In my first year of college, I stumbled upon a yoga class held on the school’s basketball court. Yoga was a mysterious, almost cult-like concept 40 years ago. The teacher, dressed in white, looked like Jesus, arrived while a few students waited on the mats. After playing a song on the wooden flute and reading some Haiku poems, he led the class through yoga poses. Even if it were to get off the ground in West, yoga would be a great way to calm my anxious tendencies.
Yoga could be the oldest form of happiness. The figurines that archeologists found in India, which date back to 5,000 years ago, are believed to depict people practicing yoga poses. It is more certain that yoga originated in Northern India’s Indus-Sarasvati civilization around 2,500 years ago as part of Hinduism.
Most people in the West know one type of yoga practice: the asanas. This Sanskrit term means “postures” in Sanskrit. The rich tradition includes pranayama (mindful breath), meditations and chanting. It also includes sutras (yoga philosophy written by Patanjali), kriya, and other ethical principles related to kindness, non-materialism and nonviolence. Yoga has seen many variations over its history. Qi Gong and Tai Chi, hot yoga, and core-power yoga.
More than 36 million people are practicing yoga in the United States today. Most likely, they practice one of the two yoga types derived from Vedic Yoga. These include 12 basic poses with names such as plow and fish, cobra, locust and bow pose. This type of yoga includes metaphorical descriptions of the body’s movements and teaches deep breathing patterns and a focus mindful.
Is this a good practice? Yoga has shown excellent health and happiness benefits over the past decade. It suggests that we should all consider hitting the mat more often.
Yoga has many health benefits.
Yoga is a combination of mind and body. It has many health and happiness benefits.
Yoga is all about bringing awareness to your breath. Also known as “ujjayi pranayama”, the breath of fire is central to the practice. Deep breathing, such as the one used in yoga, activates the vagus nerve. This branch is located at the top end of the spinal cord. It stimulates the activation of vocal apparatus muscles, which move the head, eyes, heart, respiration organs, and stomach. A host of bodily functions are affected by elevated vagal tone, including digestion and immune function.
Slow yoga breathing can be described as contracting the glottis muscles of the throat. This improves your heart’s ability to regulate blood pressure efficiently. There is some evidence that yoga can lower blood pressure.
A recent study randomly assigned 29 participants to a 4-month training program that included respiratory yoga exercises (ujjayi breathe) or stretching. The yoga group experienced improved inspiratory, expiratory, and variability of heartbeats. These are all indicators of improved cardiovascular function. The same effect was not seen with stretching.
A recent study by UC San Diego found that 38 participants in a three-month yoga retreat had a decrease in inflammatory processes. This is an immune response to high blood pressure, diabetes and autoimmune diseases.
These cardiovascular and nervous system changes make yoga a good choice for our health. Regular yoga practice can reduce pain and stiffness by loosening the muscles and connective tissue around the joints. A study found that 75 patients with rheumatoid arthritis were randomly assigned to either an eight-week yoga class or a waiting list. Rheumatoid is a painful condition that causes tender, swollen joints. It affects 54,000,000 Americans annually and costs the $19 billion health care system. Patients who did yoga experienced significant improvements in their physical, mental, and general health. These improvements lasted for nine months.
Other studies have shown that yoga can reduce stress, anxiety and depression. If you do it daily for more than a month, it may be better than traditional medication. It has been shown that yoga can help people overcome their addictions. These findings are why regular yoga practitioners report feeling happier.
Yoga makes us happy.
What makes yoga happier? According to a review, 59 studies involving nearly 2,400 participants showed that yoga might affect heart rate variability and vagus nerve activity. People with higher heart rate variability or vagus nerve activity are more kind and compassionate. This makes for happier lives.
Yoga also changes brain chemistry. Chantal Villemure and colleagues from the National Institutes of Health used magnetic resonance imaging in one study to study gray matter in the brain. This naturally decreases as we age. Researchers found that yoga practitioners experienced less gray matter loss in areas of the cortex associated with the experience of a positive state like joy and happiness.
Yoga has been shown increase activity in the anterior prefrontal cortex and medial prefrontal cortex, brain areas associated with empathy and gratitude. Yoga can help us feel more positive emotions and be more open to others. This is a way yoga can lead to lasting happiness.
Eight years ago, Jaylissa Zheng (I) moved to New York. I was left with many of the same problems that plague us today, including anxiety, insomnia, poor appetite, and despair. My suffering was not alleviated by medication if any. I decided to try yoga and became a yoga instructor. This ancient happiness practice has given me a source of ever-richer resilience. Maybe you can find new meaning in one of the oldest happiness practices of humanity.