Whilst there are many different ways of saluting the sun and chanting ‘om’ these days, rest assured that the true benefit of yoga and meditation practice appears to be in the sheer consistency of these activities, no matter the type.
A recent study published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience found that three months of regular mind-body practice seems to be the sweet spot for seeing major changes at a cellular level of the body.
In particular, according to researchers there a three major areas that consistent yoga practice can supercharge your body:
1. BDNF: The brain’s fertiliser
This little guy gets a lot of attention in research due to its ability to nourish and develop connections between cells in the brain. Low BDNF levels have been associated with anxiety, depression and Alzheimer’s disease, and on a more day-to-day basis, emotional exhaustion and burnout. It’s no surprise then that this particular study found a 3-fold increase in BDNF after 3 months of consistent yoga and meditation!
2. Cortisol: For morning alertness
When the nervous system is in balance, cortisol should peak 30 minutes after waking up, and gradually decline during the day. The study found that morning cortisol increased, which is related to feelings of morning wakefulness and resilience to stress throughout the day. Note that too much cortisol is associated with long term stress, and this occurs when it peaks in the morning but doesn’t dip back down in the afternoon. If you know that you fit more into this category, yoga and meditation can also balance this system once more!
3. Inflammatory markers: the body’s stress protection
It’s easy to overlook the impact of stress on the body until we look at something called inflammatory markers, measurable levels in the blood which indicate the body’s ability to fend off stress. Normal amounts of inflammation can help our body heal cuts and wounds and fight fevers, but too much inflammation is linked to long term health conditions and body aches and pains. Fortunately, just like the other measures, inflammation went down with consistent yoga and meditation practice.
What does all this science mean for you?
The good news is, we don’t need to be a participant in a huge study to get all these amazing benefits. The take-home message was that we need to aim for some kind of mindfulness every day, which could just take the form of a morning meditation practice, perhaps a couple of yoga sessions per week, or a chilled out walk in nature.
The key is to find a regular practice style which suits you. If you’re time poor, look into online yoga classes, where you can access the world’s best teachers in your own lounge room! If you love variety, check out memberships like ClassPass, where you can jump around from studio to studio each session. And if you don’t currently have a regular routine, just start somewhere. Start right now by closing your eyes and feeling the air enter through your nose, exiting out the mouth, and try making your breath out longer than the breath in. Easy! Little mindful changes really can lead to incredible body benefits.