Countless yoga practitioners all over the world can attest to how the activity serves as an excellent program for staying in shape. But aside from its physical benefits, yoga and one of its integral components – meditation, have amazing effects on the brain as well.
And it’s not just about stress relief and relaxation, either.
Research has proven that yoga and meditation can actually alter brain chemistry, along with its different parts.
Forbes published an article citing numerous studies on how meditation affects the brain.
Among them was research by a team at Harvard which revealed that subjects who have undergone eight weeks of meditation saw actual changes in different areas of their brains. For instance, the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for stress, anxiety and fear, decreased its cell volume; while the hippocampus, responsible for memory and learning, got increased thickness.
In addition, a UCLA study showed how thoughts directly relate to the chemical composition of the brain. To understand better, take the explanation of Alex Korb, Ph.D., the head researcher. Korb stated, “the specific thoughts you have may differ, but the brain regions involved and the physiological response will be the same. The physiological stress response means an increase in heart rate, breathing rate, muscle tension, and elevation of cortisol and other stress hormones.”
Strictly speaking, your thoughts translate to your body’s response.
This is where yoga and meditation come in. The techniques involved greatly aid in clearing the mind and relaxing muscles that result in the body’s overall positive response.
Moreover, yoga and meditation stimulates creativity and boosts productivity.
That may sound counter-intuitive, as the main step in meditation is to clear your mind, but it’s this very process that will help in concentration and focus afterwards.
If you’re not convinced, take for example one of the power couples of the 21st century – the genius that was Steve Jobs, and his widow, Laurene Powell Jobs. Inc. Magazine highlighted that Steve Jobs was one of the pioneers of the technique called ‘zen mindfulness meditation’, which helped him tremendously during his lifetime.
On the other hand, his widow, Laurene Powell Jobs, supports the same practice as well and has earned success in her own right. According to The Scene, she’s now the richest woman in Silicon Valley, and her practice of yoga has been instrumental in keeping her mind and body in the best condition so she can always give 100% in everything else she does.
In fact, yoga and meditation are so important to the couple (or were, in Steve’s case) that their estate, now handled by Laurene Powell Jobs, will have more than 420 sq. feet set aside for a yoga studio. Venture Beat mentioned that the property, which is currently under construction, has been the couple’s dream ever since they got together, including the area for meditation and yoga.
Now you have more reasons to continue with your regular meditation and yoga sessions!
If you’ve just become interested in the activity, check out a previous blog post by Lana Beaumont about how to clear your mind to help you get started.