The Health Benefits of Yoga and Meditation
Many reports claim that yoga and meditation are good for you. We understand that by taking time to relax with meditation relieves stress. Many people are aware of the physical benefits of yoga as a form of exercise.
But how is yoga meditation good for you?
The reason I am keen to share this post is because I personally suffered with anxiety and insomnia for several years before I left the UK to travel. My insomnia began in 2007 and continued until 2014. Some nights I would get 2 hours sleep, some none at all. Other times I relied on medication which simply masked the issue and didn’t solve it. I visited the doctor on numerous occasions and even visited a hypnotherapist in a desperate attempt to cure my insomnia. Nothing worked.
One of the first things I wanted to try when I arrived in India was yoga and meditation, since this is where it originates. I didn't think this would cure my insomnia but I was hoping it would help me destress if nothing else. I signed up for a 10 day Vipassana course. I will share the facts before I conclude my own personal experience and results at the end of this post.
What is Yoga Meditation?
Yoga meditation is about quieting a busy mind. The more you can quieten your thoughts, the more you experience a sense of mind-body connection that yoga is recognised for.
But there is a lot more to meditation, there is a technique which requires practice. There are many types of yoga and meditation centers available and their techniques vary. I recommend joining a class or school with a certified teacher which has been highly rated or recommended by a friend.
The Health Benefits of Yoga and Meditation – The Science and Facts
So how can yoga, meditation and mindfulness really help us? People have been practising yoga and meditation for thousands of years but the science behind it is still fairly new. Recent studies have proven that meditation can have a positive impact on your mood, stress, anxiety, focus, creativity and even our relationships. Let’s look at the physical side of this.
Stress is your body’s natural alarm system. It releases a hormone called adrenaline that causes your breathing to quicken, and your heart rate and blood pressure to rise which can lead to cardiovascular related diseases. Nowadays, our stress levels are increasing due to high pressured jobs, lack of time and financial worries, which can also lead to anxiety, insomnia and depression.
So how does yoga and meditation help? Taking 20-30 minutes a day to meditate or practice yoga meditation, will significantly reduce your stress levels. Read below for the proven physical and mental health benefits of Yoga Meditation.
REDUCES RISK OF HEART ATTACK AND STROKE
Statistics on people who meditate regularly prove that the thickness of the artery walls decrease which effectively lowers the risk of heart attack or stroke by 8% - 15%.
These same reports confirm that 60% of anxiety prone people showed marked improvements in anxiety levels after 6-9 months of practising meditation.
Yoga and meditation has a proven positive impact on insomnia.
POSITIVE IMPACT ON INSOMNIA
75% of insomniacs who started a daily meditation program, were able to fall asleep within 20 minutes of going to bed, according to studies.
Production of the stress hormone Cortisol is greatly decreased when practising yoga and meditation, making it possible for people to deal with stress better.
IMPROVES PMS SYMPTOMS
Women with Premenstrual Syndrome have shown improvements after 5 months of daily meditation.
Yoga and meditation has a positive impact on depression.
POSITIVE IMPACT ON DEPRESSION
Yoga meditation includes exercise which increases serotonin levels in our brain which make us happier. Endorphins are also released when we exercise which trigger a positive feeling in the body.
A man that I spoke to on the final day of the Vipassana course (when speaking is permitted again) told me that he came to Vipassana for help. He had been taking anti-depressant medication for several years. He stopped taking them just before the course began because Vipassana does not permit any form of substance intake during the course, including prescribed medication. He explained that for the first time since he could remember, he felt truly happy and no longer needed the medication.
I am not stating that is the right solution for other people in this situation. I am simply sharing the voice of a person who attended the course.
Meditation has been proven to help people recover from addiction.
HELPS PEOPLE RECOVER FROM ADDICTION
Three studies made with Vipassana meditation suggested that it can help reduce alcohol and substance abuse.
American Lungs Assossiation Freedom From Smoking Programme, found that people who practiced this meditation were much more likely to quit smoking at the end of the training.
IMPROVES SEXUAL RELATIONSHIPS
Stress, anxiety and depression can lower your self-esteem. Some antidepressant medication can curb your libido, making your sex life come to a complete halt. But sex boosts your mood and is important for relationships. Yoga and meditation have a positive impact on stress, anxiety and depression so by eliminating these negative emotions you have a higher chance of naturally increasing your confidence, energy and your libido.
Also, meditation increases blood flow and circulation. Scientists found a 32% blood flow increase in the arm when measured during meditation. You don't need to be a genius to guess what benefit this may have in the bedroom.
My Personal Experience
I attended a 10 day Vipassana course during my travels in India. The course is completed in silence and involves 14 hours of meditation per day between 4am to 9.30pm (breaks are included). I underestimated how challenging it would be. I had no idea what impact it would have on my sleep pattern but after the course had ended I slept better than I could remember. Initially, I thought I was catching up on sleep from the 4am wake up calls but I continued to sleep well for 6 months afterwards.
When I stopped meditating (6 months after the Vipassana course), I began to struggle with sleep again, so it's important to keep practising. If I make time to meditate in the morning, turn off all devices after 7pm and listen to the audio Vipassana guided meditation when I'm in bed, this usually sends me to sleep.
Vipassana isn't about learning to sleep, the course taught me so much more but I won't go into the details because you need to experience it for yourself. It may not work for everyone but it has for me.
If Vipassana sounds a little too intense, there are many other excellent yoga and meditation centres which are highly rated.
Does yoga and meditation have an impact on your health and wellbeing? I'd love you to hear your experiences!