Facebook23Tweet0Pin0 Submitted by Heather Dunn for Radiance Herbs and MassageIt’s well accepted that a yoga practice supports a calm emotional state and long limber lines to the body. But scientific research has been supporting the ancient understanding that yoga supports a flexible, vital mind, too.Here are three ways a yoga practice supports brain health:Brawny Brain—In a recent study, magnetic resonance imaging of yogis’ brains showed that yoga practice was associated with enlargement of multiple brain areas. These enhanced areas of gray matter are involved with functions such as memory, attentiveness, self-concept, spatial navigation, and stress response. In a particularly interesting note, one of the study’s authors, Chantal Villemure, suggests that the observed improvement in visual cortex size was related to guided visualizations common in yoga practice. The study found these areas of the brain were proportionally larger in those who practiced yoga more often. Keep Your Cool—Yoga’s link with stress reduction is well established. The brain gains are just part of it. When our bodies go into fight-or-flight mode, the adrenal glands secrete the steroid hormone cortisol. Long-term elevated cortisol levels destabilize blood sugar regulation and encourage weight gain. These factors dampen immunity and promote inflammation. Yoga helps prevent all this by reducing the severity and duration of stress responses. Lower inflammation levels, in turn, reduce the risk for chronic inflammatory diseases including arthritis, cardiovascular issues, and Alzheimer’s disease. Communication is Key—One region of the brain beefed up by yoga is the somatosensory cortex, which plays a role in promoting a unified perception in how we experience the body and sensory stimuli. Yoga also increases levels of GABA, a neurotransmitter known to induce relaxation, elevate mood, and lessen anxiety and pain. By helping the body and brain communicate better, yoga can help us stay happy and avoid injuries.If you’re thinking of renewing your yoga practice, or stepping up your game with a new strap, prop, or non-toxic, BPA-free yoga mat, please check out our selection at Radiance. We’ve also got inspiring books and other resources to help you take your yoga, and your brain, to the next level.