Yoga has become a popular practice for many, but few realize just how beneficial meditation and yoga can be for your overall health and well-being!
Meditation and yoga have both made their way to the West from ancient Eastern religions. While they are spiritually based, you can choose how you want to incorporate these practices into your life. The medical and psychology fields have done many studies proving the efficacy of both yoga and meditation.
Yoga and Meditation Can Help You to Lose Weight
Many health problems come from being overweight. Internal organs can’t function properly and you can’t move around comfortably to increase serotonin levels. When serotonin levels are low, you feel sluggish and emotionally drained. Even with hot yoga, you don’t lose a lot of calories but you do benefit the body in ways that lead to weight loss.
Yoga has been shown to change your attitude and diet. Meditation allows you to be mindful of your thoughts which allows you to manage past pain and negative beliefs that may be causing overeating. Yoga does tone the body as well so you’ll notice that you become more toned.
Massaging Abdominal Organs
With some yoga poses, you will squeeze your abdominal organs like the liver. For example, in child’s pose, your organs become squished. This holds the blood in one spot until you release the pose. Upon release, the blood releases quickly. This moves any stagnant fluid through, offering you a mini detox.
You will notice a quick jolt of energy but there are wonderful long-term results too. You improve your digestive function which can help your energy levels consistently.
Breathing Relaxes the Nervous System
Breathing is half of what yoga is about. It is our life force and helps you go deeper while you are practicing yoga poses. The deeper you go, the more you release emotional and mental strain. Breathing helps you to truly relax and dictates the pace you go.
This simple and necessary act is what makes yoga such a powerful practice. Breathing also plays a large part in the meditation process. Through deep breathing, you can clear your mind and relax the body further.
Yoga and Meditation Lower Cortisol Levels
Research is finding that yoga techniques calm the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and the sympathetic nervous system. When these systems are over activated, we suffer from health issues that arise from too much anxiety. In more simplistic terms, yoga relaxes you at a cellular level. When we are too stressed, our cortisol levels get too high.
Cortisol is a natural chemical in the body, designed to allow us to run from danger or fight if we have to. It is responsible for the adrenaline that sears through our body and saves us. When there’s too much and it sticks around in the blood, you can suffer from many problems.
Meditation, yoga and breathing calms the parasympathetic nervous system down. They lower cortisol levels that would otherwise be damaging.
Meditation Eases Anxiety and Depression
Meditation helps to balance your mood whether you’re dealing with anxiety, depression, or both. Mindfulness has become a popular buzzword recently. Meditation is actually a part of yoga teacher’s training because they closely intermingle with one another. The same breathing techniques are used and meditation should be practiced after a yoga practice.
Studies have shown that those who suffered from general anxiety disorder became less stressed through a mindfulness-based stress reduction program. There are programs happening like this on the University campus of Harvard because it’s been shown through scientific studies to help people. Symptoms like irritability and insomnia improved through the practice of mindful meditation. Rumination causes us to run off with thoughts that are of no benefit to us. By seeing our thoughts simply as a witness, we gain a better perspective on what they are.
Yoga Helps Relief of Chronic Pain
Studies about chronic pain and yoga have found that it alleviates and reduces pain. Yoga was found to be just as influential in pain reduction as painkillers. Patients reported that they no longer had a problem thinking clearly when they stopped taking painkillers. Yogic breathing helps the mind function more clearly so it was quite an improvement for patients who began doing regular yoga.
For chronic pain like fibromyalgia, a slow, restorative yoga is recommended. There are many varieties of yoga to suit pain and limitation levels.
Yoga Helps Mobility and Flexibility
Yoga not only helps flexibility but it also helps mobility. Mobility is the gauge of how far your joints and all the supporting factors can move. Mobility is what gives us great strength at our core. When you can barely circle your arms, this is a mobility problem. It is associated with joints like the hips, knees, and shoulders. Through yoga, you can gently increase your mobility which is going to allow you to move more effectively even into old age.
Yoga poses stretch and strengthen muscles in the body but they also unblock energy that’s being held in areas. The breathing you incorporate into both yoga and meditation also has health benefits that are largely attributed to reducing stress in the nervous system. The way to maximize these benefits are to practice every day. Studies on these disciplines have found that they are most effective when you make them a part of your life daily.
About the Author: Meera Watts is a yoga teacher, entrepreneur and mom. Her writing on yoga and holistic health has appeared in Elephant Journal, CureJoy, FunTimesGuide, OMtimes and others. She’s also the founder and owner of Siddhi Yoga International, a yoga teacher training school based in Singapore. Siddhi Yoga runs intensive, residential trainings in India (Rishikesh, Goa and Dharamshala), Indonesia (Bali).