An Easy Guide to the Science of Meditation and Yoga
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Welcome to an excellent guide to the science of meditation and yoga. Everyone keeps talking about how meditation and yoga are practicing for you. Some key benefits include reducing stress, depression, and anxiety. Have you ever thought what is going on in your body when you meditate or practice yoga? What is causing your improved mind-body connection? Welcome to the easy guide to the science of meditation and yoga.
Firstly, what is the science of meditation and yoga?
The science of meditation and yoga typically comes under the topic of neuroscience. This topic can get pretty complicated pretty quickly, but I will do my best to break it down for you. If you want more of the nitty-gritty details, click the links for the references.
What is neuroscience?
In a nutshell, neuroscience is the study of the nervous system. It combines a wide range of sciences from biology to maths and psychology to understand how the nervous system works.
What is the nervous system and what does it do?
The nervous system includes the brain, spinal cord and sensory nerves all through the body. It is made up of neurons and neural circuits. Think of neurons like messengers in your body. They send signals throughout your body so that you can see, hear, feel, taste, smell, breath, talk, move, think, etc. All the important things that help you stay alive and experience life.
How do meditation and yoga fit into science?
The science of meditation and yoga aim to find out how these practices affect our brains and our bodies via our nervous system. Therefore, better understand the role meditation and yoga play in our mind-body connection.
Not too complicated right? If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to comment below. As my Pop always said, “The only silly question is an unasked one.”
For more visual learners Janet Bay, MD, explains what neuroscience is in this 2-minute video:
Why should you be interested in the science of meditation and yoga?
Meditation and yoga are often associated with trendy, alternative lifestyles. As a result, this can make some people skeptical of these practices even though practicing meditation and yoga benefits everyone. Therefore, they are useful tools in our mental health wellness toolbox.
We are currently struggling with depression and mental health issues on a mass scale. Because of this, it is important that we spread an understanding of meditation and yoga as a very useful tool in our mental health toolbox.
Understanding the science of meditation and yoga is useful for two reasons.
- First of all, understanding how meditation and yoga help your mind-body connection can help motivate you to keep practicing even when you aren’t feeling into it. Knowledge is power!
- Furthermore, when you understand how meditation and yoga help your mind-body connection, this can help you better explain the benefits to friends and family. Therefore, helping them understand why they should also start their meditation and yoga journey. Share the love. Happiness is contagious! And yes there is science backing that too! Read about it in this post: 5 Life-Changing Reasons Why Being Happy Matters.
What is the science of meditation and yoga teaching us?
Cahn et al. (2017) studied people who did a 3-month yoga and meditation retreat. First of all, at the end of the retreat people reported having less depression and anxiety. They also reported being more mindful. Most noteworthy, their bodies physically reflected how their minds felt. As a result of the retreat people had:
- More of the hormones which help you deal with daily stress (cortisol awakening response).
- Higher anti-inflammatory hormones. Inflammation is connected with lots of health problems today such as asthma, allergies, arthritis, and inflammatory bowel disease. (Interleukin-10 & Interleukin-12).
- More of the proteins (Brain-derived neurotrophic factor also known as BDNF) that help you grow new neurons. Consequently, more BDNF improves your long-term memory, ability to learn and think on a higher level.
Furthermore, a study by Hernández et al. (2018) looked at MRI scans of long-term meditators brains. They found differences in the brain structure in long-term meditators. As a result, this indicates more power in fine-regulation emotional control and top-down attention.
Video: The Science of Yoga
This video focuses on the science of yoga. It covers how yoga connects with our bodies, how it helps us become more aware of ourselves and how it changes our brains so that we are better at handling stress in life.
- Knowledge is power! Therefore understanding how meditation and yoga help you can help keep you motivated to keep practicing
- Share the love. Having an understanding of the science of meditation and yoga can help you explain the benefits to others. Hence you can share why having meditation and yoga in your mental health toolbox is a really good thing.
Finally, the science of meditation and yoga has taught us that meditation and yoga can:
- help you handle daily stress better,
- reduce inflammation,
- improve long-term memory,
- help you learn
- and strengthen your higher thinking abilities.