By Faye Martins
In times of great change and uncertainty, almost everyone experiences feelings of anxiety and stress. While circumstances are often beyond our control, the way we handle them is not. Research has proven that carrying negative emotions for long periods of time can have adverse effects on physical and mental health. One of the oldest and most effective ways to release blocked feelings and calm the body is the ancient yogic practice.
Every one of us has personal challenges in life. Some people have far more problems than we do, but they still move forward and greet us with a smile. I see happy people in yoga studios and ashrams. So, what is the secret? Yogic methodology is many things, but it is also a system that teaches us coping strategies for life’s challenges.
Yoga can be literally translated as the union of body, mind, and spirit; and its eight branches are closely intertwined. Although best known in modern society for its physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation, yogic methods can also be a spiritual practice that encompasses everything from integrity and compassion to concentration and balance. Regardless of how it is practiced, the basic tenets work together to enhance emotional stability, physical stamina, and mental clarity.
Changes made in the mind are manifested in the body, and changes made in the body are manifested in the mind and spirit. A variety of studies have shown the benefits of yoga exercises on emotional stability:
• Research in Scandinavia measured the effect of yoga on brain waves and found that both alpha and theta waves increased after a yoga training session. This means that the brain is not only calmer, but it has greater access to subconscious emotions, as well.
• A study published in an Indian journal found that people who practiced yoga for ten months showed a decrease in depression both during and after the months of their participation.
• Clinical studies at the University of Wisconsin found that meditation increases the action of the prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain associated with increased immunity and sense of well-being.
• An article in www.beliefnet.com lists the benefits of yoga in helping teens manage the physical, emotional, and mental changes occurring during adolescence.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, well-known author and meditation teacher, says: “when you practice yoga…your perspective on your body, your thoughts, and your whole sense of self can change…” During the practice of asanas, the body can recall long-forgotten memories and release them, bringing emotional balance and restoring health.
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