What seems like a slow start—breathing deeply, in and out—fires up your prefrontal cortex, the brain’s center for higher thought. You just got smarter: In one study, people scored higher on cognitive tests after 20 minutes of yoga.
The triple threat of breathing, focus, and movement ignites the parasympathetic, or “rest and digest,” nervous system, the antidote to the fight-or-flight stress response.
Your heart also benefits. The effect is so strong that a regular yoga practice can lower your resting heart rate—in and after class.
The adrenal glands ease back on production of the stress hormone cortisol, which has been linked to cravings for fatty foods.
That vagus nerve may also alert your immune system, which releases a stash of immunity-enhancing cells.
Yoga—even just twice a week for a month—can improve your balance (key for cruising through your days uninjured).