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yoga mental health

Did you know that in as little as ten or fifteen minutes a day you can change the way your brain works? It’s true. By incorporating mindfulness in your day, particularly through the practice of yoga, you can reset your brain, which is just as important as resetting your body.

Considering that eighty percent of doctor visits for stress-related conditions, it’s no wonder they are the third highest health care expenditure in the U.S. The problem is, only three percent of doctors tell patients how to reduce the stress. Maybe this is because doctors’ schedules are jam-packed, leaving no time to talk about stress management. Either way, patients are left to find ways to reduce stress on their own.

According to a new study by Harvard researchers, mind-body practices like yoga and meditation can help increase your relaxation responses and lower the stress hormone, cortisol. When we’re stressed, our bodies react physically by tensing our muscles. When our muscles are tense, we tend to have negative and anxious thoughts. But when we calm our minds, our muscles are relaxed, allowing us to have more positive, inspiring thoughts. Basically, our thoughts and the way we respond to them can alter the chemical makeup of the brain. If you can incorporate yoga and mindfulness into your routine at least three to four times a week, you can essentially rewire your brain.

The Harvard study suggests starting your day with a basic Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskar) yoga sequence as one way to incorporate mindfulness skills into your daily life. While some yoga teachers have their own style, here is a typical approach to doing the pose:

  1. Start standing, hands in prayer at heart center. If you’d like, close your eyes and focus on your breath.
  2. Take 3 to 5 breaths, then inhale and lift hands above head; look up to hands.
  3. On an exhale, open arms out to sides and swan- dive to the floor, folding into legs.
  4. Inhale and step right leg back to Crescent Lunge pose. Letting chest lift, float arms above head. Press hands in prayer. Look up to your hands.
  5. Exhale onto hands and knees, and then inhale into a swayback Cow pose.
  6. Tuck toes under and exhale into Downward Dog. Hold for 5 breaths.
  7. Step right foot forward to Crescent Lunge, then bring left foot to meet right in Standing Forward Bend.
  8. Inhale arms back overhead and exhale hands to heart. Align your knee over your ankle.

Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in negative chatter – either external or your own nagging internal voice. Allow yourself the freedom to just be whenever you get the chance. Your brain will thank you! If you are interested in the powerful mind-body benefits of yoga, visit our yoga page for a full description of therapeutic yoga classes like Mindful Strength and Relax and Restore.

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