The vagus nerve is part of the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) and is found running from the brainstem down through the body to nearly every organ including the heart, lungs, stomach and intestines. Stimulation of the vagus nerve can have a relaxing effect on the body. Yoga has been shown to increase vagal activity and studies have also shown that yoga can decrease levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which may also occur due to increased vagal activity.
Yoga has been shown to have several general effects on the body. Of course yoga can improve balance, flexibility and strength, but it has also been shown to improve weight loss, optimize Body Mass Index (BMI), and waist and hip size. Decreases in blood pressure and exercise-induced heart rate increases can also be seen over time. Additionally, yoga has been shown to improve antioxidant status, meaning individuals who practiced yoga had higher amounts of antioxidants.
From this information alone, one can see how great an impact yoga can have. But there’s more.
Yoga has been shown to lower total and LDL cholesterol levels, and yoga can also decrease episodes of chest pain in those with coronary artery disease, improve cardiovascular endurance in patients with heart failure and decrease C-reactive protein – a marker of inflammation.
Studies have corroborated that yoga, and the involved breath work, can have a positive impact on our lungs. In patients with asthma, yoga has been shown to improve lung function and asthma symptoms while decreasing usage of medication.
Yoga can help lessen the effects of diabetes by decreasing blood sugar in diabetic patients. It can also decrease A1C, which is a marker of average blood glucose over the past 3 months.
One autoimmune disease that has shown benefit from yoga is multiple sclerosis (MS). In a study on individuals with MS, those participating in yoga had significant improvement of fatigue. In another example, yoga has been shown to decrease pain and disability from rheumatoid arthritis, which is an autoimmune arthritis that can affect many joints of the body.
Yoga can have a huge impact on psychological health. Yoga can enhance mindfulness, reduce stress and anxiety and lessen the effects of depression. It can also improve the overall quality of sleep.
Yoga can be beneficial for various types of chronic pain, including low back pain, migraine headaches, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Also, it could be that yoga increases serotonin which can help to reduce pain.
These are just some of the potential benefits of yoga that have been studied. There are a variety of styles of yoga for all body types and mobility levels. Sona can help to modify a practice to maximize benefit and comfort level to match your own specific needs.
Let’s connect now and discuss your own personal yoga practice.