Why be mindful? Anyone who has ever sat on a cushion and made the attempt to quiet the mind has questioned the process. Luckily, we have a lot of hard scientific evidence to back up mindfulness and related stress reduction techniques. These techniques are no longer just esoteric concepts handed down from ancient times. Both mindfulness and yoga are now rigorously studied stress-reduction tools.
Here we share ten scientific facts about yoga and meditation:
1. Meditation increases activity in the brain regions used for paying attention and making decisions.
2. Studies of Buddhist monks show that experienced meditators have more activity in the left pre-frontal cortex – the area of the brain associated with positive emotions.
3. Yoga helps tone the para-sympathetic nervous system – the “rest and digest” portion of our nervous system, and tame the “fight or flight” response.
4. Researchers at Harvard Medical School have shown increases in GABA, (an inhibitory neurotransmitter) in meditators. Low levels of GABA are associated with depression and anxiety disorders.
5. Mindfulness and yoga increase interoceptive awareness (the sense of what is going on in one’s body). This sense of where your body is in time and space is sometimes diminished due to stress to traumatic events.
6. Different breathing techniques used in yoga and meditation can help you increase or calm your energy, depending on your needs.
7. Yoga and mediation have been shown to increase melatonin, helping regulate circadian rhythms, sleep and mood.
8. Yoga has been shown to reduce cortisol, a key hormone in the stress response which increases blood pressure, blood sugar, and suppresses the immune system.
9. Yoga and meditation increase alpha brain waves. Alpha brain waves are associated with relaxation and creativity.
10. Yoga and meditation facilitate neuroplasticity, the brains ability to change structurally in response to experience. Through yoga and meditation, individuals can moderate bad habits, and tame obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors.
If your practice is slipping or stalled, or if you’re wondering why you should sit quietly today, it can be helpful to read some of these studies. Alternatively, you can just sit, quiet your mind, gently watch your thoughts, and trust in a wisdom that is non-verbal and non-linear. See what comes up. Let us know.
Take a look at these websites to read more about the science behind mindfulness:
We wish you twenty minutes of mindfulness every day!
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