Yoga + Exercise + Nature = Smarter, Healthier You
For the past year yoga has revolutionized my life and my body. It has helped me overcome stress, find inner peace, and focus on what is important in my life. Yoga is about respecting, honoring, and understanding the balance between your mind, your body, and your soul. I know I don’t do any exercise in the morning, I won’t be productive during the day. And I know if I don’t exercise during the day I will find it harder to fall asleep at night. Another part of my happiness comes from the outdoors. I can’t be inside for too long. It drains me of Prana which is the sanskrit word for vital life energy. I have to exercise and do yoga outside to reap the true benefits. The reason is because the energy of life given off by the earth, the trees, the air, and the sun is more prominent outside. If you have consistently practiced yoga outside, I know you can feel the difference. A building made of stone does not carry much energy within because it is mainly dead. Interestingly enough, Science is catching up to the wisdom of the Eastern Yogi’s as the art of yoga/exercise experience a renaissance.
There are three steps.
One: do Yoga
Recent research suggests that twenty-minute workout sessions that combine yoga and tai chi can increase your heart rate,reduce your anxiety, and sharpen your math skills. Such were the findings of a 2010 study in which 38 adults participated in a twenty-minute workout session that include ten minutes of tai chi movement and ten minutes of sitting, standing, and lying down yoga poses. The researchers measured the heart rate, brain wave activity, self-reported anxiety index, and math computation skills of each participant before and after the workout session. The results showed that the participants experienced a moderate increase in their heart rates and the theta activity in their brains. Furthermore, the participants reported reduced anxiety and solved basic math problems with increased speed and accuracy after the workout.
Two: Exercise Outside
Just five minutes of exercise in a “green space” such as a park can boost mental health. There is growing evidence that combining activities such as walking or cycling with nature boosts well-being. In the latest analysis, UK researchers looked at evidence from 1,250 people in 10 studies and found fast improvements in mood and self-esteem. The study in the Environmental Science and Technology journal suggested the strongest impact was on young people.
New research shows that even a small amount of meditation can help grow important brain fibers. An international research team from China and the University of Oregon found that only 11 hours of a specific type of meditation, integrative body-mind training (IBMT), increases brain tracts connecting the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) to other brain structures.
The ACC is part of the “emotional brain” that detects conflicting messages and then connects areas in the brain to suggest the next appropriate action. Increased connectivity of this problem-solving area to other brain regions helps regulate emotions and behavior. Growing more fibers is a good thing, because the more connections the ACC has, the more possible solutions and responses can be made. An inactive ACC with less connections has been associated with attention deficit disorder, tobacco addiction, depression, dementia, and other mental health disorders. For these reasons, increasing the activity and connectivity of the ACC may be a useful mental health treatment.
Proving the Point
Meditation and yoga really do provide therapeutic benefits by making physical and conscious changes in our brain and bodies. Meditation helps the different parts of our brain to work together to problem solve in difficult situations. Even small amounts of meditation and exercise can provide beneficial brain growth. Meditation and yoga is not just about stress reduction anymore, but about how can our brains respond better emotionally and behaviorally.