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Small Moves, Big Changes: How A Little Bit Of Yoga Creates Health and Happiness

What do you think is THE biggest question people have about getting active?


According to David Reichlen, Professor and Director of the Physical Activity at the University of Southern California, it's "how much activity do I need to do" to have a positive effect on my body and mind.


There is a lot of thinking around "what's the point of a 5 minute walk to the shop, it won't make a difference to my wellbeing", because people hear about movement guidelines ("to stay healthy you must move min 150 min/week"), and simply cannot apply them to their own lives.


What's interesting is that even short bursts of activity have a big, big impact on our health. Small activities provide BIG benefits to the body and brain.


The Hadza Tribe Research


Now, sitting is a beautiful thing. It's comfortable. You take the load off your lower body and muscles don't have to work, so it feels comfortable. But the muscles are not active and they are not burning energy, and this can cause cardio-vascular and other chronic illness.


Being excessively sedentary is obviously bad, right?


Here is an interesting piece of research: studies of the Hadza tribe in Tanzania revealed that despite their significant periods of sedentariness (10+ hours/day) they rarely suffer from chronic illnesses. This finding challenged beliefs about the link between sedentary lifestyles and health issues. When researchers dug deeper, they found that the intermittent physical activities of the Hadza, such as bursts of hunting and foraging made a significant difference. Also, the Hadza's sitting practices, often in squatting positions or on the ground, differ from how we sit, and constantly use the muscles of the lower body. 


What can you learn? Short bursts of highly intense activity plus frequent low level muscle activity through squatting or kneeling make a huge difference to your health and quality of life.


The Move Your Mental Health Research


Here's another piece of research, this one focusing on movement and mental health. The Move Your Mental Health report by the John W. Brick Mental Health Foundation showed that 89% of research done between 1990 and 2022 found a positive and significant relationship between physical activity and mental health:


Three to five 30-45-minute moderate to vigorous exercise sessions per week appear to deliver optimal mental health benefits.


Yoga shows strong evidence for reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression.


The more yoga, the higher the positive effect on symptoms but some yoga was significantly better than doing no yoga at all. The effect is also immediate, starting yoga already makes a difference. 


The effects of yoga on our mental health is proven, but why does it make such a difference? 

  • Yoga balances the parasympathetic nervous system and dials down your fight-flight response to stress in your brain. 

  • Yoga increases serotonin and other neurotransmitters, reducing cortisol and improving mood and depression symptoms.

  • Lower cortisol levels through yoga are linked to fewer depressive symptoms.

  • Yoga builds stress resilience, and you lower your reactivity in the brain's stress response system; you also recover better after a stressful situation.

What can you learn? Even a little bit of yoga, whether 10 minutes a day, or one 60 minute group class at Unwind, will make you feel better if you are stressed, anxious and have symptoms of depression.


If the question of "how much activity do I need" leaves you inactive, the answer might be simpler and more accessible than you think. From the Hadza tribe's lifestyle, showing us the unexpected health benefits of intermittent physical activity and different sitting practices, to the conclusive research linking physical activity with mental health improvements, the message is clear: every bit counts.


Movement, especially in the form of yoga, not only benefits your physical health but also significantly improves your mental wellbeing by balancing your nervous system, increasing serotonin levels, reducing cortisol, and building resilience against stress.


So, why wait to see the positive changes you can bring to your life? Start your journey towards a healthier, more balanced life today. Don't underestimate the power of starting small; even a short yoga session can set the foundation for a happier, healthier you.


Sign up for the Unwind Yoga Trial and feel the immediate difference yoga can make in your life.



Sources:

(2) "Move Your Mental Health" Report: https://www.johnwbrickfoundation.org

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