Yoga & Meditation
Yeah I know, meditation and yoga can easily be dismissed as fads, let’s be honest, they’re everywhere. They’re being used to sell everything from spiritual salvation to underarm deodorant. I am not entirely sure of the latter; I haven’t had cable in nearly a decade so I truly have no idea. Yet I wouldn’t be surprised.
So, what’s the deal? What’s in it for you? A lot! Below are just some of the benefits you’ll receive from contemplative practices such as meditation and a mindfulness approach to yoga.
From the electronics in our pockets to the continual chatter of our minds, we live in a world of relentless stimulation. This constant stimulation keeps our sympathetic nervous system (SNS) in high gear which is connected to our fight, flight, and freeze response. When our SNS is engaged our body releases hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline causing a decrease of blood flow to our extremities, slowing our digestion, while increasing our heart rate and breathing rate.
Yoga and meditation have been shown to decrease cortisol levels. High levels of cortisol have been linked to blood sugar imbalances, weakened cognitive function and compromising the immune system to name a few.
Practices such as yoga and meditation decrease the activity of the SNS and stimulates our parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS), which is our relaxation response. The PSNS brings our bodies back into balance providing restoration and healing. The effects of contemplative practices last long after you have finished the activity.
Yoga & mediation have mood altering effects
- They’re scientifically proven to promote emotional stability by altering the biochemistry of the brain;
- Increasing our capacity to experience positive emotions;
- Providing us with a greater ability to regulate negative emotions thus making it beneficial when working with such concerns as depression, grief, and anxiety;
- Our aptitude for empathy is increased; as we learn to honour and accept ourselves and our own emotions, we can extend this compassion to others.
Yoga and meditation boost feel good neurochemicals
- GABA is responsible for relieving anxiety, improving mood and reducing pain symptoms;
- Serotonin aids in regulating our sleep patterns, memory, mood, and appetite. 80% of the body’s serotonin is found in the gut. Low levels of serotonin are associated with depression;
- Dopamine is released during pleasurable experiences. It is known to aid coordination and movement, support focus and attention, and support problem-solving abilities.
These physiological benefits will help you embody the mental and emotional changes that are occurring in your counselling sessions. It moves from being abstract to being concrete.
To begin all you need to do is create space and time. Learning to follow your breath is a great first step.