How to Work Your Body AND Your Brain at the Same Time

There are plenty of obvious ways to take care of your physical health – eat less junk food and more nutrient rich foods which meet your individual needs, exercise regularly, stretch and rest to give the body time to heal. When it comes to your mental and emotional health, there is also no shortage of ways to make yourself feel good – spend time with loving family and friends, enjoy a hobby, read a good book or watch a favorite movie.

There is however one thing that, has been proven again and again by science, to have an incredibly positive impact on pretty much all aspects of your health. Meditation.

 

Meditation has a direct and indirect effect on the body and the brain.

 

The meditative effects of yoga, for example, can provide great benefits to your mental and physical health. Just some of the proven positive effects of meditation are quality of breathing, calmness of emotions, harmony within the neural network, improvements in cardiovascular function and even an increase in activity of disease-fighting genes. These and many other effects are regularly revealed by research.

 

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Here are a few of the incredible outcomes that this research is showing:

1. Various studies on the cognitive effects have shown an increase in grey matter, enhanced mental speed and attention, and improved coordination.

2. Studies on the physical effects have shown improved glucose metabolism, enhanced cellular rejuvenation, enhanced immune systems, better pulmonary functions and digestive processes, reduced blood pressure and improved weight management.

3. Research into the quality of life has also revealed higher perceived life satisfaction and overall happiness in relation to meditation.

 

How does it work?

 

The reasons behind this mechanism, what makes meditation work, are only partially understood. With so many positive outcomes, they are continuously researched. What we know for certain is that regular meditation can be a great benefit to your mental and physical wellbeing. We don’t yet fully understand how meditation has such a huge impact on our bodies and brains, but there is no doubt that it does. The more science comes to understand this, the better we can harness the effects of this state of mind in health and wellbeing.

 

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So while the scientists are working out how and why meditation is so powerful, how can you incorporate it into your life?

Yoga.

Yoga doesn’t have to mean expensive activewear and chai lattes, while you all try to out-zen each other. It’s an ancient practice that has only recently gained popularity in the western world and is actually all about the balance of body and mind in a way that works for you. If classes aren’t your thing, there are plenty of videos on YouTube you can try.

Apps.

If want to learn how to meditate without having to do the downward dog, you could try one of the many apps available. A quick search will bring up meditation apps for all tastes. Whether you’re after something very practical and rooted in scientifically proven methods, or something more spiritually based (but still effective) there is an app that suits all preferences and skill levels.

Retreats.

You may be totally sold on meditation and ready to immerse yourself in it completely. In this case you may want to consider a retreat. There are retreats all over the world that offer a wide variety of services that compliment your meditative practice. ph360 run regular retreats which incorporate different forms of meditation – depending on what’s ideal for you as an individual – as part of their holistic, comprehensive approach to health.

Whether you’re just starting out with learning how to meditate or you’ve been doing it for years keep at it! There is no denying that it’s doing you good.

 

References

Luders E, Toga AW, Lepore N, Gaser C. The underlying anatomical correlates of long-term meditation: Larger hippocampal and frontal volumes of gray matter. Neuroimage 2009;45:672-8. Back to cited text no. 16

Sharma VK, Das S, Mondal S, Goswami U, Gandhi A. Comparative effect of sahaj yoga on EEG in patients of major depression and healthy subjects. Biomedicine Journal 2007;27:95-9

Lazar SW, Kerr CE, Wasserman RH, Gray JR, Greve DN, Treadway MT, et al. Meditation experience is associated with increased cortical thickness. Neuroreport 2005;16:1893-7

Mody BS. Acute effects of Surya Namaskar on the cardiovascular & metabolic system. J Bodyw Mov Ther 2011;15:343-7.

Ankad RB, Herur A, Patil S, Shashikala GV, Chinagudi S. Effect of Short-Term Pranayama and Meditation on Cardiovascular Functions in Healthy Individuals. Heart Views 2011;12:58-62

Paul-Labrador M, Polk D, Dwyer JH, Velasquez I, Nidich S, Rainforth M, et al. Effects of a randomized controlled trial of transcendental meditation on components of the metabolic syndrome in subjects with coronary heart disease. Arch Intern Med 2006;166:1218-24.

Chung, Sheng-Chia, et al. “Effect of sahaja yoga meditation on quality of life, anxiety, and blood pressure control.” The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 18.6 (2012): 589-596.

Brown, Kirk Warren, and Richard M. Ryan. “The benefits of being present: mindfulness and its role in psychological well-being.” Journal of personality and social psychology 84.4 (2003): 822.

Pace, Thaddeus WW, et al. “Effect of compassion meditation on neuroendocrine, innate immune and behavioral responses to psychosocial stress.” Psychoneuroendocrinology 34.1 (2009): 87-98.

Gard, Tim, et al. “Effects of a yoga-based intervention for young adults on quality of life and perceived stress: the potential mediating roles of mindfulness and self-compassion.” The Journal of Positive Psychology 7.3 (2012): 165-175.

Sharma, R, Gupta, and R. L. Bijlani. “Effect of yoga based lifestyle intervention on subjective well-being.” Indian J Physiol Pharmacol 52.2 (2008): 123-131.

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