If you’ve ever practiced 10mins YouTube yoga classes, you know that the “feeling good” sensation afterwards is real. It doesn’t really depend on the length nor the intensity of the practice and it’s a different experience from a 10-mins gym workout.
It’s a warm summer afternoon. My dear friend Piia and I are sitting on a wooden bench while our kids are playing in the playground. Piia has been practicing home yoga for some time so we end up talking about it. She asks me: “Why do I feel so good when I practice only 10mins of yoga and how it differs from a gym workout?”
No one has ever asked me that. My brain blanks out for a moment. “Such a good question” I say (to take some time to think). It feels easier to start from the similarities so I start talking about those.
Similarity #1- You connect to your body
Whenever you move (yoga, aerobics, dance, walking), you connect to your body. You’re so used to living from the neck up that most of the time you forget you have an amazing body who tirelessly works for you 24/7. Any form of movement it’s an opportunity to ground down and to reconnect with your body.
Similarity #2 - You release Cortisol
When you’re in a stressful situation, your sympathetic nervous system releases a hormone called Cortisol. This is an automatic mechanism called stress-response. Cortisol has a bad reputation nowadays, but your body actually needs a bit of Cortisol, for example to motivate you. The problem is when Cortisol isn't flushed out of your system and builds up. To flush it out you have to move.
Cavemen used to release the cortisol by fighting or running away from the danger. If you’ve ever watched a wild-life documentary you’ve probably seen gazelles shaking off the stress after being chased by a lion. In modern life, you can’t fight your colleague because he/she got the promotion you wanted so you keep accumulating stress. The only way to shake off the excess Cortisol in your body and to complete the stress response mechanism is through movement. So shake it up, if you can!
Back to the wooden bench...after talking Piia through the similarities I feel more confident and ready to reveal the benefits of yoga vs the gym workout. So I continue.
Benefit of yoga #1 - Connecting to your breath
The main difference between yoga and any other form of movement is the breath. No breath, no yoga! Calm, steady breath from your nose and in coordination with the movement stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system, also called the rest & digest system. This is the part of your nervous system that repairs, restores and renews all the cells in your body. Your brain is in constant dialogue with your body through the breath. When your breath is calm and steady, your brain thinks “I’m safe” and it opens the gate to the relaxation response.
Benefit of yoga #2 - Training your mindfulness “muscle”
Yoga is a mindful movement practice. I’m sure you’ve heard your yoga teacher say something like “be in the present moment”, “put your day thus far on a side and be in the here and now”. All those remainders help you to develop your mindfulness “muscle”. Like training a puppy, during a yoga practice you train your mind to come back to the present moment over and over again. This return to the here and now is both downgrading your brain waves to a relaxed / reflecting state (alpha waves) and it also releases serotonin, the “feeling good” hormone.
Benefit of yoga #3 - Giving you the opportunity to let go
Savasana (or dead body pose) is probably everyone’s favourite yoga pose! There is something magical about lying on the floor after a yoga practice. It’s almost like during the practice you’ve prepared a delicious healthy juice and in savasana you allow your body to “drink” all that goodness and to nourish your body, mind and soul. Ahhhhh! Yoga is the only practice I know that has a moment of complete stillness at the end to really give your body and mind a chance to let go, to integrate, to absorb all the benefits of the movement.
“And this is my take on the benefits of yoga vs a gym workout” I conclude. Piia looks convinced. The kids come towards us all wet and full of sand. It’s time to go back to reality, bye bye yoga-land.
I hope this article was helpful and opened a new perspective for you. Now, I would love to hear from you! How often do you move your body?
Leave a comment below.
Until the next time…
Be WILD, be YOU!