Yoga and meditation are more than 5,000 years old, and yet the quantifiable benefits of these practices are only now being understood by researchers and practitioners. According to the National Institute of Health, roughly 8.7% of Americans currently practice yoga, and over 40% of Americans practice meditation at least once a week. As more people start to practice yoga and meditation, the mental and physical benefits are becoming more apparent.
As a health professional, Parag Dalsania knows how beneficial yoga and meditation can be not only for the mind, but for the body, and he wants to share how.
Effects on the Brain
We live in a world full of distractions and constant engagement, and yoga, meditation, and mindfulness offer a brief reprieve from this chaos. One of the greatest benefits of this practice is the impact it has on your brain. Parag Dalsania explains that several studies have shown that a few minutes of mindful movement and meditation can protect the brain from aging. Your brain will start to degrade after your 20s in size, mass, volume, and activity, and practicing mindful movement and meditation can slow overall cognitive decline. It also has the potential to act as a preventative measure for neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Yoga, meditation, and mindfulness can also transform your overall brain health and clarity. Whether you are focusing on the precision of your movements, the delicacy of your balance, or the simple movement of your breath, these practices can help with your overall focus. As with anything else, practice makes perfect. Parag Dalsania explains that practicing focus and concentration will begin to become a part of your daily routine.
Benefits on Mental Health
Depression diagnosis in the United States was up 33% in 2018 and this number continues to rise along with generalized anxiety. Yoga, mindfulness, and meditation have been proven to help mitigate the symptoms of mild depression and anxiety. Parag Dalsania explains that a stressful environment can increase the amount of cortisol in the body, which is our body’s ‘fight-or-flight’ response. When we sit all day and do not move or stop engaging with the digital world around us, this cortisol has nowhere to go. Yoga, mindfulness, and meditation have been proven to reduce cortisol and aid in overall mental health. The reduction of stress can also help lower high blood pressure and other cardiovascular diseases.
How Mindfulness Reduces Inflammation and Pain
Believe it or not, yoga and meditation may also reduce inflammation. Inflammation is a normal immune response, but chronic inflammation can lead to numerous diseases including cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. A 2015 study divided roughly 200 participants into two groups, those who practiced yoga regularly and those who didn’t. Both groups were then asked to perform moderate and strenuous exercise to induce stress. The group who practiced yoga had lower levels of inflammatory markers than the other group.
Lastly, yoga, meditation, and mindfulness may reduce chronic pain. Chronic pain is a persistent problem experienced by millions of people and can be caused by everything from arthritis to injury. In one study, 42 people with carpal tunnel were either given a wrist splint or asked to do yoga for eight weeks. At the end of the study, yoga was found to be effective in mitigating symptoms of chronic pain and improving overall grip strength.
Final Thoughts from Parag Dalsania
Yoga, meditation, and mindfulness practice may seem trivial to put in place, especially for those who have particularly “busy” lives. Parag Dalsania suggests starting small. Start by downloading a meditation mobile app or following a short video of a yoga routine on YouTube. By incorporating these practices once or twice a week to start, you may start to notice some of the benefits yourself.