How Yoga Changes Your Brain

Have you ever listened to On Being with Krista Tippett? It's a podcast and it also airs on KUT (NPR) on Sundays at 6:00 a.m. Last week's was an especially great episode. Krista's guest was Neuroscientist Richard Davidson and they discussed one of my favorite subjects - the effects of mindfulness practices on the brain.

Their discussion really got to the heart of how we practice yoga at The Yoga Room: Physical yoga postures for improving physical health AND mindfulness practices that improve mental and spiritual health.

Here are some key nuggets from the episode:

  • The brain continues to develop and change throughout the entire lifespan.

  • With regular mindfulness practice, one is able to pay attention to the sensations in their body and take decisive action, rather than reacting to the emotional aspect of a stressful situation.

  • For best results, one should practice mindfulness "repeatedly." Richard Davidson recommends 10-15 second practices throughout the day.

  • The circuits for thoughts and feelings are intermingled in the brain. Ineffective response to adversity impairs cognitive function and also leads to emotional difficulty.

  • Resilience is the ability to recover from adversity; it is very powerful when one can return to baseline (homeostasis) more quickly.

  • Studies show that with regular mindfulness practice, children can become familiar with the qualities of calm attention, leading to them being able to self-regulate and return to their baseline.

  • Schools and parents should reconsider how they manage behavior issues. Rather than treating inappropriate behavior as a discipline problem that requires punishment, they should teach children how to calm themselves and manage their behavior.

  • Teachers and parents can harness the power of neuroplasticity and help shape children's behavior by modeling kindness. How we treat and react to children affects their brains both functionally and structurally.

  • Children don't listen to what you say, they watch what you do.

  • Time invested in oneself is an investment in those around you.

Modern research is proving that the effects of consistent mindfulness practice are powerful and beneficial for people of all ages. I encourage you to prioritize your physical, mental, and spiritual health by taking a few minutes this evening to schedule your yoga practices on your calendar just like you'd schedule other important appointments.

People often ask me how often they should practice yoga. It's best to practice yoga every day, but if that's not possible, try to practice most days of the week, either in a class at the studio or on your own at home.

And if you want a child in your life to get started with yoga and mindfulness, sign them up for Mindfulness for Kids (starts this Saturday, Feb 23rd) or Yoga for Middle Schoolers (starts Sunday, March 24th).

All the best, see you soon!

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