I can still remember the first time I was dragged to a yoga class by my friend Lana.
Lana had a rough couple of years packed with extreme stress that manifested into some difficult physical symptoms. From psoriasis to chronic migraines and severe irregularity, Lana used to tell me all the time how much she struggled with her health—both physically and mentally. Then, she found yoga.
Like so many other testimonies I've heard on the mat, within a few months of a consistent beginner's practice, my very cynical and downtrodden friend was suddenly feeling better than ever.
She was waking up eager to greet the day. Her skin was clearing up. She was even experiencing "business as usual" every single day, which was unheard of in her former years. Plus, because she was eating so well, she felt better all around. She was still experiencing stress but was learning how to handle it so that she no longer held onto it within her body.
It was a yoga miracle.
As a microbiological researcher, I was fascinated by her journey. I've spent my days studying the implicit effects of probiotic bacteria within the human microbiome. I've pored over the studies. I've researched extensive scientific publications about lactobacillus and bifidobacteria and other mysteriously powerful microorganisms found in the ecosystem of the human digestive tract (that's where a great deal of your most influential microbes live).
I know firsthand that our energy levels, how we think and feel each day, the vitality of our skin, and the health of our digestive and immune systems stem from the happenings within the gut environment.
So, imagine my intrigue when here was my once-not-so-healthy friend Lana, clearly suffering from a major imbalance in her gut microbiota, now experiencing the exact same benefits that I'd expect to see in someone with high amounts of diverse and beneficial bacteria within their gut environment simply by implementing a daily yoga practice and adjusting some lifestyle choices.
What was going on? At very least, I knew her gut health was shifting for the better and that yoga—somehow, some way—was an affecting variable.
To better understand how Lana's practice was positively influencing her gut health, I tracked down the latest research to help explain exactly how the healing powers of yoga might be able to improve the health of the gut environment and, thus, lead to happier, healthier days.