By Lorann Lalonde , one of our fantastic accounts and resident yogi

For decades, practitioners have been praising the benefits of yoga. But is meditative yoga just a spiritual journey, or is there more to the practice?

A 2017 immunology study1 concluded, “There is considerable evidence for the effectiveness of mind-body interventions in improving mental and physical health, but the molecular mechanisms of these benefits remain poorly understood.” In other words, meditative practices (like yoga) will improve your health and make you feel better, but how is still a mystery.

We do have some answers. A 2010 study2 found that the hippocampus (learning and memory) developed more gray matter in those who practiced mindfulness-based stress reduction. Another found that yoga reduced the amount of IL-6 in the blood3 and that people who practice yoga produce less IL-6 when stressed. IL-6 is a protein that signals the body’s inflammation response and has been linked to many inflammation-related diseases, including some cancers.

Meditative yoga may also have tangible benefits by reducing cortisol levels (stress hormone), increasing blood flow within the brain4, and influencing the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. That portion of your brain controls the fight or flight response. Meditative yoga causes your HPA to move from fight or flight to rest and digest, lowering your heart rate and blood pressure. Regular practice can teach your body to manage stress without triggering the anxiety of a fight or flight response.

Looking to reduce everyday stress, improve your memory, and get physically and mentally stronger? Yoga may be your scientifically verified answer. Check your community postings or contact the Canadian Yoga Alliance for more information. Namaste!