How Yoga and Meditation Can Change Your Life

How Yoga and Meditation Can Change Your Life

To understand the importance of Yoga and Meditation, it is crucial to firstly understand the importance of synchronization between the mind, body and soul.

The connection between those 3 important elements means our wellness not only comes from our physical health, but from mental and spiritual health as well. To be “healthy”, we must strive to find a healthy equilibrium between those three elements in our day to day lives.

The main ideologies behind the mind, body, soul connection is that we are more than just our thoughts. We are also our physical (bodies), emotions and our spirituality. These three combine to help us understand our identity, determine our physical wellness, understanding our true purpose by connecting to ourselves through mindful and physical practices.

Traditionally, in western society, a separation has been made between the mind, body and soul. Practices such as Yoga and Meditation help reconnect those pieces together to ensure a balanced and prosperous living. 

 

So what is yoga and meditation and what are there similarities you ask?

 

As stated by (Qi Yoga Life 2020), Yoga is a systematic practice of physical exercise, breath control, relaxation and positive reinforcement aimed at developing harmony in mind, body and spirit. The practice includes low impact physical activity, postures, breathing control also known as pranayama which makes it a form of meditation. 


Meditation involves similar practices and focuses on awakening of the inner consciousness. The word “meditation” is derived from the latin “meditari” which means to engage in contemplation or reflection. Manocha (2001), describe meditation as a discrete and well defined experience of thoughtless awareness or mental silence.

Meditation focuses of awakening the inner consciousness through thoughtless awareness and silence

 

To help understand meditation and yogas powers further, Lenoff (2016) describes the similarities by describing Yoga is a physical art and Meditation is an awakening of the inner consciousness, but both practices bring clarity and positivity. Not to mention all the wonderful physical benefits!

Yoga focuses on flexibility, improvement of posture and breathing control increases your flexibility, improves your balance and lowering their low density cholesterol by 12 points. A recent study by the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology (2018) also shows yoga reduces the risk of heart disease as much as convention exercise. 

Yoga focuses on flexibility and breathing control whilst positively affecting and relaxation response

 

Meditation shares similarities with Yoga’s physical benefits; with studies showing daily meditation practice can improve blood circulation: helping maintain a healthy heart to avoid risk factors of heart disease. Lazar S (2018) from the Psychosomatic Medicine, a trust health publication has published a study that proves regular meditation lowers the amount of lipid peroxide than non meditators. Lipid peroxide is a harmful compound that hardens the arteries and causes atherosclerosis.

The physical benefits of Yoga are fruitful but the boundless benefits do not stop there! Their is a constant misconception about Yoga in the western world which Paramahanse Yoganada, a pioneer of the practice who brought Yoga to the western world quotes “Many think of Yoga as just physical exercise-the postures that have gained widespread popularity in recent decades- but these are actually only the most superficial aspects of this profound science of unfolding the infinite potential of the human mind and soul”.

A study published in the (Frontiers in Human Neuroscience) 2015, uses an MRI of the brain to show Yoga protects the brain from the decline in gray matter: the side of the brain associated with positive emotions and relaxation response. The results highlighted the neuroprotective effect of yoga found in brain imaging studies: 50 year old meditators have the same gray matter volume as 25 year olds! These changes have taken as little as 4-8 weeks with improvements including increased ability for learning, memory, cognition and emotional regulation which reduces anxiety and negative thinking. 

A form of meditation known as “Mindfulness Meditation” has also indicated similar improvements in cognitive function. In a University of Wisconsin study (2003), participants were randomly assigned to one of two groups. The experimental group, with 25 subjects received training in Mindfulness meditation from Jon Kabat-Zinn; A popular Author of books on stress reduction.

 

Meditation helps improve cognitive function and removing anxiety. The practice crucially improves emotion regulation to help remove of poor habits and maintain a peace of mind

The meditation group showed an increase of activity in the left part of the frontal region in the brain; showing improvements in cognitive function whilst lowering anxiety to achieve a more positive emotional state. These results were also mirrored in another study with Jerdczak et al. (1986), reporting that months of practice in meditation showed higher performance on non verbal intelligence tests in cognitive ability including short and long term memory.

Meditation and Yoga are also proven to dissolve habitual patterns of perception. A Study by Hussain and Bhusan (2010) writing for the Psychology of Meditation and Health explains Humans are governed by rigid and fixed patterns of thinking, with many being unhealthy causing neurotive and physiological issues. Most of these unhealthy patterns are due to the inability to control emotions. The detachment aspect that Meditation and Yoga brings through controlled breathing and clarity of mind allows an individual to detach from negative emotions and thoughts; identifying unhealthy patterns of behaviour and replacing them with new ones

As described, that deep meditative state allows each individual to connect within their inner self to manifest a more positive outcome through the cleansing of older behaviours that no longer serve you, in order to plant the seed for new ideas to blossom.

 

Both Yoga and Meditation share the importance of breathing consciously. Often described as a "state of vastness, calmness and joy"

 

Both Yoga and meditation focus on the importance of the spiritual aspect of each practice. As described in an article by Williams (2016), being connected spiritually is not only essential for our sanity but is also essential in order to manifest our dreams and true desires. Yoga and Meditation focus on breathwork in order to reach that meditative state. This state is often described as a “state of vastness, calmness and joy”. Learning to breathe consciously and with awareness is a valuable tool in restoring balance in the mind, body and spirit- very useful in times of stress and anxiety.

In other words, controlled breathing practices through meditation and yoga allows for greater control of emotions; improving focus and living more in the present moment rather than dwelling on the past or worrying about the future.

The art of breathwork is often described through meditation and Yoga practitioners as spiritual. The focus on breathing techniques allows you to move beyond your mind, body and soul and connect with your core self. Both Meditation (physical postures) or meditation (cross legged/lying down) focus on using breathing to absorb positive energy and exhale to remove daily stresses. As described by DR Sheila Patel, a highly regarded family physician specializing in yoga and meditation, slow deep breaths triggers the Parasympathetic Nervous system; The part of your nervous system designed to conserve energy, decrease your heart rate and increase blood flow to the digestive tract, making you feel safe and mellow. 


However as Patel again describes, the power of breathing increases your air intake inducing changes in your body's chemistry. This heavily oxygenates the blood and carbon dioxide levels drop which creates a powerful altered state of consciousness! Whilst these states alter based on the individual, they are often deeply healing and therapeutic as they process repressed emotions and traumas, confronting addictions and problematic behaviors. Many regular practicers of Yoga and Meditation describe life changing experiences as not uncommon. Talk about powerful!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reference List

QiYoga (2020), All About Yoga, QiYoga Life

https://qiyoga.life/yoga/


Manocha. R (2001), Why Meditation, Australian Family Physician, Research Gate

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/12189441_Why_meditation


Lenoff. M (2016), Similarities Between Yoga and Meditation, Known Success

https://www.knownsuccess.com/2016/09/21/similarities-between-yoga-and-meditation/


Chu.P and Gotink.R and Yeh.G (2014), Yoga has Potential to Reduce Risk Factors of Cardiovascular Disease, European Society of Cardiology, Science Daily

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/12/141215203049.htm


Lazar.S (2018) , Meditation: The Brain Reveals That Different Types May Have Some Different Benefits, American Psychosomatic Society

https://psychosomatic.org/news-release/meditation-the-brain-reveals-that-different-types-may-have-some-different-benefits/


Gard.T and Taquet.M and Dixit.R and Holzel.B and Dickerson.B and Lazar.S (2015), Greater Widespread Functional Connectivity of the Caudate in Older Adults Who Practive Kripalu Yoga and Vispassana Meditation Than in Controls, Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnhum.2015.00137/full


University of Wisconsin (2003), Sustained Changes in the Brain and Immune Function After Meditation, Science Daily

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/02/030204074125.htm


Hussain.D and Bhushan.B (2010), Psychology of Meditation and Health: Present Status and Future Directions, International Journal of Psycholohy and Psychological Therapy

https://www.ijpsy.com/volumen10/num3/273/psychology-of-meditation-andhealth-present-EN.pd


Williams.C (2016), The Benefits of Being Connected, Seed of Life Acupuncture.

http://seedoflifeacupuncture.com/blog/2016/6/9/the-benefits-of-being-connected


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