Why does yoga make you feel so good? Any physical activity can elevate your mood and hopefully make you feel better in your body. But yoga has an edge on other types of fitness, doesn’t it? Some research suggests that yoga “tones” the vagus nerve, no that’s not a euphemism…. Good Vagal Tone contributes to better sleep and better digestion. Poor Vagal Tone is associated with depression, post traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain. The Vagus Nerves are the literal “heart strings”, as in, seeing something touching and getting a little teary. It’s function and your mood are inextricably linked. When the vagus nerve is stimulated the heart rate is lower as well as rates of respiration and blood pressure. So many of the benefits that our students report after beginning a yoga practice are right in line with this theory. They sleep better, they feel calmer in stressful situations, their back, hip, neck etc… pain is improved.
Still other studies show that yoga can be useful in treating depression and helping cancer survivors to recover. I myself even participated in planning a study on yoga for smoking cessation. These are just some of the ways that Yoga is applied to the work of maintaining or restoring health. New studies are being released monthly or weekly even. Most often in this research, yoga is compared to other forms of fitness that don’t include the same mindfulness component. It seems that the biggest difference between yoga and a fitness class at the gym may be that you are so tuned in to your body and breath.
Most studies focus on a triad of what Hatha Yoga has to offer: postures, breathing practices and meditation. I think it’s important to note that this stuff, this healing and restoration, is happening inside (no matter what your tree pose looks like). In a very concrete way our nervous system is being changed, our bodies are adapting to healthy range of motion and resistance and our relationships are harmonized little by little. The goal of yoga, since it’s Genesis, has been to relieve or eliminate suffering through greater and greater stages of self awareness, culminating, for some, with transcendent awareness. We all desire better health, more vibrance, youth and harmony. No one yoga pose is a magic bullet and certainly yoga practice can’t deliver all of these things in an immediate or consistent way under just any circumstances. But practice is practice and the results are accumulative. This is both the why and the how as far as I am concerned. It’s both exceedingly complicated and “facepalm” simple. Show up, be present and breathe.
Mandy Ryle is Sound Method’s owner, founder and director. She opened Sound Method in Clocktower Village in 2012 but before that taught yoga classes all over Omaha. She is a mom of three and a voracious reader and consumer of information. Sound Method is a Registered Yoga School of which Mandy is a director. The third class of RYT’s will graduate in summer of 2015. To learn more about Mandy or her classes please visit her blog yoga.mandyryle.com