off sickness and disease, the Harvard-Mass General study suggests. Continue reading >>