Everybody has a different idea about what yoga, meditation and mindfulness is. Indeed, everybody will find different strategies and practices that work (or don’t) for them. Whether you’re already a big fan of mindfulness or are hesitant to jump on the bandwagon; you may be surprised to find out that there are several mental, physical and lifestyle benefits that result from mindfulness practice. If you find yourself overwhelmed by your daily routine or suffer from chronic diseases like depression, anxiety or low blood pressure than check out The Doc’s guide to yoga and meditation to find out just how-mindfulness-can-improve-your-health-and-wellbeing.
Some people consider meditation to be intense mental concentration while others think more along the lines of peace, satisfaction, and zen. However you approach it, it should come down to one goal: to enter a state of thoughtless awareness.
True meditation is a state of profound, deep peace that occurs when the mind is calm and silent, yet completely alert.
For as little as 10 minutes a day meditation can control stress, reduce anxiety, and improve cardiovascular health. Our bodies naturally enter the infamous ‘fight or flight’ response when we are exposed to stress. This response releases hormones into our bodies that increase our blood pressure and heart rate. Meditation is designed to illicit the exact opposite response so that our breathing, blood pressure, and metabolism decrease – and we can relax.
There are lots of different ideas, practices, and techniques involved in the art of yoga. Yoga is a system that recognises the mind as a muscle that needs to be taken care of. Mind, body, and breath are viewed as one. Like meditation, the end goal of yoga is to cultivate an experience of internal peacefulness, and clarity of the mind.
Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self.
Focusing on different postures, breathing exercises and mindfulness practice yoga directly impacts our health and wellbeing. It also makes use of deep breathing which targets the autonomic nervous system. Our brains work better when this system is balanced, which in turn reduces our heart rate and lowers blood pressure.
Yoga and Meditation Come Together With Mindfulness
You have probably heard the term ‘mindfulness’ floating around. While it may seem like some new age-y nonsense it is actually the key to getting the most out of your meditation, and yoga sessions.
Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.
Mindfulness is the idea that the mind is always ‘on’. It is focused on what we’re doing, where we’re going, and what’s happening around us. However, because our minds also have a tendency to jump from topic to topic, obsess over small details or just log out altogether; mindfulness allows us to become present and enjoy the moment we are experiencing.
Meditation and mindfulness are often considered as one of the most effective forms of stress and anxiety reduction.
Practicing mindfulness, meditation, and yoga can be very helpful in improving the cognitive symptoms of depression, stress, anxiety, and other chronic diseases – which often include distorted thinking, difficulty concentrating and forgetfulness.
Focusing on the here and now helps us to become more aware of our negative thoughts, acknowledge them without judgement, and realise that they are not an accurate reflection of us or our reality. This is because we are still experiencing our thoughts and other sensations; but instead of dwelling on them, we are able to watch them come and go. Mindfulness and strengthening your ability to focus is also thought to help improve concentration and memory.
Stay Mindful with The Doc
The best thing about mindfulness (besides the amazing health benefits) is that you can practice it just about anywhere! From eating breakfast, while on your daily commute or taking out the bins. You name it, you can do it AND be mindful. The key is to focus on your sensations – sight, smell, touch, and taste. Bring yourself into the moment, and try not to worry about the past or the future.
Still not sure about mindfulness? Try this beginners mindfulness exercise and see how you feel:
- Sit up straight. Sitting on a chair or crossed legged on the floor, whatever is more comfortable for you.
- Focus on your breathing such as the sensation of air entering your nostrils and flowing out of your mouth or your stomach rising and falling.
- Once you’ve narrowed your focus, slowly expand your focus. Become aware of sounds, sensations and your ideas.
- Consider each thought and sensation without judging it as good or bad. If your mind starts to wonder simply refocus on your breathing and start again.
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