Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Many Benefits of Yoga

Yoga is a worldwide practice that helps people connect with their body and mind.  Statistic Brain reports that over 15 million Americans practice yoga regularly.    

Malia Bradshaw is one of them.  A certified yoga instructor, writer, and mental health advocate, she is one of the many people relying on the benefits of yoga.  When she started experiencing anxiety attacks she found that yoga not only helped her body, but also her mind.
She says, “I needed a way in which I could move my body, but also calm my anxiety.  Yoga was the perfect combination of a very physically challenging practice, but also a spiritual practice.”

Yoga improves stress and anxiety by slowing down the breathing and heart rates, while also being a significant GABA booster.  Emily Deans, MD, a board certified adult psychiatrist practicing in Massachusetts,  explains GABA neurotransmitters in her article for Psychology Today.  Gamma-aminobutryic acid is a neurotransmitter responsible to cool things off and chill things out.  People who suffer from anxiety and depression have lower levels of GABA present in their cerebrospinal fluid.

Researchers at Boston University Medical School show that higher levels of GABA (measured via MRI)  were found in those who practiced yoga.
Malia agrees that yoga shows significant benefits in her own students.  “I love sharing the healing power of yoga with others. I love feeling how my students' energy changes from when they first walk into class, carrying stresses and worry, to when they leave, peaceful and renewed. I love intuitively coming up with sequences that serve a student's body on that particular day.”

The beautiful thing about yoga is that it evolves as we do, always providing a particular benefit.  
“Yoga is an ever-changing teacher,” Malia explains.  “At every level of your yoga journey, you may find this practice gives you just what you need.”

Natalie Nevins, DO, a board-certified osteopathic family physician and certified Kundalini Yoga instructor in Hollywood, California believes in preventative medicine and practices. She says, “Yoga is a great tool for staying healthy because it is based on similar principles.”  In addition to relieving stress, yoga improves back pain, arthritis, muscle strength, and insomnia.

Maila instructs yoga practice for anxiety on her youtube channel Although she began with DVDs Maila recommends getting into a studio as often as possible.  She says, “It's important to seek the help of a certified instructor, especially if you have previous injuries or pain. I think there's often this false notion that yoga is always safe. It's not. Yoga can be detrimental to the body if not done right, just like with any other type of exercise. But when done with care, it can be incredibly healing. As yoga instructors, we spend hours and hours learning proper alignment and safety and modifications, specifically so we can keep our students safe.”

Beginning a yoga practice is very achievable.  To find a certified teacher or school near you, visit the Yoga Alliance , the largest nonprofit association representing the yoga community.

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