The Physiological Effects of Yoga on the Body and Mind


One of the most common misconceptions about yoga is that yoga is just another form of exercise. In fact, the benefits of yoga extend beyond the physical body. Thanks to modern technology, we can see how regular practice affects the brain by increasing the density of gray matter. How does this happen?

Our brain is basically made up of two types of tissue: 60% white matter and 40% gray matter. Both play an important role in carrying out cognitive activities, but each type of tissue has different functions.

Gray matter consists of brain cells, or neurons. It is responsible for learning, memory, vision, hearing, smell, and touch. It affects muscle control and self-awareness. White matter is a compound whose job it is to connect parts of the brain, allowing different areas to send and receive signals.

In other words, white matter allows the brain to coordinate thoughts and movements. Both gray matter and white matter complement each other, allowing the brain to think, coordinate movements, and interpret the world around it.

Studies based on structural brain scans have shown that a person’s overall intelligence and quality of mental performance is related to the amount of gray matter. Yoga, in which the practices of body control, breathing and concentration are constantly applied, leads to an increase in gray matter density and activation in the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex.

Yoga for relaxation and stress relief works by slowing down the activity of certain parts of the brain during exercise to rest.

This function helps relieve stress, which is localized in two main areas of the brain, the frontal and parietal.

When you feel stressed or are in anxious anticipation, the body produces the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline, which raise your heart rate and blood pressure. Yoga helps reduce stress hormones.

Even a 15-minute daily practice has tangible benefits and can prevent serious conditions such as depression and heart disease.