Tuesday, February 18th, 2014...1:35 pm

Yogotta Try Yoga

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by KC Whitsett

We all know that exercise is great for your body, but yoga is a unique form of exercise that affects your body and mind in many ways that a simple cardio or strength session doesn’t. This ancient form of exercise is popular for its ability to squash stress, while at the same time energize you both physically and mentally.

Your brain

Yoga practice is deeply tied to incorporating breath with each movement. Inhale reach towards the sky, exhale swan dive, inhale to plank, exhale to chattarunga, inhale cobra, exhale downward dog. This deep breathing activates your prefrontal cortex – the brain’s center for higher thought. Perfect for William & Mary students!

This type of breathing will also allow you to forget everything else that’s going on around you and intensely focus your attention to the present. This tight focus helps quiet your amygdala – your noggin’s emotional center, so that you can recognize and control your emotions. Especially negative ones like fear or anger.

Meanwhile, as with other forms of exercise, GABA or other happy brain chemicals will give you a “runner’s high” feeling to cheer up any gloomy moods.

Hormones

At William & Mary, it’s safe to say that we’ve all experienced stress and the side effects that come with it. After a yoga practice, the adrenal glands reduce the production of cortisol, a common stress hormone. One common association with cortisol is cravings for fatty junk foods, however after a session of yoga, it may be easier to resist these snack temptations.

Immune system

Along with Tuesday snow days in the winter here at the college, also comes the flu and cold season. As well as getting a healthy dose of vitamin C, sleep, and washing your hands, yoga can help you to better fight infections. The vagus nerve, a neural highway in the body that carries messages to all your internal organs, could alert your immune system to release immunity-enhancing cells after a yoga practice. Now if someone sneezes on you in class, no fear! …Although you should still wash your hands ;)

Balance and strength

The number one excuse I hear for people not coming to yoga is “I’m not flexible,” or “I have no coordination or balance.” But you have to start somewhere! Tiger Woods didn’t come out of the womb a star golf player, and same goes for new yoginis… you’ve got to practice (and here at the W&M Rec Center, yoga classes are beginner friendly). Sticking to it will help improve your balance – an essential to staying injury free. And twisting and bending into yoga poses stretch out your muscles, tendons, and connective tissues – another key to injury prevention!

Yoga is offered everyday at the Campus Rec Center – find a class time that works for you and give it a try!

Work Cited: Beil, Laura. “Your Body On… Yoga.” Women’s Health Jan./Feb. 2014: 74. Print.

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