The Lesser-Known Benefits of Yoga & Meditation
By Kelly Barnes
Throughout the years, yoga and meditation have earned a reputation for being an effective mind and body workout. As the world has become even busier, these workouts have become more and more popular with people all over the world. Their long list of benefits, many of which have been proven by various research studies, continues to increase.
Both yoga and meditation provide a different level of concentration and relaxation to our mind and body that helps us equip ourselves better to get through our busy lives. While most people started doing yoga and meditation because of their more famous benefits such as improving flexibility, building core strength, and relaxing the mind, some of yoga’s lesser-known benefits might surprise you.
Yoga helps you meet new people
Practicing yoga and attending classes regularly can help ease social anxiety that often prevents people from interacting with others. Yoga encourages people to step out of their comfort zone. Through yoga, more endorphins are released in the body. Endorphins are chemicals that help relieve stress, pain, and boost happiness.
In yoga classes, you’ll meet different kinds of people with the same interest — yoga. Doing yoga also lets you share group energy with these like-minded people, making you feel a different kind of belongingness. When doing a group meditation or asanas, there’s a mutual feeling of transcendence in which the brain changes the perception of the environment and other people into something more positive.
Yoga encourages you to become a healthy and mindful eater
Mindfulness is one of the first things you’ll learn in yoga. It’s putting focus on or becoming aware of what you have in the present without judgment. This mindfulness does not only apply when doing yoga, it also applies to other activities like eating.
Through yoga, you can develop and learn mindful eating that will give you control over your eating habits. It also helps in creating an understanding of your own body and the food that you eat. Mindful eating allows you to:
- Eat for overall well-being
- Identify true hunger and eat the right amount
- Learn how the food makes you feel
- Appreciate the food you eat
- Use your senses to learn the food’s texture, smell, and taste
Yoga is a great workout for pregnant women
The female body undergoes a lot of changes during pregnancy that often cause stress. Yoga is the best way to exercise the mind and body during pregnancy and before giving birth. There’s even a specific type of yoga for pregnant women: prenatal yoga.
Yoga, in general, is a great way to reduce stress. It promotes the production of hormones that improve mood and overall feeling. With less stress, sleep is improved as well.
The physical benefits of yoga, such as improved flexibility, balance, and strength are especially helpful with the changes in the mother’s physical condition. The increase in weight often causes back pain, and yoga is a great way to relieve that. Prenatal yoga also prepares the body for delivery, the breathing exercises help the mother remain calm during delivery, and the strengthened pelvic-floor muscles help prevent urinary incontinence after childbirth.
Yoga can help those recovering from addiction
Addiction can ruin the lives of people. Most of the time, addicts are prescribed drugs and rehabilitation. However, yoga can also help those recovering from addiction by breaking addictive patterns and encouraging self-care.
Since many people become addicted to drugs or alcohol because of stressful situations, doing yoga can help reduce stress and help them learn how to handle pressure instead of succumbing to negative energies.
Meditation helps increase productivity
Meditation is an easy way to rejuvenate and increase productivity. One of the benefits commonly associated with meditation is that it helps improve focus, which makes it easier to tune out distractions. Whether you’re working at home or in an office, fewer distractions enable you to wrap up and finish work faster.
Meditation will help you feel refreshed and more energized. You’ll feel less lazy and will be able to let go of unimportant activities that are preventing you from doing more important ones.
Meditation helps you relieve pain
During stressful situations, the body produces different hormones and chemicals that may increase the level of inflammation and pain. Through meditation, it’s easier to concentrate on something else — something calming and assuring that helps reduce pain.
Experts suggest that putting the mind into a quiet and relaxed state by meditating helps reduce the production of stress hormones — and release endorphins that naturally relax the body and reduces pain. Pain tolerance is also increased.
Meditation increases grey matter in the brain
The brain’s grey matter is composed of neuronal cell bodies. These cell bodies are responsible for sensory perception, muscle control, memory retention, emotions, speech, self-control, and making decisions. Many scientists believe that the amount of grey matter in one’s brain influences intelligence.
A specific type of meditation called Sahaja Yoga Meditation is associated with increasing the grey matter density in the brain. Studies say that over time, with regular meditation, grey matter is increased, resulting in brain regions expanding. These brain regions are associated with mental health, cognitive function, and focus.
Meditation improves the endocrine system
The endocrine system is significant in keeping our body healthy. It receives signals from the brain to generate and release hormones that promote bodily functions. Any imbalance on a body gland will affect the health of other body parts. Researchers found through MRI scans of the brain that brain activities are bolstered when meditating. With the right level of hormones in the body, organs and systems function effectively and efficiently.
Yoga and meditation are indeed wonderful. This article is not long enough to list all the benefits that the two have to offer. But one thing is for sure — practicing both will change your life in ways you can’t imagine.
Kelly Barnes is a 200-hour hatha yoga teacher who loves meditation and mindfulness.