Some of us may wish we could take a magical pill full of fruitful productivity, like the illustrious NZT drug that gave Bradley Cooper a spectacular boost of brain function, energy, and mental aptitude in the movie Limitless—radically enhancing his memory, focus, and adaptability.
But what a lot of people sometimes don’t lend enough credit to, is the weight-bearing components that yoga creates for us. A good yoga session can induce just as good of a high and can be just as effective (plus, way less cumbersome in terms of adverse side effects). Starting your routine first thing in the morning with a stimulating meditation, healthy breakfast, and a good stretch on your mat will not only set the pace for a positive and productive day, but help release all the happy hormones in your body for a long-lasting mood boost.
It’s easy to recognize all the physical benefits yoga has on our fitness and health, but let’s not overlook the noteworthy emotional and cognitive benefits it bestows on our welfare. Without even necessarily breaking a sweat, simple yoga postures, brain-stimulating music, deep breathing exercises, meditations, and relaxation techniques impact the main endocrine glands responsible for the release of happy hormonal chemicals that acknowledge these positive patterns. This bliss effect is due to our biochemistry reacting to these proverbial cure-alls, and can ultimately have a lasting effect on our productivity, creative output, and frame of mind.
A little biology lesson—these peptide guys act as a communication channel between our brain and nervous system. They’re the physiological captain of the ship in terms of handling our emotions and reactions to external stimuli. They manage our fear, anxiety, and stress, as well as our happiness, joy, and pleasure. They are also known for creating a sense of euphoria and can even help with pain management by activating our bodys’ opiate receptors which can create analgesic effects. Scientific research acknowledges that those who practice yoga experience increased endorphin levels post practice—commonly referred to as the ‘yoga high’—as well as reduced levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. These dutiful compounds can easily be attributed to the all-encompassing sense of bliss and tension-relief we usually feel after a yoga session.
This dope hormone and neurotransmitter is most known as the reward and motivational system of the body. Its chemical romance is responsible for passing along signals between all our nerve cells (neurons). Low levels of dopamine can severely impact our physiology and temperament, including our ability to problem solve effectively. This could mean perceiving certain situations or circumstances going on in our life in a negative or pessimistic way, rather than an empowering learning opportunity or personal challenge. According to many natural health forums, a vigorous vinyasa practice, as well as yoga nidra and meditation, can naturally boost our dopamine levels by increasing cardiorespiratory endurance, oxygen secreted to the brain, and blood circulation throughout the body.
This insatiable hormone is produced during sex, orgasm, intimacy, and reproduction—fittingly known as the ‘cuddle hormone’ or the ‘love drug.’ Oxytocin also comes to play during wound healing and management of inflammation, as well as dealing with emotions associated with reducing panic and increasing a sense of trust. It is often related to how we interact with others, and highlights our need for social interaction and genuine human engagement. Through touching, sensing, and socializing we can control our pesky anxiety and even boost our immunity. Studies have identified that yoga students show significant oxytocin levels that promote feelings of love, social bonding, and well-being. This is perhaps why many of us tend to be drawn more to practicing in unison, together in a yoga class, rather than on our own.
Our nerve cells produce this particularly complex neurotransmitter which heavily influences our mood, behavior, and lifestyle habits such as diet and sleep. Low levels of serotonin are most commonly linked to fatigue, depression, lethargy, apathy, insomnia, feelings of worthlessness, and unexplained sadness. A variety of studies show that consistent practice of yoga, meditation, and relaxation amplifies our serotonin levels remarkably. Yoga postures such as inversions, headstands, and forward bends navigate a direct boost of blood flow to the conarium in the brain—therapeutic for increased cognitive thinking and regulating our melatonin and appetite. Serotonin further supports the powerful way yoga can help us kick life’s ass in terms of fostering a healthful dosage of sleep and digestion, while enhancing memory and functionality.
Cheers to getting hooked to natural remedies and a nourishing addiction.