The positive effects of yoga are no secret. The practice of yoga, meditation, and pranayama (breath work) is not a new method of healing. Its teachings began in Northern India over 5,000 years ago and today the benefits and tools of yoga have continued to spread through diverse communities and practitioners around the world.
In my opinion, the best part of yoga asana (the physical practice of yoga) is the "yoga buzz," or the awesome natural high after a great class. It's the afterglow—the feeling of bliss, that sense of floating in the clouds, the flow of energy and light radiating from within you. It's the experience of a completely clear mind and wide-open heart. It's epic.
Yoga buzz is not just a feeling; it's the chemical reactions in the brain that are triggered by yoga and breath work, and there is scientific research to back it up. As yoga has been increasingly popular in Western culture, more attention has been centered on the science behind the peaceful practice. The best part of it all: every lineage of yoga has different effects on the brain. As a wise friend once told me, "all yoga is good yoga."
Yoga buzz is not just a feeling; it's the chemical reactions in the brain that are triggered by yoga and breath work, and there is scientific research to back it up.
At the 2015 annual meeting from the American Pain Association, Dr. M. Catherine Bushnell of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) discussed her findings on how yoga can increase the amount of gray matter (tissues that process information) in the brain, which is the opposite effect that chronic pain has on the brain’s gray matter. More gray matter in the brain can lead to better decision-making, memory, and muscle control. “Some gray matter increases in yogis correspond to duration of yoga practice, which suggests there is a causative link between yoga and gray matter increases,” Dr. Bushnell said.
Another brilliant researcher, Sara Lazar, also found that mindfulness meditation can actually change the structure of the brain to improve learning, assist with memory processes, and maintains a balanced emotional state. Furthermore, existing studies have shown that yoga can alleviate depression, emotional instability, and cognitive functions.
In her marvelous article, 7 Ways Meditation Can Change the Brain, Alice Walton discusses the neurological benefits of yoga and meditation and how it "decreases brain cell volume in the amygdala, which is responsible for fear, anxiety, and stress." Who needs stress and anxiety? Replace negative emotions with a happy, natural high. Yoga makes us feel good physically and emotionally by its power to "boost levels of the feel-good brain chemicals like GABA, serotonin, and dopamine." Happy yogis!
This yoga buzz is accessible to everyone and it's available at any moment. Maintaining a deep awareness of the breath, devoting time to physical movement, and learning to slow down can have lasting effects on the brain. Remember to nurture your most valuable and complex organ, the brain. With patience and practice your yoga buzz can last long after class is over. It's as easy as that. Do yoga and get high on life. Buzz on!