Taken from the Sanskrit word “yuji,” meaning yoke or union, yoga helps us connect our minds and bodies. This ancient practice combines postures, movement, breathwork, focused-attention, and deep relaxation. Similarly, mindfulness is the practice of bringing attention to the present moment without judgement. This can be accomplished through meditation, breathwork and attention activities. These two practices can’t be performed without the other taking place. As a result, it’s clear why yoga and mindfulness are often recommended coping tools in mental health.
How It Works
When we are feeling stressed, anxious, or depressed it means our minds and bodies are disconnected. The elements of yoga and mindfulness help us bridge this gap.
Deep breathing is one of the most effective ways to reduce stress in the body. This is because when you breathe deeply, it sends the message to your brain to calm and relax. The brain then sends this message to your body. Those things that happen when you are stressed, such as increased heart rate, fast breathing, and high blood pressure, all decrease as you breathe deeply.
How It Impacts Your Body
Many different areas of your body and mind are impacted by yoga and mindfulness exercises. For example:
- Increases focus, attention, concentration, comprehension, and memory
- Increases responsiveness
- Enhances executive functions
- Stimulates auditory processing & responsiveness
- Expands imagination and creativity
- Improves ability to manage stress
- Strengthens resilience
- Improves confidence & self-esteem Reduces anger & sadness
- Lowers cortisol concentrations
- Decreases levels of anxiety & tension
- Reduces impulsivity & reactivity Increases ability to regulate emotions & behavior
- Increases flexibility, strength & well-being Improves self-awareness
- Encourages motor development Increases balance & coordination
- Strengthens immune system functioning
- Increases ability to relax & sleep well
- Improves respect for self & others
- Supports healthy relationships at work and home.
- Increases sense of community & connectedness
Mindfulness and Yoga Tools
The following methods are tools that can be used to help you connect your body and mind.
Begin by breathing in and counting to four slowly. Feel the air enter your lungs.
Then, hold your breath for 4 seconds. Try to avoid inhaling or exhaling for 4 seconds.
Next you will slowly exhale through your mouth for 4 seconds.
Repeat until you feel re-centered.
The image below shows the twelve poses that make up the flow sequence.
Five Senses Exercise
First, notice five things that you can see.
Pick something that you don’t normally notice. For example, a shadow or a small crack in the concrete.
Next, notice four things that you can feel.
This could be the texture of your pants, the feeling of the breeze on your skin, or the smooth surface of a table you are resting your hands on.
Notice three things you can hear.
This can be the chirp of a bird, the hum of the refrigerator, or the faint sounds of traffic from a nearby road.
Notice two things you can smell.
Whether pleasant or unpleasant, notice what you smell. Maybe the breeze is carrying a whiff of flowers if you’re outside, or the smell of a fast-food restaurant across the street.
Finally, notice one thing you can taste.
You can take a sip of a drink, eat something, notice the current taste in your mouth. Additionally, you can open your mouth to search the air for a taste.
- Find a place to sit quietly or lie down.
- Starting at your feet or your head, focus your attention one-by-one on each part of your body.
- Notice any feelings of tension or discomfort. Then, imagine each area softening and relaxing.
- If a thought or emotion arises, notice it without judging, then let it go.
You do not need to be an experienced yogi to develop a routine that works for you. Further, you may need to explore a few methods until you find the right fit.