Mind, body and soul: the scientific reasons for trying meditative yoga this week
This Friday is World Meditation Day. In true M Life fashion, we’re giving it a yoga twist.
Pretty much all styles of yoga incorporate meditation. This takes the form of the preparation for our class (stretching, setting intentions, centering our bodies and clearing our third eye), the actual movements per se (the concentration and need to be present is meditative in itself) and the savasana (the yogi equivalent of a cool down is technically a guided meditation).
The health benefits of meditation are numerous, but combining meditation with yoga or using yoga in a more meditative way takes the boost to our wellbeing to the next level. In this Journal article, we’re sharing the known, scientific reasons for practicing meditative yoga, as well as the positive impact we’ve seen in our own lives - just in case the scientific argument wasn’t strong enough...
The scientific benefits of meditative yoga
Stress is infamous for its negative effects on our mental and physical health. Practicing mindfulness and meditation, particularly that which is done through yoga and movement, can help us develop methods for managing stress, reduce stress hormones and relieve the anxiety that puts our bodies under strain in a multitude of ways. Meditation and yoga combined also contribute to better sleep, which has an overall positive impact on stress levels and allows for better emotional regulation, and if we’re experiencing stress from chronic pain or inflammation, this can be offset through certain movements too.
M Life tip: hold poses for longer and try more challenging yoga simultaneously, if this is possible. To help deal with live stress or pain, extend the beginning and end of the class during which meditation and focus per se are the main feature, and use aromatherapy oils to create a calming atmosphere.
Careful breathing and respiration are core to yoga. Better breathwork and the deliberate, mindful breathing associated with meditative yoga are great for our general respiration and clearing the mind. Circulating more oxygen around the body also ensures muscles get what they need and prevents injury.
M Life tip: try a sequence of five Pranayama breaths (in through the nose, out through the mouth) for each pose, exhaling as we prepare for the pose, inhaling as we do the pose and then continuing the breathing sequence as we hold the pose. It will create length and depth, as well as regulating our respiration and circulation.
General health and energy are improved through meditative, aerobic forms of yoga. Cardio or more active yoga practices allow us to take a considered approach to burning excess energy or reserves, and think about what and how we use and treat our bodies. We can zero in on our energy sources, our purpose and what we’re doing with our bodies so we achieve optimum levels of health and fitness.
M Life tip: use yoga to start or end the day, and incorporate balance poses with intensive, cardio moves. While doing these poses, use each pose to think about the pace at which we move through life and where we could be doing things differently. Then be the change we want to see in our own lives (e.g. eating alternative foods, doing more physical activity, and caring for our bodies).
Finding the very essence of our being doesn’t quite conform to scientific measures and analysis, but we all know the benefits of knowing and feeling ourselves, so bringing awareness to our being is a great thing to do. Meditative yoga is an excellent way of coming to understand ourselves better and invest in the alignment of mind, body and soul.
M Life tip: carve out 30 minutes once a week to do heart opening and centering exercises, and focus solely on breathing. Take only relaxation poses and accompany this with chants or mantras that are underwritten or based on who we are and our intentions, and have a soothing quality because of the frequency of the vibrations.