Yoga – Why our fast-paced society loves it

Men doing YogaScientists at the National Institutes of Health found that longtime yoga practitioners don’t display the usual age-related declines in the brain’s gray matter. Yogis also had larger volume in several brain regions, including the hippocampus, critical to memory and emotional regulation, and the precuneus and posterior cingulate cortex, involved in attention and self-awareness.

Studies like these bring scientific legitimacy, but they’re not why the ancient discipline has caught on in a frazzled, fast-paced society. “Yoga is a strategy for making people basically happy and able to cope with modern life,” Khalsa said.

This may be the moment to admit that yoga stressed me out. I went on the recommendation of a physical therapist who had healed my injured shoulder after others had failed. When he spoke, I dutifully listened. In the 2.4-square-mile New York City suburb where I live, yoga is abundantly available in storefront studios, community recreation rooms, the continuing education program, and the chain health club. I started there, accompanied by my husband. Classes were packed. People jostled for space like subway commuters. Supple spandex-clad bodies bent, curled, and twisted in ways that defied me. It felt like one more competitive arena where I didn’t measure up. I took refuge in restorative yoga, where I seemed as adept as anyone at splaying across comfortable bolsters and trying not to snore. Meanwhile, my husband learned to stand on his head.

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Men doing Yoga

Anthony Molina, an Army veteran, attends a class at the ASPIRE Center in San Diego, a residential program for veterans struggling to reenter civilian life—many are homeless, suffer from PTSD, or have been addicted to drugs. Molina says yoga has helped him become comfortable with himself and experience more peace.

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