I remember being in college and going to my very first yoga class. The instructor was a tall, gangly man wearing microscopic shorts and floating through the room as though he were more spirit than flesh. He didn’t seem to fit into this dense world and I wondered about my ability to engage in this seemingly other-worldly activity. Fast forward a few decades and I have not only taken hundreds of yoga classes, I have taught them, too. As it turns out, there are a lot of down-to-earth benefits of doing yoga. Here are just a few:

  1. Yoga helps your brain grow and maintain function.
    Researchers used MRI scans and other brain imaging technology on regular yoga practitioners and on non-practitioners as well. The brains of the yoga practitioners had thicker cerebral cortex and hippocampal areas, which are responsible for information processing and learning and memory, respectively. In older yoga practitioners, these areas of the brain showed less shrinkage than those of the non-practitioners, indicating that doing yoga regularly can preserve and maintain memory and cognitive skills. (Harvard Health Publishing, 2021)
  2. Yoga Helps With Emotional Regulation
    In addition to all of the benefits we already know about exercise, yoga provides a boost to our moods and a decrease in anxiety. How does it accomplish this miraculous feat? When we do yoga, our brains produce a chemical called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). This neurotransmitter, combined with the lowered stress hormones and increased endorphins from exercise, contributes to a boost in mood and more regulated emotions. (Harvard Health Publishing, 2021)
  3. Yoga helps combat PTSD
    When we do yoga and the body is invited to take longer, deeper breaths, the body’s parasympathetic nervous system is activated, which is known as the ‘rest and digest’ system. The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for a host of processes, not the least of which is the relaxation response. By giving the body an opportunity to relax, individuals with PTSD can better regulate their arousal levels which can even affect their overall experience of intrusive memories. (Harvard Health Publishing, 2021)

This is by no means an exhaustive list of the myriad benefits of yoga. Instead, it is a brief overview of a few powerful benefits to encourage people wanting to take care of their mental health to consider yoga as an addition to their current repertoire.

As always, check with your physician prior to beginning any new exercise routine.

To your mental health,



Harvard Health Publishing. (2021, June 12). Yoga for Better Mental Health. Harvard Medical School.