There are a multitude of precious gifts that can be found through the practice of meditation. Some of these gifts include the benefits of mindfulness - being one with one's self, finding yourself on the most intimate level, and seeing yourself at the level of pure consciousness. Other benefits include calming the mind and body. Relief from stress, anxiety, and post traumatic stress symptoms. Developing a keenness of mind and releasing the constant chatter of the mind's security matter, which works non-stop to tell us what to think, what to do, how to live, constantly reminding us of the past in an effort to protect us in the now. Physically, meditation has proven to have the ability to provide ample health benefits including lowered blood pressure, physical stress symptoms, restful sleep, and a myriad of other health concerns. Still, others meditate to receive relief from the anger, fear, jealousy, hatred, and other painful thoughts and feelings that often flood the mind & body. Still others come to meditation to find greater self-understanding, to increase their intuitive powers, or to improve their ability to concentrate.It is accurate to say that the purpose of meditation depends on the meditator - but it is also true that anyone who meditates regularly receives profound benefits on all of these levels - physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.
Here are just a few scientifically proven benefits of meditation:
- Relief from stress and anxiety (meditation mitigates the effects of the "fight-or-flight" response, decreasing the production of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline)
- Decreased blood pressure and hypertension
- More efficient oxygen use by the body
- Increased production of the anti-aging hormone DHEA
- Relief from physical symptoms of illness
New research also shows that meditation restores the brain. A landmark study conducted by Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital found that meditation literally rebuilds the brain's gray matter, in as little as eight weeks of meditation. People felt calmer and also produced changes in various areas of the brain, including growth in areas associated with memory, empathy, sense of self, and stress regulation. Harvard concluded that
Although the practice of meditation is associated with a sense of peacefulness and physical relaxation, practitioners have long claimed that meditation also provides cognitive and psychological benefits that persist through the day. This study demonstrates that changes in brain structure may underlie some of these reported improvements and that people are not just feeling better because they are spending time relaxing.
The National Center for Health (NIH) states that meditation may be helpful for a variety of conditions, such as high blood pressure, certain psychological disorders, and pain. In addition, some research suggests that practicing meditation may reduce blood pressure, symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety and depression, and insomnia. They go on to say that meditation is generally considered to be safe for healthy people.
To learn how to meditate or to schedule meditation workshops, call us at 708-663-5572.
What is Yoga?
In Sanskrit, the word yoga means union or connection. In a philosophical sense, however, yoga means the conscious connection of the limited ego self with the unlimited, eternal, higher Self.
When one thinks of yoga, her or his first association might be with the physical practice called asanas: moving through the yoga poses and practicing yogic breathing, but yoga is so much more. Yoga is an 8-fold path lifestyle system that when practiced, can help to produce a universal consciousness that reflects love, joy, peace, kindness, gentleness, and the ability to focus on and achieve one's goals.
Choosing the right path of yoga for you may seam daunting. Here are 8 types of yoga that are well-known in the Western world.
Hatha is known as the physical branch of yoga. The Sanskrit term Hatha has a twofold meaning. This word can be broken into "ha" which means Sun, and "tha" which means moon. In this context, Hatha refers to the balance of perceived masculine aspects - active, hot, sun, and perceive feminine aspects - receptive, cool, moon -- within every human being. Hatha yoga is a path toward creating balance and uniting opposites. Another definition of Hatha is physical, force or exertion which is taken to mean, the physical discipline of exercise including breath control, simple meditation, and the adoption of specific bodly postures to lead one's self ot the path of realization and consciousness.
There are other, non-physical, branches of yoga such as Bhakti, Kriya, Raja, and karma yoga. The physical-based yoga is the most popular in the U.S. and has numerous styles. Hatha yoga classes are the best for beginners since they are usually paced slower that other yoga styles. Hatha classes today are a classic approach to breathing and exercises. If you are brand-new to yoga, Hatha yoga is a great entry point to the practice.
Iyengar Yoga was founded by B.K.S. Iyengar and focuses on alignment as well as detailed and precise movements. In an Iyengar class, stuends perform a variety of posters while controlling the breath. Generally, poses are held for a long time while adjusting the minutiae of the pose. Iyengar relies heavily on props to help students perfect their form and go deeper into poses in a safe manner.
Kundalini Yoga is equal parts spiritual and physical. This style helps to release the kundalini energy in your body said to be trapped, or coiled, in the lower spine. These classes really work your core and breathing with fast-moving, invigorating postures and breath exercises. These classes can involve chanting, mantra, and meditation.
In Sanskrit Ashtanga is translated as "Eight Limb path." Ashtanga yoga involves a very physically demanding sequence of postures, so this style of yoga is definitely not for the beginner. It takes an experienced yogi to really love it. Ashtanga starts with five sun salutation A's and five sun salutation B's and then moves into a series of standing and floor postures. In Mysore, India, people gather to practice this form of yoga together at their own pace -- if you see Mysore-led Ashtanga, it's expected of you to know the series. Vinyasa yoga stems from Ashtanga as the flowing style linking breath to movement.
Vinyasa means "to place in a special way" and in this case yoga postures. Vinyasa is the most athletic yoga style. Vinyasa was adapted from Ashtanga yoga in the 1980s. In Vinyasa classes, the movement is coordinated with your breath and movement to flow from one pose to another. Many types of yoga can also be considered Vinyasa flows such as Ashtanga, power yoga, and prana. Vinyasa styles can vary depending on the teacher, and there can be many different types of poses in different sequences.
Bikram Yoga, often referred to as Hot Yoga in its generic term is a wonderful practice if you are looking to sweat. Bikram Yoga is named after Bikram Choudhury and features a sequence of set poses in a sauna-like room -- typically set to 105 degrees and 40 percent humidity. The dequence includes a series of 26 basic postures, with each one performed twice.
Yin Yoga is a slow-paced style of yoga with seated postures that are held for longer periods of time. Yin is a great class for beginners, as postures can be held from 45 seconds to two minutes. Yin can also be a meditative yoga practice that helps you find inner peace. These classes are relaxed, as you're supposed to let gravity do most of the work.
Restorative Yoga focuses on winding down after a long day and relaxing your mind. At its core, this style focuses on body & mind relaxation. You spend more time in fewer postures throughout the class. Many of the poses are modified to be easier and more relaxing. Like Iyengar, many props are used and are placed just right such as blankets, bolsters, and eye pillows. All of the props are there to help you sink deeper into relaxation. Restorative yoga's main goal is to help cleanse and free your mind (revised from MindBodyGreen).
The 8-fold path of yoga is as follows focuses on these 8 elements of spiritual awakening & enlightenment. Starting from the Yamas and continuing clockwise are:
- Yamas: One's responsibility of spiritual awareness in society.
- Niyamas: One's responsibility of personal behavior towards one's self.
- Asana: Physical postures that serve to connect body, mind, and spirit.
- Pranayama: Mindful breathing.
- Pratyahara: Control of senses.
- Dharana: Control of the mind.
- Dhyana: Meditation.
- Samadhi: Absorption of pure bliss consciousness.
To schedule yoga classes or to learn more about the 8 paths of yoga, contact Cassandra at 708-663-5572.