Last night I attended a lecture at the Harvard Club in Boston, presented by one of my favorite yoga teacher/scholars, Stephen Cope, the Director of the Institute for Extraordinary Living at Kripalu Center. The subject: the studies his institute has done in conjunction with doctors and researchers at Harvard Medical School to document the short-term and long-term physical, mental and emotional benefits of yoga.
Cope, along with Dr. Sat Bir Khalsa and Dr. Sara Lazar, outlined some of the studies they are currently conducting – including the mental health benefits of yoga in secondary schools; yoga for treating post traumatic stress disorder; and the physical changes to the brain that occur with sustained yoga and/or meditation practice.
A quick summary: yoga is good for your brain! It actually increases the amount of gray matter in certain parts of your brain. It helps improve your concentration, and helps you to process multiple stimuli better (like when you’re driving your car). And it makes you more resilient – better able to handle stress, and better able to bounce back quickly after adversity or trauma. Not just in the short term (how you feel better, more centered after a yoga class) but in the long term (and you will tend to feel better overall, over time).
So, what does this mean? . . . Keep coming to yoga class! It’s good for you!