Your Brain on Yoga: How Yoga and Meditation Boost Your Mental Wellbeing

We know that yoga and meditation can help you relieve stress and let you relax more. However, the experts are still trying to figure out exactly how these things work. Just like the brain itself, the health effects that yoga and meditation have on your body are still a bit of a mystery. However, there have been plenty of studies done to investigate the physiological and emotional benefits of both yoga and meditation.

Yoga and Meditation

According to a study published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, a group of participants who practised yoga and meditation for several months showed signs of decreased stress and anxiety due to increases in brain-derived neurotrophic factors (BDNF). This chemical in your body enhances memory and learning as well as decreasing inflammation and increasing immunity. Other benefits include speeding the metabolism, regulating moods, and increasing alertness and energy. Another study showed that cortisol was increased in those who practised yoga and meditation, which reduces stress levels and prevents anxiety and depression disorders.

Yoga Can Help Your Cognitive Skills and Memory

Yoga has also been proven to reduce the decline of cognitive ability and decrease the chances of heart disease, stroke, migraines, chronic pain, and even cancer. Those who practice yoga have been known to stay more mentally sharp, have fewer problems with memory loss, improves your ability to sleep better, increases weight loss, and can even enhance your sexual performance. Yoga classes can range from gentle and relaxing to challenging and strenuous. Yin yoga and restorative yoga are two of the more gentle types of yoga that can help with sleep, chronic pain, and stress. According to a Harvard Medical School study, even the most strenuous yoga classes increase a body’s ability to withstand pain and can also decrease the stress responses such as respiration, blood pressure, and heart rate.

Yoga and Meditation for Depression

Those who practice yoga or meditation on a regular basis can attest to the fact that they are both good ways to build strength and increase positivity. In fact, some experts have found that those who suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), can benefit substantially from yoga and meditation. SAD is a depressive disorder that tends to cause feelings of sadness, fatigue, lethargy, and hopelessness. Yoga and meditation can both help you get centered and focus on yourself and your mind, learning how to be in tune with yourself. This will help you deal with SAD and other depressive or anxiety disorders.

Meditation vs. Medication

Although there is nothing wrong with taking medication such as antidepressants or antianxiety drugs when you need them, you may not really need them. That does not mean you should immediately stop taking your medications. Do not ever do that without approval from your doctor or psychiatrist. However, it has been found that many people who are on medication can be better helped with meditation and mindfulness. If you are just feeling stressed out or anxious lately, you should talk to your therapist about trying meditation instead of medication.

Talk to Someone

If you feel that you need to talk to a professional about your mental health, you can get treatment without even leaving your home with online therapy. BetterHelp.com has over 2,000 professional therapists, counsellors, and psychologists that can help you right now.

This is a guest post from Better Help and the second in a series of how yoga can support mental health. If you're interested in posting on the blog, send me an email at info@arogayoga.com! 

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