What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a form of psychotherapy that helps train your mind to be attentive to the present moment with an open and accepting attitude. It can provide a new perspective or insight on challenges of daily life bringing about a seemingly effortless positive change in emotional patterns and habitual reactions leading to improved health and overall sense of wellbeing.
What are Benefits of Mindfulness?
The results of several research studies suggest the regular practice of mindfulness provides multiple benefits including:
- Better handling of stressful situations
- Improved memory
- Increased concentration
- Better emotional stability
- Improved cognitive ability
- Increased compassion and empathy
- Better relationship satisfaction
- Reduces blood pressure
- Improved sleep
- Reduced chronic pain symptoms
- Improved digestion
- Increased self-confidence
Who can Benefit from Mindfulness Therapy?
Mindfulness therapy may be beneficial for individuals suffering with:
- Chronic depression
- Bipolar disorders
- Anxiety disorders
- Substance abuse
- Eating disorders
- Couples conflicts
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Low mood and unhappiness
Types of Mindfulness Techniques
There are different types of mindfulness exercises. They can be performed while sitting quietly by yourself or while going for a walk or performing household chores. These include:
- Mindfulness of breathing: This technique involves simply observing your natural breathing and/or repeating a word or phrase as you inhale and exhale. If you become aware of distracting thoughts, simply redirect your mind to your breathing as many times as necessary throughout the duration of the therapy session.
- Mindfulness of body sensations: This technique involves becoming aware of subtle sensations such as a tingling or an itch anywhere on your body from head to toe and letting the sensation pass on its own.
- Mindfulness of external sensory input: This technique involves becoming aware of things in your environment through all your senses – sounds, smells, sights, taste, and touch.
- Mindfulness of emotions: This technique involves becoming aware of emotions in the mind such as anger, sadness, joy, or frustration, accepting them as they are without judgement, and letting them subside of their own accord.
- Mindfulness of urges or cravings: This technique involves becoming aware of urges or cravings as they arise, not trying to fight the cravings but understanding their transitory nature and allowing them to pass without acting on these urges.
Getting Started with Mindfulness Therapy
You can start practicing mindfulness by yourself for about 15-20 minutes every day by choosing any of the above techniques most suitable to you or you can enroll in a mindfulness-based cognitive therapy program conducted by a trained mental health provider who will be able to assess your condition and guide you through the program to give you the best results.
What is Yoga?
Yoga is an ancient meditation practice of harmonizing the mind and body through a combination of postures or yoga poses (Asanas), focused breathing (Pranayama), and meditation (Dhyana). It is very popular in the modern world due to its proven physical and mental health benefits for people of all ages.
Who can Benefit from Yoga?
Yoga can be safely and effectively practiced by people of all ages. A yoga therapist can help you with an individualized series of exercises, postures, and breathing techniques to improve certain medical conditions and support recovery from an injury or surgery.
Different Forms of Yoga
Yoga as a practice has existed for thousands of years in more than 100 different forms, some of which are more intense and fast-paced, while the others are more relaxing and gentle-paced. Some of the more popular forms of yoga include:
- Hatha Yoga: This form of yoga combines a series of movements with deep, meditative breathing.
- Vinyasa Yoga: Also known as flow yoga, it involves a series of yoga postures that flow seamlessly from one posture to another.
- Power Yoga: It is a fitness-based form of yoga, that combines yogic postures with athletic movements.
- Ashtanga Yoga: “Ashta” translates to eight and “anga” to limbs, so the word Ashtanga means the eight-limbed path. This form of yoga places emphasis on special breathing techniques and more intense yoga poses in a specially designed sequence.
- Iyengar Yoga: This form focuses on the precision and alignment of yoga postures and often involves the use of props such as straps, blocks, or other aids while performing the exercises.
Benefits of Yoga
Some of the important benefits of yoga include:
- Improves flexibility: The yoga poses stretch the muscles and increase joint range of motion improving joint mobility and function.
- Increases muscle strength and coordination: Holding the yoga poses over a longer duration improves isometric muscle strength and balance. This is especially beneficial in preventing falls among seniors.
- Relieves arthritis symptoms: Low impact yoga exercises can be safely performed to improve joint health without aggravating painful arthritis symptoms.
- Improves heart health: Deep breathing combined with stretches during yoga improves blood circulation and cardiovascular health. Several studies have shown the regular practice of yoga to reduce risk factors for cardiac diseases such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels.
- Promotes mindful eating: Yoga helps build a stronger mind-body connection that makes you become aware of your body’s needs enabling you to eat the right amount of food at the right time. This makes it easier to avoid overeating or other unhealthy eating habits that can negatively impact your health.
- Improves body image: Surveys have shown that yoga practitioners tend to have a positive body image as they develop an inner awareness and appreciation of their body which extends beyond physical appearance.
- Reduces stress and anxiety: Practicing yoga for 3 months can reduce levels of the hormone cortisol which is released when the body is experiencing a lot of physical or mental stress.
- Increases energy: Yoga helps to clear distracting thoughts and emotions allowing practitioners to experience higher levels of concentration, energy, and enthusiasm when performing routine activities.
- Enables healthy sleep: A good yoga routine can help you relax and let go of all the stress accumulated throughout the day putting you in the right frame of mind for obtaining high-quality, restful sleep.
Getting Started with Yoga Therapy
If you have had no prior experience with yoga, it is recommended to get a health check-up by your primary care provider before enrolling in a beginner’s yoga program conducted by a qualified yoga instructor. Depending on your health goals, you may choose to practice yoga in the comfort of your own home once you reach a certain level of proficiency and confidence.