The majority of us don’t think twice about brushing our teeth, eating a hearty breakfast and getting enough sleep each night. These are habits we adopt from an early age with a simple understanding of the benefits they provide for our mind and body. However, when it comes to our health, these ‘basics’ are just the tip of the iceberg in the battle against physical or mental decline and ensuring that we live a longer, healthier and fitter life.
With such high levels of stress prevalent in today’s society, depression and associated illness has never been more apparent. Staggeringly, depression affects more than 15 million American adults, or in other words, approximately 6.7 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year. Stress, depression, and illness are becoming the norm nowadays rather than the exception. The danger signs are everywhere, but many of us are not paying attention to the many signs our body is displaying in order to let us know something is out of balance. In short, we are not doing nearly enough to help ourselves not only reach the pinnacle of what we as human beings can possibly ‘be’, but simply (said lightly) lift the cloud of depression and minimize the effects of stress.
Just Stop, I Want To Get Off!
It has been proven time and again that if we simply just stopped, and got off the crazy merry-go-round we call ‘life’, our mind and body would have a window of opportunity to still itself, relax and in some ways – catch up. But how do we stop? How do we find our ‘off’ switch?
Mediation and yoga are tools that enable us to do just that. To stop and be present in the moment, to be mindful. We simply have to look to the past and the ancient arts of yoga and meditation that have been shown (and proven) to strengthen the body/mind connection, improve overall fitness and improve a positive sense of well-being.
Historical Practice of Yoga & Meditation
Yoga can be traced back to over 5,000 years ago, however, some believe that it could be up to 10,000 years old. Yoga cultivates health and well-being (physical, emotional, mental and social) through the regular practice of a range of many different techniques, including postures and movement, breath awareness and breathing exercises, relaxation and concentration, self-inquiry and meditation.The main philosophy of yoga is simple: mind, body, and spirit are all one and cannot be clearly separated.
Some of the oldest records for meditation originate from the Hindu traditions of Vedantism, dating back to around 1500 BCE. Taoist China and Buddhist India, around the 5th and 6th centuries, brought about other forms of meditation. Meditation is not a technique per se, but more a way of life. Meditation means ‘a cessation of the thought process’. It basically describes a state of consciousness, when the mind is free of scattered thoughts and rumination.
Science hasn’t totally connected the dots between what happens in the meditating, quietened brain and the health of body and mind systems, but they are definitely getting there.
What Does The Research Tell Us?
When it comes to managing stress, regular yoga practice can help reduce stress responses in your body, according to a study in the 2010 Journal of Psychosomatic Medicine. Reducing the inflammatory response to stressors on your body will help reduce your chance of stress-related conditions such as hypertension and cardiovascular disease.
A growing body of evidence supports the belief that yoga benefits physical and mental health via down-regulation of the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis and the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). A comprehensive search of the research literature from core scientific and nursing journals was reviewed and it was found that yoga interventions appeared to be equal (or in some cases, superior) to exercise in nearly every outcome measured.
For many years, people who have practiced meditation have enjoyed the many benefits it provides and wholly believe that it keeps them healthy. A contemporary article published in the Journal of Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes in November 2012, actually tested 201 people with coronary heart disease. They were asked to either (a) take a health education class promoting better diet and exercise or (b) take a class on transcendental meditation. Over the next five years, researchers followed up with participants and found that those who took the meditation class had a 48% reduction in their overall risk of heart attack, stroke, and death.
A 2012 control study published in the journal of Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine found people who practiced yoga to be happy, peaceful and upbeat in contrast to the control group who had a decrease in general well-being.
Albeit, these are relatively small studies, for something that simply costs you time with no side effects, and is convenient as it can be done anywhere, isn’t it worth a try?
Emotional balance and calm means to be free of all the neurotic behavior that results from the traumatization and turmoil left behind from our many daily experiences of life and what it has dished out. This state of mind is incredibly difficult to achieve fully, but meditation and yoga are definitely the way forward in starting your journey towards a healthy emotional state and improved physical fitness.
Take Home Note
So, still not convinced it can help you? What can you do about it if you are? Well, knowledge is power – so start learning about it. Read. Online resources such as Authority Health are well worth taking advantage of for providing a wealth of information aimed at empowering individuals so that they may help improve their health and positive well-being. To learn more about Authority Health click here. Enroll in a local yoga class. Start using guided meditation from YouTube. The bottom line is – just start.
Yoga and meditation are not quick life fixes, they are longer term solutions or tools that should become part of your daily lifestyle and routine – just like brushing your teeth. Reducing your stress levels, eating healthier and getting more exercise can only have positive outcomes and lead to better health. Our lives are full of stressful situations, tiredness from long working hours and poor sleep, ultimately leading to the list of anxiety, depressive and stress-related diseases that are slowly killing us. Adopting yoga and/or meditation into your daily routine will improve the quality and quite possibly longevity of your life.
Go on, why not give it a go – you really have nothing to lose.