Did you know that yoga makes you smarter? Well not really, but it does help your brain to work more efficiently. During a typical yoga practice, you will be asked to focus, persevere through uncomfortable or challenging poses, and come into poses that increase the blood flow to your brain. All of these actions help you (and your brain) to become more resilient and a better thinker!

By practicing and learning to focus during yoga class, you will find that it is easier to focus off of the mat. Yes, we have many distractions throughout our daily lives (iPhones, computers, media, etc.), but focus is a skill to be practiced like any other. Some people may find that focusing on a specific task is easy, but for many, including myself, focusing on one thing at a time is a challenge. When in yoga class, you must stay present in the task at hand. If you let your mind wander while balancing in Warrior 3, you will fall down. Trust me, it’s happened on more than one occasion. Just like I practice my balance and flexibility in class, I also practice focus. As much as I want to think about what I’m going to have for dinner, or replay the conversation with my friend over and over in my head, I work hard to keep focused on my breath and my body in that particular moment. Since beginning a regular yoga practice, I find it easier to focus on one thing at a time, staying with the task until it is completed. 

Yoga makes you tougher. Have you ever balanced in tree pose for more than a minute sandwiched in between 20 other students?  If someone had suggested I try that, I would have laughed at them. But having actually done it, I now understand that most everything is possible. The number one limiting factor to many activities is you. We tell ourselves constantly that we’re not smart enough, or fast enough, or in a high enough position to get something done. And that’s not true! If you can stay in chair pose beyond the 3 seconds you were hoping it was actually going to be, you may find that life off of the mat is not as filled with challenges. When you achieve what you once that was impossible in class, what you once thought was impossible in life becomes a possibility. In addition to the physical strength you’ve cultivated you are now mentally tough too!

Inversions such as downward facing dog, legs up the wall, and any pose where you head is below your heart, increase blood flow to your brain. It’s inevitable and controlled by gravity. When you increase the blood flow to the brain, the brain is bathed in an excess of fresh blood, which helps to flush out any waste products that may have built up as a byproduct of your cells doin’ their thing. Inversions also help to increase oxygen flow to the brain, helping to overcome any cobwebs in your thought processes. 

So instead of choosing an activity that only works one thing, why not choose an activity that strengthens your mind and body?