This article is a guest post written by Cassie Brewer. She is a freelance journalist and writer.
Yoga offers an intense physical experience for the body—improving flexibility and muscle tone, while creating a stronger core. However, yoga’s exceptional benefits also extend to the mind. Yoga's positive implications can extend to breastfeeding mothers, as mentionned by Andrea Bell in her article about yoga.
Practicing yoga involves the will of the mind as much as it involves the strength of the body. Bending the body to form the postures of yoga requires the mind to overcome the physical restraints of stretching and twisting the limbs beyond the comfort zone. Breathing and the rhythm of the breath is vital to focus the mind elsewhere, defying the physical limits of the body.
This mind over body mantra enables practitioners to have a greater sense of mental acuity and focus. According to a 2015 study, yoga was shown to moderately improve mental cognition. Researchers also found that yoga increases the levels of biochemicals associated with brain health.
Yoga’s improvement on brain function involves both memory and concentration. Practicing yoga improves visuospatial memory, which means that it helps an individual with identifying visual and spatial relationships between objects.
Obtaining the benefits of yoga requires practicing and embracing a daily yoga routine. Beginners should start slow and introduce the body to yoga through easy positions. Research different yoga sequences to find a routine that offers the most benefits for individual needs and abilities. Never force the body into difficult positions; yoga should be relaxing, not painful.
Meditation as a part of a yoga routine also helps train the brain and quiet the mind. A study conducted by the University of California at Santa Barbara showed that students who participated in mindfulness training received higher reading comprehension scores on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), indicating that meditation also aids in concentration.
There is no right or wrong way to meditate. Find a quiet spot and breathe in through the nose and exhale through the mouth. Focus on each cleansing breath and let the mind focus only on taking the next breath. Meditation should be a personal experience, and as little as 10 minutes a day provides enriching benefits.
Not only does meditation and yoga help the brain but they also help maintain physical wellness. Yoga and meditation help ease stress and anxiety. By alleviating toxic stress, the body becomes less susceptible to illnesses. The positions and postures of yoga also improve flexibility, strength and help sculpt a stronger core.
Yoga is an ideal form of fitness to exercise the body…and the mind. While helping the body build strength and increase flexibility, yoga also provides the brain with both restful relaxation and mindful awareness. While emphasizing mind over body, yoga provides the ideal conduit to strengthen physical wellness and mental focus.