When we think about living a better life, things like better health, better relationships and even better financial stability are among the first improvements to come to mind. It may be hard to see how an ancient system of healthy living can help you enjoy better relationships or put money back in your pocket, but don’t scoff too quickly; the benefits of yoga are more pervasive than any of us could safely guess.
Initially, the body’s physical conditions are improved through the mind/body connection and cultivated through the breathing. This naturally results in healthier skin, balanced weight, improved energy levels, a lithe resilient physique, and healthy organs.
Through the practice of linking the body and mind through the breath, mental and emotional health are improved. Mindfulness and the cultivation of mindfulness, meditation, are an intrinsic part of yoga philosophy and practice. Practiced consistently, yoga and meditation have scientifically-proven benefits to health and well-being.
Yoga and Meditation for Better Health
It takes more than just not being sick to live a healthy life. By modern medical standards, “good health” includes a healthy state of mind in addition to a physically healthy body. In Yoga, your personal health is the sum of all your joy, enthusiasm and love you have for yourself, your life and those around you. Through the practice of yoga and the adoption of the yogi perspectives, this capacity is improved.
Recent studies have shown that practicing yoga and meditation can improve life down to the very chromosomes that determine the aging process. Telomeres are the protein-rich caps at the end of chromosomes and have important implications to health and aging. When these telomeres become short and damaged, the life of the body and organs is shortened on a cellular level.
Studies have shown that meditation and yoga can play an important role in increasing the length of telomeres and improving cellular longevity as well. Other lifestyle changes that contribute to healthy telomeres includes regular exercise and healthy eating.1
Other medical studies have explored the effects of yoga and meditation on the human body by examining how it affects stress and inflammation. Stress fills the bloodstream with cortisol that modulates energy expenditure but can also irritate blood vessels and organs if overused and conditions of high stress abound.
A medical study carefully observed the physiological markers and cortisol levels (through saliva samples) of several participants attending a three-month yoga retreat. The practice of yoga was found to reduce cortisol levels and helped to engage the parasympathetic nervous response, which returns the body to its “rest and digest” mode after periods of stress.
Yoga as a physical practice exercises the mind and body and synchronizes their individual functions. A healthier body is more resilient to disease and allows the mind to function unobstructed. This, in turn, allows for increased focus and awareness in all yoga practices; a cycle that boosts health on all levels.
Yoga for Daily Life and Optimal “Wellness”
As the practice of yoga continues, it becomes harder and harder to keep the intelligent practices and tendency to natural balance from spilling off the mat and touching on every other aspect of life. The flexible and adaptable physical practice of yoga exercise is an analog for the approach the yogi takes to every action, motion, and intention of their life.
This is where the benefits of yoga and meditation surpass mere health, boosting and complementing wellness.
If health is the condition of a healthy mind and body, optimal health is supported by wellness, which is the ongoing state of living healthy lifestyles. In other words, a person’s wellness is defined by the quality of their environment, social relations, intellectual stimulation as well as their physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional health.2
Through intuitive practice and increased awareness, the philosophies and lessons collected in the yoga practice are applied to everyday life. The following section illustrates how these applied lessons work to greatly enhance wellness from the “grassroots” upward. Through an enhanced quality of life, anything is possible. Increased quality of life, deeper relations with those you love and, yes, even better financial balance through clarity of mind and new perspectives.3,4
How Yoga and Meditation Benefit Healthy Lifestyles
As a physical art, yoga provides a great support and a fundamental platform for developing artistic pursuits of all sorts. When painting, coloring or even ZenDoodling, mindfulness allows the artist to pull their awareness to the moment and achieve that child-like frame of mind that surpasses all judgment.
Yoga also allows the body to position itself properly for balance and comfort, allowing for endurance when practicing a variety of art forms. From sitting at an easel or perfecting your “Kata”, the fundamentals of yoga keep the artist comfortable and flexible as they progress.
Living mindfully has great advantages for improving daily interactions and communications with the people in our life. Through yoga philosophy, it is understood that all such interactions and communications involve listening and speaking from a place of compassion, kindness, and awareness.
This is far removed from the conventional definition of communication, but when it is applied, wisdom is allowed a chance to work. There is no better way to save money, time and good friends.5
Differences of opinion are common and can easily escalate to aggression and hostility when not conducted mindfully; never underestimate how temperamental the undisciplined mind can be. But, through mindfulness and awareness, perspectives are considered, mutual values are appreciated, common ground is established and the most hostile adversary in their most entrenched positions can be won over without a fight – so says the Sun Tzu!
Fighting Poor Health
Even the most hale and hearty among us will eventually fall sick for a variety of reasons. Mindfulness and awareness can be applied here as well to improving recovery time and reducing the discomforts of poor health.
When feeling feverish, congested and sweaty, the last thing anyone wants to do is begin building awareness of the moment. Yet, this very response could be the very thing that will save you from aggravation. When feeling physically sick, the mind and spirit are also affected. It is not uncommon to feel depressed, worried, anxious and even guilty about feeling so rotten when just yesterday everything was splendid.
But, anxiety and stress are the real killers as they can increase the inflammation response and repress immune functions. The best solution is to accept a nonjudgmental approach, even being thankful that your powerful immune system is working to fight back the illness and restore balance.6
Planning a Diet
Planning a diet can be a lot like shooting in the dark. There are so many philosophies and concepts in circulation today, and something as simple as choosing a good meal is clouded by doubt and often an unpleasant task. The practice of yoga involves taking an intuitive approach to the body and what it needs. As your awareness grows you will gain a better perspective on what a healthy meal plan looks like for you. You will also be able to see how guilty pleasures can have a place in a healthy and balanced diet, and it will be easy to set moderations you will love and love to adhere to.
In addition, apply mindfulness to your eating habits for improved digestion and enjoyment. A slice of pizza or ice cream is eaten in a hurry is just a snack, but when mindfulness is applied, every bite can be something exquisite and memorable.
Mindful eating is an important component in developing more healthy eating habits and overcoming problems like overeating, binge eating, stress eating, boredom eating, and others.
Yoga Breathing Minute by Minute
It’s funny how something so ordinary can be so extraordinary. The breath is, in many ways, the cornerstone of yoga practice and the first lesson you can begin applying to every waking minute of your day.
During the physical yoga practice, breathing stabilizes the body and provides the mental fortitude to endure challenging poses with increasing ease. In the intensity of the moment when the strain seems too great and the position almost lost, the awareness of the breath creates staying power and can be directed to the muscle or challenges at hand. The same holds true in the challenges of life as it does for those on the yoga mat.7
Final Thoughts on Yoga and Meditation for a Better Life
No matter what your personal idea of a better life looks like, it is sure to include the happiness and full awareness of the person doing the enjoying. Perhaps the most profound benefits that yoga and the yoga mind frame can add to your life is the capacity to fully enjoy yourself and your world through cultivated awareness.
A new life can begin for you with a small investment of your time and focus, for endless results. Read more about getting started on your yoga practice here. Also, be sure to check out the MONQ shop to find the blend that is perfect for your yoga practice. Try the Zen or Active blend, two scientifically crafted blends that are perfect for the calm, yet invigorating nature of yoga.
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