I am sure most of us have heard the word, ‘Mindfulness’ being thrown around. With a growing body of research validating the efficacy of meditative practices on decreasing anxiety, depression, and other health issues, it is no wonder Mindfulness has become the new buzzword.
But what about the regular practice of yoga? Can yoga bring about a state of mindfulness or meditation while practicing yoga?
Why you should take up a regular practice of yoga
In this modern society, stress has become a major factor of many people’s lives. A small amount of stress can be helpful, but when one is constantly in a state of high stress, or high cortisol levels, stress becomes a major contributor toward ill health.
When an individual is stressed, the sympathetic nervous system activates the flight or fight response. This is when the adrenal glands secrete the stress hormone, cortisol.
Over a long period of time in this ‘fight or flight response’, the body experiences a rise in blood sugar which can cause diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
In contrast, the regular practice of meditation and mindfulness helps improve ones mental, physical and emotional health. This is done through calming down the breath and the mind to get the body out of ‘fight or flight’ and into a more ‘rest and digest’ state.
Yoga is very similar, as it encourages deep, slow, rhythmic breathing, which relaxes the nervous system and helps calms the mind.
Sometimes when one commits to sitting down for 15minutes to meditate, it can be quite difficult. This is because stress impact both the mind and body equally. However, by learning to relax the body, the mind begins to follow and vice-versa.
The practice of yoga
Yoga is an ancient practice that combines techniques such as physical postures (asana), breathing (pranayama) and meditation (dhanya) to create an inner sense of balance.
A regular practice of Yoga has been shown to decrease the prolonged fight or flight response to stress. This is one by decreasing ones elevated heart rate, decrease blood pressure to a healthy range, improve sleep quality and even improve the endocrine function by helping balance hormone production and excretion.
Yoga is also a great way to improve your physical fitness. The postures practiced in yoga help improve muscle tone, blood circulation, coordination, pulmonary function, improve mobility and obviously flexibility.
A regular practice yoga has been shown to reduce risk factors that contribute to:
- Cardiovascular Disease
- Insulin Sensitivity
- Glucose Tolerance
- Oxidative Stress
- Cardio-vagal Function
Why yoga improves more than just your physical fitness
Unlike many other forms of exercise, yoga is suitable for everyone. Whatever your specific age or level of fitness, there are variations that work with your own body.
However, unlike many forms of exercise, yoga does more than just improve your physical form. Multiple studies have found mindfulness-based practices such as yoga helps you learn how to slow down your breath, and connect to your body. It teaches you how to slow down your heart rate and breath when you are in a state of perceived stress. Additionally, it helps you get back to a state of rest and digest in a world consumed by stress. As a result, you will find your sleep quality improve and may even find it easier to effectively respond to life’s stressors, rather than let those stressors drown you.
In life, we will all face some sort of adversity. Having the tools to help deal with that adversity will help you overcome those adversities much faster. Yoga is one such tool.
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