If you are a healthcare professional, or work in an industry affected by the global pandemic, you may be feeling the effects from a long month of social distancing, stressful work environments and just overall exhaustion from the constant negative news across the world. So, maybe it is time to unplug from the world around you and rejuvenate your mind, body and soul.
Through yoga, meditation and other healing art forms, you can help yourself get back on track to having a healthy routine, both physically and mentally. But before we get into how it affects your health, let’s take a second to go into the background of yoga and meditation and what it exactly does for us.
What exactly is yoga and meditation?
If you have ever been on Facebook, or more commonly, on Instagram, you might have noticed an increasingly popular trend of people striking difficult yoga poses for that picture-perfect photo opportunity. Because the more “likes” you can get on social media, the better, right? Wrong. Yoga is not about doing fancy poses to get more attention on social media, it’s about tying the mind and body together through physical exercise that’s based on a 5,000-year-old, ancient Indian philosophy.
Although there is no written record of when yoga was first created, it is believed to have roots in South Asia, which expanded to the rest of the world. Men who practice the art are known as “yogis” and women are known as “yoginis”. The earliest written record of yoga is in the “Yoga Sutra”, a 2,000-year-old guidebook on how to master the mind, control the emotions and grow spiritually. And even though modern day yoga tends to focus on fitness as a primary goal, this ancient, early form of yoga focuses more directly on expanding spiritual energy.
In the practice of yoga, there are six branches of philosophy. Each branch has its own unique way of implementing different strategies to narrow down what type of yoga best fits what you are trying to achieve. In modern yoga, you will use these techniques to focus on exercise, strength, flexibility and breathing.
There are many types and styles of yoga including:
- Ashtanga yoga: This type of yoga uses ancient yoga teachings; however, it became popular during the 1970s; it applies six established sequences of postures that rapidly link every movement to breath
- Bikram yoga: Also known as “hot” yoga, Bikram occurs in artificially heated rooms at temperatures of nearly 105 degrees and 40 percent humidity; it consists of 26 poses and a sequence of two breathing exercises
- Hatha yoga: This is a generic term for any type of yoga that teaches physical postures; “Hatha” classes usually serve as a gentle introduction to the basic yoga postures
- Kripalu yoga: This type teaches practitioners to know, accept and learn from the body; Students of Kripalu learn to find their own level of practice by looking inward; typically, the classes usually begin with breathing exercises and gentle stretches, followed by a series of individual poses and final relaxation
- Power yoga: In the late 1980s, practitioners developed this active and athletic type of yoga, based on the traditional ashtanga system
- Prenatal yoga: Prenatal yoga uses postures that practitioners have designed for people who are pregnant; it can support people in getting back into shape after pregnancy as well as supporting health during pregnancy
Yoga has many other forms and types that you can find here. And you may have noticed a pattern by now, but meditation and yoga are different in the sense that meditation is a part of yoga, where you deal with mental relaxation and concentration.
Now that you have a basic understanding of what yoga and meditation are and how they are done, let’s get to the root of why people find it so appealing to add these practices to their daily exercise routines.
How can it help improve your health?
As previously mentioned, yoga is the practice of incorporating breathing exercises, meditation techniques and poses that are designed to keep your mind and body in check. Many health experts find that by incorporating yoga and meditation into your daily or weekly routines, you can witness a positive change in both your mental and physical well-being.
- Decrease Stress & Relieve Anxiety: By practicing yoga in a regulated routine, multiple studies have shown that it can help reduce stress, relieve anxiety and lower fatigue and depression; it does all this by lowering your levels of the stress hormone known as cortisol
- Reduce Inflammation & Improve Heart Health: Inflammation can contribute to the development of pro-inflammatory diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer; studies have shown that by practicing yoga, people exhibited lower levels of inflammatory markers than those that didn’t; yoga also showed that it can help lower your blood pressure, which can help improve heart health
- Reduce Chronic Pain & Increase Strength: Whether you have chronic pain from an accident or injury to arthritis, yoga can help those individuals by reducing pain and improving on strength
- Promotes Better Sleep Quality & Healthy Eating: Poor sleep quality has been associated with obesity, high blood pressure and depression; by incorporating yoga into your routine, you can sleep better and feel more well-rested during the day, which can help lead to an overall, better balance quality of life
- Improves Flexibility, Balance and Breathing: Many add yoga to their fitness routine to improve flexibility and balance, as well as improving your breathing techniques; many studies have shown that yoga can increase your flexibility by nearly four times and can improve balance and mobility in older adults
So, if you were on the fence before about pulling out your yoga mat, you might want to consider all the positive health benefits behind implementing a quick yoga exercise into your daily routine. It may be worth the extra 30-45 minutes a day to help improve your mind and body.
What are other different forms of healing arts?
While yoga and meditation are pretty popular forms of the healing arts, there are many more variations that you can look into if you aren’t feeling the right vibes. Healing arts are creative practices that promote healing, wellness, coping and personal changes that typically include music, art, dance/movement, poetry/writing and drama therapies.
There are multiple specialists and techniques that you can work with to find the right medium between art and psychology, which can help you both emotionally and physically on your road to recovery. Healing arts usually allow the individual to explore a deeper meaning to the images or songs in front of them. It allows for the individual to express feelings and emotions associated with the art, and allows for a deeper conversation with a professional who can help you cope or understand those feelings. Through these healing art techniques, people can live stronger, healthier lives and focus on the tasks in front of them more clearly.
So, whether it’s meditating to concentrate on your breathing or taking a paint brush to a blank canvas to express your feelings, actively participating in the healing arts can have insurmountable positive benefits to your overall well being.