The joys of yoga

Have you ever noticed a certain ‘glow’ about the people who emerge from yoga studios? For one, their activewear is always en pointe, and their brightly-coloured mats are tucked firmly under one arm. But it’s more their body language that draws the eye; these yogis’ shoulders are thrown back and their heads are held high, their cheeks are flushed and smiles adorn their faces. It is positivity personified; it is the body language of someone who could take on the world.
Well, that’s because these yogis probably feel like they could take on the world, as not only does general physical activity improve the mood, yoga, in particular, is scientifically proven to make you happier.

This applies for any practitioner of yoga if it’s practised regularly enough. Children doing yoga once or twice a week for half an hour at a time will certainly enjoy the mood-enhancing benefits and will be calmer, happier, and more relaxed by the end of each session. A child who does a physical activity such as yoga also has better regulation of their own behaviour and gets along better with peers.

It is common knowledge these days that practising yoga is for the brain as well as for the body; moving makes you feel good because it releases chemicals like endorphins and serotonin that improve your mood. Regular yoga can also have a profound effect on depression, anxiety, ADHD, and can also improve memory, lower stress levels, improve sleep, and boost overall happiness. It doesn’t take long, either – within five minutes of exercise, you can expect that mood-enhancing effect, and how great is that for a child? A natural mood-lifter without the sugar – hooray!

Yoga has also been shown to increase the level of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain, which is a chemical that regulates nerve activity. This is important because yoga is all about the nervous system. When we practise, we are retraining how psychological triggers set off our flight or fight response, allowing us to rewire our sympathetic nervous system and overcome fear. This produces a calming effect, and helps us attempt new things, essentially making us braver human beings. Of course, this confidence boost is invaluable in a child’s development, as it helps them to realise that those scary backbends or handstands are within the realm of their capabilities after all.

Yoga effects change on the mat for benefits off the mat. The time on the mat acts as a resetter for thoughts, emotions, and moods. So if you or your child (or both!) are stressed out, experiencing fluctuations in mood, or are just generally unhappy, then I strongly suggest you hop onto the mat. Because a far happier, calmer, and more relaxed person will step off the mat than the stressed out person who stepped onto it.
Those smiling yogis with their glowing cheeks are proof!


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