There has been growing scientific evidence that yoga can improve overall health, cognitive ability and overcome common mental problems. According to Jonathan Greenberg, PhD at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, practising yoga can help you with eating disorders, depression, anxiety and insomnia. The key to it is – self-control.
More interestingly, Greenberg finds that individuals who have been practising yoga every week, reveal a ‘sense of well-being and self-control,’ which is the key to so many areas. Not surprisingly, one of them is gambling.
Yoga, the 3,000-Year Art Bringing Your ‘A’ Game On
Yoga goes back at least 3,000 years, and while the west has first perceived it with mistrust and even ridicule, there has been piling evidence to suggest that the beneficial effects of this form of meditation are too great to dismiss simply.
A study by the National Institutes of Health as a form of Complementary and Alternative Medicine, yoga pleases a specific emphasis on developing key physical and mental attributes, such as “strength, stability, stamina, concentration and body alignment.” Those, the study claims are interconnected as your body can influence your thought processes and vice versa.
A further meta-analysis in 2016 carried out by Stefan G. Hofmann established that yoga could dissipate the symptoms of anxiety both before and after practice. The real question is, how does this translate into better performance when playing at a casino?
Your Poker Face and Yoga
You have a tell,’ is perhaps the most soul-crushing taunt a player can hear at the poker table. Gambling, like many other activities in life, is a combination of skill, prescience, just the right amount of luck and the ability to self-control.
Some people are inclined to show anxiety and suffer physical symptoms of seemingly mental disease. According to Harvard Medical School, however, practising yoga can modulate the stress response and help you completely mask the symptoms.
Based on research conducted at the University of Utah, yoga can reduce how sensitive an individual is to stress. And while researching the mental effects of yoga on the body, the scientists stumbled upon something different – physical pain depends on how prone to stress an individual is. The more anxious a person, the more inclined to the pain they are, the study showed.
By mastering yoga for the purposes of self-control, however, you can start tackling the problem at a fundamental level and thus never need to cover symptoms in the first place.
Yoga and the Chemical Balance in Your Brain
Participants in gambling activities usually have their brain chemistry altered by specifically changing the balance of amygdala and the mPFC. These two hormones Professor Joseph Kable, of the University of Pennsylvania, argues are responsible for how individuals perceive risk specifically related to the possibility of obtaining a greater financial return.
Kable study showed that the structure of the brain would play a very large part in deciding whether to take a risk and thus identify individuals at a higher risk of addiction. By developing self-control through yoga, however, your natural predisposition for taking unjustified risks can be kept in check.
Surprisingly, a study led by Neha P. Gothe from the University of Illinois showed that experienced yoga practitioners also began to experience structural changes in their hippocampus, thalamus and caudate nucleus, based on MRI scans during the study.
Can Yoga Make You a Winner?
Naturally, the key question that everyone who entertains yoga for the purposes of gambling would be: can the activity shape you as a better player? This solely depends on the type of game you choose to embark on.
For example, diving into games that depend purely on luck more so than on cognitive ability and reasoning would most likely end up poorly for an individual who takes risks. However, there is a whole branch of gambling that is predicated on the ability to stay calm and play focused and without emotion.
Poker, for example, requires a fair deal of understanding the psychology of your opponent. Maria Konnikova, a Harvard University graduate and PhD in psychology, said for the New York Times that psychology was key to winning.
Poker, for example, is a game dominated by men. When she challenges them at the table, men usually misinterpret this as an affront to their masculinity and make poor decisions, Konnikova revealed.
This is precisely the type of mistakes that yoga can help individuals avoid, especially when there is money on the line.
But why do we make poor decisions? The example with Konnikova is clearly one about emotional resilience. A male player has a purely emotional response to a female player challenging him – and statistically holding a better hand. Yet, the response is self-destructive.
One of the upsides of practising yoga is precisely building this emotional fortitude that allows individuals to move through life with a steady hand – whether it’s at the felt or at the workplace.
A study conducted in 2017 also indicated that individuals who engaged in Kundalini yoga exercises for an estimated 12 weeks showed a better emotional response to stressful situations. Not only that, but the group’s memory also improved. This could be another important upside for individuals looking to strengthen their gambling game.
In a word, while gambling relies purely on chance, you will still see plenty of opportunities where your ability to follow the game and memorise hands could have an actual bearing on the outcome of a game.
Developing an appetite for gambling is understandable, but exercising the necessary self-control is another thing you need to focus on as well. Yoga proves the perfect solution to anxious players who often feel pressured into gambling without fully understanding why. This form of meditation guarantees that you will develop the mental fortitude, resilience and ultimately, the complex decision-making that would make you either a successful player or at the very least – happy with your choices.