If you’re a regular or even an intermittent yoga practitioner, I’m sure you can come up with a long list of benefits to getting on the mat: reducing stress, gaining a sense of community, improving posture and confidence, toning muscle and promoting general happiness…just to name a few. And we’re always hearing stories about yoga students whose practice has kept them healthy and active well into their life.
But what if scientific research could actually show that yoga can improve your health and lengthen your lifespan? Now there is more than just anecdotal evidence of this, with researchers discovering proof that these practices have an observable, biological effect on the cellular level in your body.
Many of us are familiar with the idea of the fight-or-flight response. It’s the natural, biological reaction that our body has in stressful situations in which we’d ordinarily need to either flee or fight back. During stressful situations, this response kicks in, putting our nervous system into overdrive. But according to recent research published in Plos One, activities such as deep breathing, repeated mantras, and ignoring intrusive thoughts, all components of physical asana practice as well as other meditation techniques, can produce changes in gene expression that exactly counteract the negative effects of the fight-or-flight response.
These gene expression changes were connected to improving energy metabolism, mitochondrial function, insulin secretion, and telomere maintenance, as well as turning off gene expression involved with inflammation. All of this could add up to some major improvements in overall health, lowering blood pressure, fighting cardiovascular disease, and possibly helping to ward off some types of cancer that are exacerbated by stress.
The study showed that the longer you practice these techniques over time, the more pronounced the positive side effects become; the recommended meditation time was twice a day for at least 10 to 20 minutes.
Yoga District offers several meditation classes throughout the week at various locations if you’re interested in exploring this or would like to learn breathing techniques you can try at home. And the next time you run into a yoga skeptic, pass along some of the data and tell them to give it a try sometime.
The diverse family of DC yoga teachers at Yoga District are dedicated to making yoga accessible to everyone through a huge variety of yoga class types, from vinyasa flow to restorative and beyond. Most Yoga District teachers are graduates of Yoga District’s nationally-attended 200 hour teacher training program. All Yoga District classes focus on coordinating breath with body movement to promote flexibility, strength, and peace of mind. We strongly believe in yoga as therapy, so catch one of our classes whenever you need a healthy dose of self-care.
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The Yoga District 200 and 500 hour teacher training certification programs, registered by the Yoga Alliance are unique in their emphasis on diversity of teaching styles studied, personal attention, and trauma sensitive yoga. It's no coincidence that Yoga District is regularly voted the leading studio in the nation's capital, and that most of its classes are taught by graduates of its training program. As a full time yoga school, small group trainings are led up to eight times a year by a dedicated faculty including Jasmine Chehrazi, contributor to the Harvard Karma Yoga Project teacher training, teacher training faculty at George Washington University, Yoga Alliance Standards Committee Advisory Board Member, Yoga Activist Founder, and Yoga Service Council Advisory Board Member. So take your practice and community involvement to the next level by joining a training. There's a reason why our graduates call the training "transformative."
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