It is scientifically proved by numerous studies that yoga and meditation lower the stress hormone, cortisol. Yoga is not the only form of physical activity that lowers cortisol, sports in general have that power, yet the advantage of yoga over other disciplines is that it also works on mental level. While yoga asanas keep the body fit and flexible, meditation and Pranayama (breathing techniques) quieten the mind and oxygenate the brain. As a result, we are more relaxed, calm and cheerful. If you ever tried Savasana at the end of a yoga practice, you know what I’m talking about. Here are a couple of studies to support that: 1, 2.
We shouldn’t underestimate yoga’s effect on the levels of cortisol, as this hormone is not only making us stressed, but it may also lead to depression. It influences levels of serotonin in our body and low serotonin is directly linked to depression. There are studies which show how practicing yoga lowers symptoms of depression. One study was made on a group of young adults, who participated on 1-hour Iyengar Yoga class per week for the duration of 5 weeks. The results showed that “Subjects who participated in the yoga course demonstrated significant decreases in self-reported symptoms of depression and anxiety. These effects emerged by the middle of the yoga course and were maintained by the end. Changes also were observed in acute mood, with subjects reporting decreased levels of negative mood and fatigue following yoga classes”.