Practicing mindfulness comes in several different ways, shapes, and forms. Yoga and meditation go hand in hand in easing the mind, deepening the breath, and improving focus and clarity.
Setting aside a little bit of time throughout your day whether it’s when you wake up, on your lunch break, or when you go to sleep, is a great way to start.
Studies have shown that just a few minutes of meditation is enough to bring about the positive benefits of such practices. In fact, there is research emerging on the positive effects meditation has on brain growth, creativity, and intelligence.
While it was once believed that the human brain was static, or would reach a point where it could no longer grow in size, research is beginning to hint that meditation can actually alter certain structures of the brain that would result in better concentration and attention, heightened learning and memory, and less feelings of fear and anxiety.
Benefits of practicing yoga and meditation
- Improves focus and concentration
- Improves blood flow
- Improves balance, flexibility, strength, and muscle tone
- Improves sleep
- Improves Posture
- Relieves stress and anxiety
- Cost efficient, little to no equipment required
Common Myths Regarding Yoga, Meditation, & Mindfulness Practices
Myth: You have to do a full session of yoga to experience the benefits.
One factor that many face as a barrier to not to practice yoga or meditation is time. Luckily, just a few minutes each day are enough to notice positive results; an article from Yoga Journal discusses such benefits including stress reduction and increased focus. This can be done first thing in the morning before you get out of bed, on a lunch break, before you go to bed, or whenever you feel you need a few minutes to reset. If 5 minutes is all that you find you have time for, either throughout a busy work day or in a classroom, it is still enough to improve focus and reduce anxiety and stress.
Myth: You have to be flexible to do yoga.
False. Yoga does indeed increase flexibility as it lengthens muscles. However, you do not need to be flexible in order to practice yoga. Yoga is not all about bending your body in strange ways to hold an upside-down pretzel like posture. The keys is to use your breath to flow in and out of poses to a depth that allows you to feel the stretch yet is sustainable. Practice is key; the more you practice, the more flexible you will be come!
Myth: Meditation requires sitting cross-legged for long periods of time.
While traditional meditation is typically done in lotus position, which is cross-legged on the floor with palms facing up and eyes closed, this is not required. It is important to be able to settle into a position and be comfortable throughout the practice so if that means sitting in a chair, lying on the ground, or something else, that is totally acceptable! The functional purpose of yoga is to move the body in a way that is in sync with the breath, allowing for the flow of blood throughout the body and the lengthening of muscles; this allows one to sit more comfortably for longer periods of time and is why yoga is typically done before a period of meditation. If your goal is simply to sit still and meditate, sitting in a way that allows your spine, shoulders, and neck to be aligned and relaxed is optimal. This article from YogaJournal breaks down meditation postures and shows you how to align your head, neck, shoulders, and spine to reach maximum comfort as you practice meditation.
If time allows it, flowing through a few poses before settling down to meditate is optimal in that it warms your body up by lengthening your muscles and increasing blood flow throughout the body. Click here to check out a few yoga poses that may help ease you into a meditative posture.
Myth: Yoga and meditation is only for adults.
While the origins of yoga date back thousands of years to a civilization of priests in India, who documented their practices, experiences, and beliefs on palm leaves, nowhere is it written that yoga and meditation is limited to adult practice.
Mindfulness can be practiced by individuals of all ages. Children are not immune to stress, and therefore should be aware of techniques to combat stress they may face as they mature into adulthood. Children who learn to practice mindfulness may grow up with a better grasp on how to manage stress, emotions, and behavior. For example, deep breathing and visualization can be used as strategies for children to overcome tough or upsetting situations. These types of practices allow them to become more in tune with their feelings and more aware of the atmosphere around them. This article from The Huffington Post discusses the relevance of meditation alongside education; this is especially significant as children’s brains continue to grow and develop. The educational benefits of relaxation practices are also significant: Mindfulness meditation can improve focus and increase test scores. A University of California study published this year found that undergraduates who participated in a two-week mindfulness training program demonstrated heightened working memory and improved reading-comprehension scores on the GRE.
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Tips and Resources for Practicing Mindfulness throughout your day:
- It can be as simple as observing your breath while walking from your house to your car in the morning. This will add no extra time during your day and is a good step towards increasing mindfulness.
- Although it may seem paradoxical to use our number one distractions from being present to meditate, we can turn our phone, watch, computer, etc. to give ourselves 5-10 minutes of uninterrupted deep breathing. Be sure to put your phone on silent or do not disturb to allow yourself to focus fully and avoid any distractions.
- Download some peaceful songs or sounds onto your phone, iPod, computer, etc. to create a calming atmosphere wherever it is you are practicing.
Useful Smartphone Apps
- Cost: Free
- Provides 5 minute sessions with a timer function that times the session itself and allows for the correct amount of time to be spent doing each pose
- Provides clear images and detailed instruction
- Provides quick yoga routines that can be done at any time of the day
- Cost: Free
- Variety of sessions from 800 meditation teachers all around the world, 300 free guided meditations, 500 free music meditation tracks, 4,000 discussion groups and local meet ups
- Timer setting for each session
- Ambient background sounds ,interval bells, playlists, and more