Many runners are already aware of the ‘natural’ high they get from stretching their legs, opening up their chest, and releasing those endorphins as they run down the road or along the treadmill.
Exercise doesn’t just benefit your body; it isn’t just about weight loss, muscle toning or cardiovascular improvements. It’s also about your brain.
Exercise for your brain
The chemicals released during exercise stimulate the cells and synapses in your brain too, giving it just as much of a workout as the muscles in your body.
Without going into too much scientific detail, when we exercise, we stimulate glands in our body to release a number of different chemical hormones, which help relieve stress, boost our immune system, and activate our brain.
Hence, the runner’s high. You’ve rejuvenated your brain and it’s ready to work to its full potential.
But is there something better than running?
The cognitive benefits of yoga
A recent study in the Journal of Physical Activity & Health conducted by the University of Illinois analysed the effect of 20 minutes of yoga exercise on the brain, comparing the findings with traditional aerobic types of workout.
The results were startling.
Reviewing the cognitive performance of participants, it became clear that yoga has a superior effect on the brain compared with both running and the typical resting state.
In fact, that runner’s high paled in comparison to the effects of yoga.
Those running and doing typical forms of exercise did not experience much difference in their brain performance than when they tried the test without having done any exercise.
But when they completed the test after 20 minutes of yoga, the results were greatly improved.
Focus at work with yoga
After their yoga session, participants had a superior ability to focus on the tasks in front of them, showing:
- shorter reaction times
- increased accuracy
- better skills processing time
- improved memory recognition
The study focused solely on Hatha yoga – including moves such as downward facing dog, tree pose, and hare pose – but there’s no reason why other forms of yoga won’t have the same effect.
Instead of that afternoon run or lunch break jog on the treadmill, if you’ve got a big meeting at work or an important task to complete, perhaps you should consider a short blast of yoga instead.
Stimulate your mind, focus on the day ahead, and improve your brain power with a quick yoga session. The research suggests that the meditative effect will also carry benefits for your brain throughout the day, indicating that the ‘yoga high’ might last even longer.
So next time you need a mental boost at work, just push your desk to one side, roll out your mat, and practice some downward facing dog!
If you want more help on learning sun salutations for yoga, or would rather stimulate your mind and body away from work, then try one of our numerous yoga classes at Hale Country Club & Spa for some inspiration and performance enhancing techniques.