The Benefits Of Practising Yoga And Meditation

by Liberty Stembridge, Lifestyle Columnist

Published in Lifestyle and Health on 25th March, 2019

An Introduction To Yoga And Meditation

Both yoga and meditation have been practiced for centuries and in that time spread around the world to become a global phenomenon that has changed lives.

Although you don't have to practice them together, they go hand in hand and so therefore the effects of yoga and meditation are often studied together. Which is why i've compiled some of the most interested or less well-known effects of Yoga and Meditation.

yoga and meditation

Stress Reduction

It's fairly well known that both yoga and meditation can alleviate stress and tension, but do you know how? In multiple studies, yoga and meditation have been found to reduce the secretion of the stress hormone cortisol.

This hormone is an important part of our flight or fight response, but overstimulation and stress can lead to excess cortisol, which ends up having harmful effects on the body.

When we practice yoga or meditation, it signals to our body that we can calm down, and the body responds by reducing the levels of stress hormone in our bodies. As a result we are more relaxed and find ourselves more resilient to future stress too.

Combating Migraines

Migraines are a common affliction, but can seriously derail your day, and even disrupt your life if you have to deal with them regularly.

The typical method of dealing with migraines is to medicate, but for those who either can't take certain medications or don't want to, recent research has found that yoga and meditation may be able to help.

The combination of calm breathing, stretching and reducing stress can actually change the way our brain works and either lighten the effects of a migraine or prevent it altogether.

Reduces Anxiety

For people suffering with severe anxiety, life can become extremely difficult and at some points unbearable, which is why it's important to have a release of some sort.

Medications may help to deal with short term anxiety, but right now there are very few long term solutions. Meditation is a well known technique to deal with anxiety by using the breath and observing anxious thoughts rather than responding to them.

Coupled with yoga, however, it can be a very effective technique, as the physical movement of yoga can help to reduce some of the physical symptoms of anxiety and makes it easier to stay focused. Many studies have shown that yoga and meditation, when practiced regularly, can help to reduce the severity of anxiety disorders and more.

Dealing With Pain

Chronic pain is a persistent problem that a growing number of people face worldwide. It's an umbrella term and can be caused by a variety of different conditions, such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, traumatic injuries or even diabetes.

Unfortunately for many people chronic pain is something they face dealing with for the rest of their life, and managing the symptoms can be tricky. However, more and more research suggests that some of the benefits of yoga and meditation can also be applied to treating chronic pain.

Studies have looked at the applications of yoga and mindfulness for treating everything from osteoarthritis to carpal tunnel syndrome and although it is not known exactly how the treatment works, it is thought that the gentle stretching in yoga coupled with reduction of stress from meditation helps to calm and rehabilitate the body and mind, relieving some of the symptoms of chronic pain.

Reducing Inflammation

Inflammation is your body's normal immune response when under attack or trying to deal with injury. However, when it becomes out of control, it can have devastating effects on the rest of the body - leading to chronic inflammation, which has been linked to heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

yoga postures

Although it is not certain how the relationship works, there seems to be a correlation between practices such as yoga and meditation and a reduction in inflammation. This may be because they help to reduce anxiety and stress, signalling to the body that it can calm down.

Regulates Digestion

Your digestive system is an integral part of your body, and yet we tend to pay very little attention to it until something goes wrong. Good digestive health is important however, and can help to reduce your risk of disease.

Yoga in particular has been found to aid digestion, with many of the ancient yoga poses being centered around stretching or resting the digestive system.

Better Quality Of Life

Yoga and Meditation are becoming increasingly more popular to improve the quality of life for people struggling either with trauma, loss, medical issues or severe stress.

When used in conjunction with other treatments such as therapy and conventional medical treatment. Studies on the elderly found that regular practice of yoga and meditation can help to ease pain, loneliness and anxiety about death or their family. It also helped to create more mobility and build independence.

It goes beyond the elderly too, meditation and yoga are now commonly being used in hospitals to help patients dealing with harsh medical treatments such as chemotherapy or amputation. They can help to bring peace of mind, build confidence and even help ease chemotherapy induced nausea.

Tackles Depression

One of the most popular applications of yoga and meditation has been in the treatment of depression and other mental health problems. Although they are by no means a cure, many studies have shown that yoga and meditation can have a beneficial, uplifting effect for people struggling with symptoms of depression.

benefits of yoga

In particular, in the treatment of negative thinking and low self esteem. Some studies have even found that yoga can help to increase levels of serotonin in the brain, a neurotransmitter that, when lacking, is associated with depression.

Improves Sleep Quality

Poor sleep quality can be extremely detrimental to both the body and mind, and has been associated with high blood pressure, obesity, mental health issues and much more.

Our brains need adequate sleep to function normally, and without it, we can start to go slightly crazy. If you've struggled with your sleep before, you've probably heard of the benefits of meditation in particular. Many guided meditations focus on falling asleep by helping you to wind down, calm your mind and hopefully let go of racing thoughts.

Yoga has also been shown to help improve sleep, in one study, participants that took part in 20 minutes of yoga a day found that they consistently slept better and for longer.

Increases Focus

If you've struggled with lack of concentration or restlessness, you'll know how frustrating it can be.

One surprising application of yoga and meditation it's its ability to improve your concentration by effectively increasing the amount of gray matter in the brain.

Grey matter contains most of the brains neuronal bodies and is associated with a variety of different brain functions, from sight to muscle building. Increasing this grey matter can help you to build up your concentration and may even help you to become a better learner.

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