Over the last few years, a very old practice has become the subject of scientific studies: yoga. Positive effects on the brain have begun to be measured, such as anti-stress and anti-depressant effects.
The studies began thanks to the spectacular spread of yoga. Millions of people practice yoga regularly. Positions (asanas) such as the warrior or the cobra are increasingly known among different people and age group. The reasons are mainly that persons want to learn how to relax, how to get rid of several kinds of pain (back, neck, shoulders, etc.) manage stress, and maintain good physical shape.
Traditional yoga (from the Sanskrit “yuga” which means “union”) comes from India and is a discipline more than five thousand years old. An important source of this spiritual school, which should guide us towards the divine, is a writing by Patañjali: Yoga Sutra, which contains the essential foundations of the discipline.
According to this essay, the purpose of yoga is to attain a higher form of self-knowledge, which can be achieved with inner contemplation. In addition to specific physical exercises, and breathing techniques, traditional yoga also includes meditation, a vegetarian diet and an entire philosophy of life. The modern and western form of yoga omits many of these elements. The development of strength and plasticity, meditation and breathing exercises play the most important role today.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, a small group of Indian yoga teachers began to spread the teachings of yoga in the Western world. After the explosion of fitness in the 1980s, which focused above all on the cult of the body, the spiritual part has been lost a little. Therefore, in the Western world mainly hatha yoga began to spread.
The effects of hatha yoga on health are: improving body consciousness and coordination, strengthening muscles and enhancing blood circulation. Moreover, yoga is also beneficial to stress management.
From experience, I can say that after a yoga session I feel relaxed and rested. It takes longer to reach a similar state with meditation, while hatha yoga produces effects immediately, probably thanks to the more marked physical component. It is actually proved that physical exercise is good for your spirit. Perhaps, this is why yoga is a fast-acting cure-all, as it associates physical exercise with meditative practice.
In fact, by associating postures (asanas) with breathing (pranayama), we act on the body by relaxing the muscles, and on the spirit because the sympathetic nervous system (the nervous system that is stimulated when we rest or sleep) is activated.
Yoga allows you to find calm despite the limits imposed by everyday life. With regular practice, even 5 minutes a day is enough, you will sleep better, your self-confidence will increase, as well as your ability to make decisions and manage stress.