What Are the Mental Benefits of Yoga and Meditation?
It’s long been acknowledged that yoga and meditation are ‘good for us’ but in truth it’s often hard to know what that means. Many people tend to wave off yoga and meditation as fads, overly spiritual, or perhaps they think yoga is just for hippies and svelte young influencers. The truth is both of these practices are ages old and they have lasted for a reason – they work wonders on your body and your mind — and science proves it!
Here are some of the mental benefits of both yoga and meditation.
Reduces Stress and Anxiety, Increases Happiness!
Science supports the link between physical activity and the release of happy chemicals in the brain; gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), dopamine, oxytocin and serotonin all get released when you do exercise, but some exercises can stress your body in other ways. Not yoga! Yoga comes in many forms, so no matter what kind of shape you’re in you can find the yoga for you. As you stretch and really enjoy the use of your body through yoga, your brain will release those rewarding chemicals leaving you feeling more creative and energetic, and much less stressed and anxious.
Meditation tackles stress and anxiety in a different way. Through mindfulness and focus, your mind naturally combats the inflammation that occurs when the stress hormone, cortisol, is released in your system. As you focus on the things in your life that make you stressed, you find you can set many of these complications to the side of your mind; it’s not denial or distraction – it’s awareness of the problem that allows you to let go of what you cannot control. Of course, there are many kinds of mediation, with many kinds of approaches and ideal outcomes. Meditation is a real challenge, however, so a good way to begin is with some guidance and with Asheville Wellness Tours we can bring Guided Group Meditation to you.
Meditation is one of the best practices to improve your self-awareness. As you make time for yourself, creating space to really focus on your breathing and your thoughts you’ll find you develop a stronger understanding of who you are. This includes all your strengths and weaknesses. As your self-knowledge increases you’ll find your confidence growing too, as well as your ability to relate to others.
Yoga has a similar effect on your self-awareness. Not only does it help release happy hormones, it also helps decrease cortisol levels, lowering your anxiety, and as you practice yoga the hippocampus and the somatosensory cortex in your brain increase in size. These parts of the brain control anxiety and your awareness of your body. Yoga also helps you focus – something you need in order to hold those challenging balances! The parts of your brain that promote focus also ground you in your sense of self. So more yoga = more self-awareness!
Promotes Emotional Health and Improved R&R
Meditation can lead to a more positive outlook on life. This relates directly to the way it reduces your stress levels as stress can be one of the biggest contributors to depression. Thus more meditation leads to greater emotional wellbeing.
Additionally, yoga with its stretches, balances and complex postures, activates your parasympathetic nervous system – the “rest and digest” part of your body. With your parasympathetic nervous system running smoothly, you’ll find your blood pressure is lower, your digestive system works effectively and you simply feel more relaxed and rested!
Meditation Boosts Intelligence and Lengthens Attention Span
With the increased focus that meditation and yoga brings to the table it will come as no surprise that both activities can boost intelligence and lengthen your attention span.
Meditation is about practicing focus and attention and, as with anything, practice makes perfect. Meditation is essentially like weight-training for your attention span, so its benefit keeps increasing with time. This improvement in attention can lead to better memory retention too.
Yoga and Meditation Help Control and Reduce Pain and Fight Addictions
Both meditation and yoga develop a mental and physical discipline that can be used to help you in other aspects of your life. As you develop that mental fortitude, you’ll find you can increase your self-control and therefore combat dependencies you might have. Your increased self-awareness will also have the knock-on effect of allowing you to recognise triggers for any addictive behaviour you suffer from. Moreover, a perception of pain can be connected to your state of mind so as you begin managing your stress levels and developing your mental control, you may find that some perceived pains, and your sensitivity to pain, decrease.
So, we’ve covered some of the big mental benefits that come from regularly practicing yoga and meditation. Asheville Wellness Tours believe in these practices and we love sharing the knowledge we’ve acquired through our years of experience. We offer Yoga Hikes which are perfect for everyone, whether you are just beginning your yoga journey, or if you want to develop and enhance your practice. If any of our tours or packages strike your fancy then get in touch!