Yoga and meditation are two practices that have become increasingly popular in the Western world. Both are based on spirituality and have been found to benefit the mind and body. Practicing yoga and meditation can help reduce stress, improve flexibility, build strength, improve sleep, and even reduce anxiety and depression. When you practice yoga and meditation, you activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps lower heart rate, blood pressure, and levels of stress hormones such as cortisol.
This leads to general health benefits, especially for the heart. Flexibility is an important component of physical health, and yoga offers many styles to choose from ranging in intensity from high to moderate to mild. Even low-intensity styles have been found to increase flexibility. Yoga has also been found to be an effective strength building practice in many age groups of healthy participants.
It may also be useful in improving balance in people with brain injuries. Pranayama, or yogic breathing, can improve the functioning of several body systems, including the cardiovascular system. Yoga and meditation can also help improve sleep quality. This is partly due to the consequences of exercise and to the mental calm and stress relief provided by yoga specifically.
In addition to improving anxiety (or perhaps because of it), numerous studies show that yoga nidra is particularly useful for improving sleep. Body image and self-esteem are often particularly challenging for teens and young adults. The good news is that several recent studies show positive results when using yoga to improve self-esteem and perceived body image in these populations. There is also promising evidence that yoga could help with the accompanying symptoms of obsession, anxiety, and depression in patients with anorexia nervosa. Practicing yoga in a group also stimulates the production of oxytocin, which is the love hormone, and also produces higher levels of serotonin, which is the hormone of happiness.
Yoga meditations can help you sleep better, which also helps reduce stress, stress-related anxiety, depressive symptoms, and inflammation. While most people associate yoga with stretching and flexibility, some types of yoga classes may also be considered to strengthen strength. In a study comparing a group receiving cognitive-behavioral therapy, a control group, and a group doing Sahaja yoga meditation, the yoga meditation group significantly reduced their anxiety and depression. Increasingly, the practice of yoga and meditation have been the focus of research with the aim of proving its benefits. Cahn and his team are excited about the results of their research and believe that they are the basis for further studies on the potential physical and psychological benefits of yoga and meditation.