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We all know that exercise does a body good but what about the brain? Exercise can improve the brain’s cognitive functioning, especially as we get older.

Many times you’ll catch someone doing crossword puzzles or jumping around to their favorite song, but what they don’t know is that they are stimulating the brain while doing it.

Mental (reading and writing) and physical (exercise and movement) activities become important stimulants for brain health. How many times have you seen people affected by a stroke? or alzheimer’s disease. Those are examples of not having good brain health, and can be prevented by doing daily doses of exercise and playing a fun game of scattergories.

The way it works:
Exercise improves the blood flow to the brain and promotes the functions of neurons. Many of these effects take place in the region of the brain that is used for memory and learning.

Hippocampus (responsible for memories and learning)

– Skylaur Morris

(Brain photo, courtesy of google images)

So far – apart from my attempt at the advanced class – one teacher has instructed me along my yoga journey.

She always says that the peace we achieve on our yoga mat, we must carry with us in the real world and not lose the lessons learned to the hustle and bustle in society.

As I sit, legs crossed and arms folded, I feel like Aladdin on my little magic carpet.

Eyes closed, deeply breathing, the class begins today’s restorative undulations for the day.

Remaining cross legged, the class inhales bringing the neck forward and straightening the back. On the exhale, the neck scoops up and the back hollows in a “C” shape.

We repeat for a couple minutes. After my mind and body feel total bliss. It’s a good light stretch that can be done in

On my yoga mat, I feel at peace and remember to focus on attaining a clear mind, but once I step off my 24″ by 68″ rectangle of heaven, I forget that clearing my mind is my main objective.

I wish I could stay on my mat, soar out into the real world, and fly over the world’s chaos that clutters my head.

Yoga high: 0.5

(Courtesy of Stock Xchange.com)

Like most exercise you get back into, the first day is always the easiest.

It’s like the first day back running, easy as pie and the second day is as hard as – well you fill in the blank.

I had to take many deep breaths during first day at Untied , and I looked forward to finally catching it at yoga.

The breath is one of the most important aspects of yoga.

Very often we forget to breathe and it adds to stress. By simply remembering to inhale and exhale – and not hold our breath – stress can exit as quickly as it enters the mind.

In yoga, you are supposed to breathe deeply in and out, holding the breath – both for the inhale and exhale – as long as you can. You’re supposed to feel the breath come in and up the body from the bottom of your belly out the tip of your nostrils.

Concentrating so hard on breathing – a task forgotten in the daily hustle and bustle of life – wipes your mind of other thoughts and helps you focus only on the task at hand – your practice.

I was surprised how quickly just focusing on breathing relieved me. I got high off yoga again for the first time in a long time – I didn’t expect it.

I guess my tolerance has gone down.

Yoga high: 2

(Courtesy of Google images)

I have more conversations with myself than I do other people.

There’s always little chatter going on up in my head and most of the time – especially when I have a million things on my plate – I can’t get the noise up there to just shut up.

The times in my life when I have achieved a sense of mental clarity is when I practiced yoga. As a practitioner off and on since high school – now seven years – I decided this week to go back to yoga.

I have practiced all forms – Bikram (hot room), Ashtanga (mix of heat and flow), Hatha (no heat and stretching), and Vinyasa (no heat and rapid flow).

I have the least amount of experience with Vinyasa and am embarking on my mental journey through this yoga type. It isn’t my favorite (Bikram is), but it’s the only studio within walking distance – I am a carless Californian who recently moved to New York.

I don’t care though. I miss yoga and will take it how I can get it for some mental clarity – that is if I get it.

I’m setting out to practice four to five times a week, writing about my experiences after every class and backing the revelations I find in class with expert advice.

They say yoga clears the mind and reduces stress. There is tons of literature out there to support the healing yoga can provide for women in all walks of life – those working, married, and divorced. Let’s see if it does.

May the Ohm’s, deep breathing, and inverted poses begin. I hope focus and relaxation ensues.

After some classes I get a yoga “high,” so at the end of each blog post I’ll be marking the level of yoga “high” I get on a 1-5 scale.

Let the mind begin to sleep and my body awaken.

Yoga high today: 0. (Hope to be at a five soon!)