Why You Should Take Up Yoga in 2022

The Scientific Basis for a Mindfulness Practice

By Sari Nisker Fox

Is 2022 the year you become a yogi?  If a desire for inner peace calls you, science gives us more reasons to hit the yoga mat, discovering benefits beyond flexibility and strength. 

Over the past decade, studies have shown that regular doses of yoga and meditation can hugely impact our performance and health. In this time of high stress, science is bringing to light that the more we move and breathe, the more frequent brainwaves light up in our brain’s frontal cortex in the form of what scientists call “gamma” brain waves. These brain waves render a higher cognitive function, increased working memory, and spaciousness for better emotional readiness, clarity, and insightful problem-solving. The findings accompany greater concentration and are enhanced by consistency to up our mental game.

Science recognizes that meditative-based activities, including deep breathing, influence our brain’s ability to respond to life in a more emotionally balanced, rational and consciously discerning way. We can think of emotional regulation as straightening out our circuitry, supporting an override to our flight or fight responses (flip out or sit out response) that take shape in the brain’s amygdala. 

Stressful events trigger sympathetic nervous system activity, one being producing a nuclear factor Kappa (NFK) molecule. With persistent hits of stress, the NFK molecule produces a cellular inflammatory molecule called cytokines. Continuous molecular production like cytokinesis can lead to disease and mental health struggles. 

Scientists in Epigenetics, who study molecule gene activity, are intrigued by mindful-based practices and their effect on manufacturing harmful proteins and molecules. Genomic reviews are beginning to explain that quieter practices anchored in mindfulness can influence the predisposed genes that make us vulnerable to diseases like arthritis, diabetes, depression and cancer from stimuli like stress and can help reduce the production of cytokines and NF-kB. 

Though the exact mechanism is unknown, our ability to have a hand in downregulating our genes is a powerful motivator. 

As a long-time vinyasa yoga practitioner with a family history of cancer, the research makes incorporating slower mindful-based activities in my life a necessity, knowing I can potentially play a role in keeping harmful genes at bay.   These worthy findings provide a gateway for us to consider our approach to mindfulness-based practices. Not only about the style of practice we choose but making the momentary blissful states we are after secondary and perhaps the potentially lasting effects on our being the primary reason to show up. This kinder, long-viewed approach can remind us to release judgement of the quality of our yoga or meditation and look more to put in the time to strengthen our ability to watch our thoughts and gain insights to get better at life instead of just our downward dog. 

Sari Nisker Fox, Toronto-based mama of 2 gals, yoga & mindfulness teacher for almost 20 years, life coach, speaker and entrepreneur. As co-founder of The Yoga Weekend & a wellness advocate, Sari loves building community and inspiring self-care through movement and mindset practices.