Cortisol is a hormone produced in the body also known as the “fight or flight” hormone. When one is stressed, a message is sent to the brain to flood the body with cortisol. This can be extremely helpful in response to pain from injury. However, high levels of cortisol produced by chronic stress increase cravings for carbohydrates and sweets, creating weight to be gained around the mid-abdominal area.
This fat around the abdominal area is known as visceral fat and it is the hardest kind of fat to lose. Fortunately research has shown that a regular yoga practice can help change this pattern.
In a study conducted by Thomas Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia and the Yoga Research Society, 16 healthy new yogis participated in a 50-minute yoga class every day for seven days. On the day prior to their first class, they were instructed to sit quietly—reading and writing—for 50 minutes.
The subjects' cortisol levels didn't change appreciably during the sitting period; they showed just the normal decrease that usually takes place in the late morning. But when the researchers measured the cortisol levels before and after the yoga class—they discovered a significant decrease after the class.
In the scientific world, results are considered noteworthy only if they can be repeated. This particular study attained a "p value" (a measurement of the probability of attaining the very same outcome in the future) of .001, which means that if the study were performed 100 times, the probability of getting the same result would be 99.9 percent.
Some of the yoga postures that help to which included postures such as Sarvangasana (Shoulderstand), Salabhasana (Locust Pose), Vrksasana (Tree Pose) and Halasana (Plow Pose)—various twisting poses, and of course Savasana (Corpse Pose)