Have you ever noticed how people who do yoga or meditate regularly often get to a point where they can’t stop talking about how great it is? Don’t get annoyed — they do this because these activities really are great!
Yoga and meditation can really help those who practice them feel better, and that alone is often enough to encourage people to continue the practice. However, even those people who do it regularly might not know everything about it. Yoga and meditation have a lot of different benefits, and it’s not limited to increased flexibility and a sweat session.
Improved Spine Health
People who have poor posture tend to gain some massive benefits from yoga. Even meditation can help, depending on the kind you choose. A main aspect of yoga is that it’s designed to make the body flexible and lean, so focusing on your body awareness and control is important. With proper instruction, you’ll learn how your body is supposed to move and increase strength in your back.
For example, Mountain Pose is a beginner pose, but it can still be extremely challenging for many beginners because it essentially involves trying to stand in perfect posture.
Meditation is similar. One aspect of it is mindfulness about your body. That means you must do a mental scan from head to toe. You’ll learn how to pinpoint areas of pain and tension, and eventually, how to relax them just by noticing they’re there. Ultimately, this leads to a decrease in back pain and problems.
Generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD, develops primarily due to a chemical imbalance in the brain. No amount of yoga or meditation will totally fix that, and you should always speak to a doctor about issues with anxiety. However, yoga and meditation can have big impacts on your ability to handle acute stressors. In some cases, these practices may give you enough of a background in self-awareness and breathing techniques that you *might* even be able to head off a panic attack.
For some people with anxiety though, meditation is nearly impossible and can actually make stress worse. This is where yoga may come in. It can act as more of a movement-oriented meditation style that brings on similar benefits, but also allows you to focus on something. It can help keep you from spiraling when you know you have to count your breaths and move from pose to pose.
Since yoga and meditation can both be effective at reducing stress, it makes sense they would be good for your heart as well. Chronic stress is a contributing factor to heart disease, either because of the stress itself or because many people self-medicate to control it.
Yoga itself is especially beneficial. It combines the impacts of lower stress levels with the benefits of physical exercise, which gets you the both of best worlds. As little as a single session of yoga can help lower blood pressure, which is a significant aspect of heart health.
Meditation is a great way to learn how to concentrate. It seems counterintuitive because the goal is to not think about anything, but that’s difficult to do. It requires you to practice, practice, practice on one specific thing: concentrating. The more you work at something, the better you tend to get at it. Meditation and the ability to train your mind appear to fall into the same category. That means you can literally train your brain to do some of the things you want it to do.
Easing the Symptoms of Insomnia
Any kind of physical exercise can lead to a better night’s rest, but yoga and meditation can do more than that. The type of sleep you get after a workout is great, but it stems purely from the physical release associated with activity and the accompanying exhaustion. Yoga and meditation, on the other hand, can lead to a more relaxed state of mind in the long run.
This matters when it comes to trouble sleeping. If you suffer from short-term bouts of insomnia, it’s probably a bit related to the stress you’re under for any given period. As mentioned above, both practices can help release that stress.
If you’ve ever had gas pains or constipation, you know how uncomfortable digestive issues can be. There’s actually a pose called the Wind-Relieving Pose and it’s designed to help you get past gas pains. That’s an excellent thing to have in your arsenal — though it might not be one to try out in a studio full of people.
Yoga also has a set flow of poses most people work through when they practice. Almost all of these will involve some kind of gentle twist of your core. This twisting, no matter how deep you can get in the poses, helps move things through your intestines. That promotes digestion and helps everything run smoothly. Of course, you can still help it along with a healthy diet and plenty of fiber!
If you have legitimate medical issues, yoga and meditation are unlikely to actually cure them. However, neither of these things will hurt; in fact, they should at least help! They can help almost every aspect of your life, even the ones you don’t necessarily expect or think about.