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What kind of exercise is best for your gut and your brain?

We humans evolved as a species that walks, runs, climbs trees and hills, and uses a variety of muscles all the time. Now we’ve grown a bit too fond of elevators, escalators, cars and dishwashers! So we tend to use our muscles less than ever.

Every muscle of the body needs to be used frequently, because muscles grow and maintain or gain strength only in response to being challenged. It’s important to exercise, but not to over-exercise, because knees, hips, and joints will eventually get damaged—particularly if you continue to exercise when you feel pain.

Yoga is a great solution to this problem – it works all the muscles in the body, but gently. The combination of breathing exercises and awareness practice, along with gentle poses, works to alleviate depression and boost healthy gut function.

Think of your yoga practice as a massage for your internal organs. If you’re dealing with serious gut issues, gentle yoga poses and deep breathing are a great way to relax the gut, and keep your insides healthy.

Yoga also helps to detox your gut. Twisting postures can help to enhance your digestion and encourage your liver and kidneys to flush out toxins. Yoga can also help with bloating, increasing the amount of oxygen to the area and also helps to make your tummy feel more toned.

Gentle Hatha Yoga is wonderful for digestion. Take it at your own speed and don’t force or overly exert yourself, which can lead to injury. Yoga is all about paying attention to your own body, and moving at your own speed. If you’re competitive in yoga this can lead to anxiety, which is not great for gut health!

Studies have shown that yoga and deep breathing can be more effective for depression than drugs. And because of the gut-brain connection, if it’s effective on for depression, it’s going to help with your IBS as well! Doing Yoga and deep breathing exercises just twice a week can lift major depression. With antidepressant drugs failing in half of all cases, it’s an effective alternative that really does work, say the scientists.

Researchers at the Boston University Medical Center in the US tested the yoga and deep breathing approach on a group of people diagnosed with a major depressive disorder. They discovered that the exercises ‘significantly’ reduced symptoms of chronic depression. Some of the subjects had never taken antidepressants, but others were still taking the drugs, even though they weren’t helping.

Both groups reported a major lifting of their symptoms, although those who attended three lessons fared slightly better. Even so, two sessions had a big effect, and may be more realistic for people with busy lives, say the researchers. Yoga is a new way to treat depression, the study authors say, as it focuses on different neural pathways.

You don’t have to invest in expensive kit or even sign up for a class to start practicing yoga – there are wonderful videos on youtube that allow you to develop your yoga practice gradually, in the privacy of your own home. I particularly love “Yoga with Adriene” – it’s free, and she walks you through a lovely 30-day yoga experience. Check it out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oBu-pQG6sTY&t=3s.

Yoga practiced outdoors can give the added benefits for the immune system, as you inhale the phytochemicals produced by trees around you. So get that yoga mat out, and get moving!

Questions? Talk to a Nutritional Therapist on live chat!

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