Mind-body fitness programs such as yoga and meditation improve overall quality of life. These techniques are found beneficial in holistic healing of a multitude of different ailments and conditions by preventing, reducing or alleviating physiological, emotional and spiritual pain, suffering or limitations.
Meditation and Yoga
Yoga is a holistic approach to health and well-being. The word “yoga” means union, which involves a combination of muscular activity with mindful focus and attention on awareness of breath, energy and self. It comprises physical postures (asanas), breathing exercises (pranayama), meditation (dhyana), lifestyle and diet changes, visualization and the use of sound, among many others techniques.
Besides, slowing down breathing, yogic practices: i) decrease systolic and diastolic blood pressure; ii) reduce mean arterial pressure; iii) lower cortisol levels; iv) improve melatonin levels, and v) increase blood flow to the intestines and vital organs, which is vital for optimal functioning of the immune system.
Therefore, sustained practice of yoga:
- Enhances muscular strength and body flexibility,
- Improves respiratory and cardiovascular function,
- Promotes recovery from addiction,
- Improves sleep patterns;
- Reduces stress, anxiety, depression, and chronic pain
- Facilitates human characteristics of friendliness and compassion
- Boosts greater self-control and a sense of calmness
As, physical postures and breathing exercises prepare the mind and body for meditation and spiritual development, with regular practice of yoga, you not only improve your life force energy but also start living a more fulfilled life.
Yoga and Meditation to Cope with Stress
In today’s fast paced, sensory overloaded, stressful lifestyle mental health problems (such as depression, anxiety and insomnia) have become common ailments. Research suggests that constant stress has a negative impact on the immune system and prolonged exposure increases susceptibility to many other chronic illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, and stroke. Thus, there is an urgent need to learn techniques for effective management of chronic or long-term stress in everyday life.
Proactive handling of stress alleviates the constant activation of the endocrine system, which helps in leading a better quality of life even during periods of stress. Numerous research studies suggest that the calming and restorative effect of sustained yogic practices produce various genetic and molecular effects in the body, which help in reducing levels of pro-inflammatory molecules and promote faster recovery from a stressful situation.
Yoga to Reduce Anxiety
Therapeutic yoga provides therapeutic benefits in depression, stress, and anxiety. It comprises meditative exercises that involve relaxation and concentration, a focus on the breath, and gradual and purposeful movement. It is viewed as a holistic stress management technique, as it encourages individual to relax, slow down the breath and focus on the present moment, this process shifts the balance from the sympathetic nervous system (“flight-or-fight response) to the parasympathetic system (relaxation response).
In this relaxed state, meditation (a concentrated focus) cultivates an emotional stability, where you experience intense emotions fully but can still maintain perspective on them. This experience of emotional stability allows you to gain greater insight and understanding of your own thoughts, feelings, and actions; which in turn make you feel more confident and in control of your life.
Research evidence suggest that meditation reduces the grey-matter density in the areas of brain that are related with anxiety and stress, as meditators were able to attend “moment-to-moment” stream of stimuli and were less likely to ‘get stuck’ on any one stimulus. Besides this, it also simultaneously increases the grey-matter concentration in the areas of brain involved in regulation of emotions, which leads to better acceptance of self and life’s situations. Several studies also explain that meditative state provides therapeutic benefits by positively influencing metabolism, endocrine system, central nervous system, and autonomic nervous system.