Why Does Yoga Feel So Good?
Tonight I was inspired to punch out a quick post addressing the interesting question of why yoga feels so darn good (at least, for most people). Now, if you’re ticked off because you’re limping after your “Power Yoga” class at Bally’s a few nights ago, or your lost your lunch after a 110 degree “Hot Yoga” class, I am sorry you didn’t come to my class instead. So far, I have a 100% perfect track record of making my students feel safe, de-stressed and happy.
Just what is it that’s going on that gives us that warm, calm, balanced feeling when we finish a yoga class? As a certified yoga instructor who has had to complete reading assignments and written exams, I’ve studied a lot about this, but once I start talking about what I’ve learned, I have trouble stopping. 🙂 I’m repurposing a few parts here of a very well-written article by Dr. Jaime Carlo-Casellas that appeared recently in LA Yoga. He basically describes how one part of our nervous system is stimulated by more energetic exercises (Kriyas) such as Sun Salutations or standing strength poses, and another part of our nervous system is activated in the sitting or supine and meditative poses (Asanas) such as Child’s Pose:
“At the neurobiological level, we know now that the salutary effects of Yoga are attributable to changes in the structure and function of the brain. Theses changes incite the secretion of the neuropeptides of pleasure (“feel-good” hormones)…energetic kriyas activate the sympathetic nervous system-the branch of the nervous system recruited during the fight, flight or freeze response…meditative asanas, in theory, recruit the parasympathetic nervous system – the branch of the nervous system that prompts the rest, relax and digest response.”
Dr. Andrew Weil, one of the few big media entities out there on health that I actually trust, says yoga should not be “looked at only as a very structured form of nonaerobic stretching exercise…In addition to promoting muscular health, yoga has definite beneficial effects on the nervous system. It leads to deep relaxation and is a powerful stress reducer and is used as a relaxation technique.”
That reminds me, it’s time to get off the computer and feel GOOD with some yoga…