alternative medicineFor centuries, the Far East has always believed that the mind and body should be seen and treated as one and whole. Now, this belief is catching on in the Western world too.

So let’s start with that for our first part of the Mind and Body series, taking you back to the basics to see what meditation and yoga and is all about!

Meditation

The word Meditation is derived from the Latin word ‘meditatio’, which means intellectual and physical exercise.

Meditation has been practiced for over 5000 years and uses the mind and body to achieve a great sense of calm. Meditation is a mental exercise where measured breathing and focus connects the mind and body to a heightened sense of awareness and an increased conscious state. Meditation encourages positive thoughts and mental preparation for the experiences ahead of you.

Often practiced daily to help focus attention and promote stillness of mind, meditation is also prescribed by some doctors today to complement conventional medical treatment.

meditateMost recently, science has produced amazing results linking the regular practice of meditation to:

Preventing heart disease
Increasing grey matter in the brain
Lowering blood pressure better than heart pressure meds by naturally producing nitric oxide, which causes blood vessels to open up

Though it may be tough at first, but once regular meditation becomes a habit, the fruit from this practice will be peace and wellbeing of the mind and body.

It takes determination, perseverance and discipline to stick to a meditation routine so try to be positive about making time to incorporate meditation in your life. Perhaps start with 10 minutes every morning after waking up and before starting your day, setting an intention for how you would like the day to go.

Here are some inspirational quotes and a free Omharmonics meditation track to help get you started :

• Meditation is the tongue of the soul and the language of our spirit.
Jeremy Taylor

• In the beginning you will fall into the gaps in between thoughts – after practicing for years, you become the gap.
J.Kleykamp

• If you meditate, sooner or later you will come upon love. If you meditate deeply, sooner or later you will start feeling a tremendous love arising in you that you have never known before.
Osho

Yoga

Did you know that yoga is classed as alternative medicine? Traditional yoga philosophy requires that practitioners adhere to a strict behavior, diet and meditation ritual, but it is possible to practice a milder form for health and stress management, without making an entire lifestyle change and becoming a yogi. It also helps that there are countless yoga studios around for us to learn the practice and reap the benefits.

Yoga comes in many forms and intensities but each type involves two core elements: a series of posture and breathing techniques. If you are just starting to explore yoga, try Hatha Yoga, or if you are already a bit of a pro then Ashtanga or Bikram Yoga may be better for you (these options are usually available in most gyms and yoga centers):
yoga

Hatha Yoga (Beginner) is an easy-to-learn basic form of yoga that has become very popular in the US and involves slow, measured poses that promote a sense of calm and self-realization. Each of the 200 plus poses increases flexibility, strength, balance, agility and are designed to massage internal organs and tissues at the same time.

Bikram Yoga (Intermediate) was created by Olympic gold medalist weightlifter Bikram Choudhury, and focuses on poses which tone and define muscles while working on breathing and clearing you mind. Bikram is unique as it is practiced in a heated room; the added heat increases flexibility (prevents muscle injuries) and helps detoxify the body. Make sure you are well-hydrated before and after the session!

Ashtanga Yoga (Advanced) is more physically demanding as it involves a faster series of postures and synchronized breathing with the intention of raising your body heat and detoxifying muscles and organs. Ashtanga is not recommended for beginners but it is something to bear in mind to increase stamina once you have mastered Hatha!

The practice of yoga is a personal preference and it can be a process of trial and error to find a type which suits your body and your mind. Whichever yoga you try, do bear the following in mind to ensure that you get the most from your yoga session:

  1. What are the instructor’s qualifications and where are they from?
  2. Has the instructor worked with students before or have hands-on experience when it comes to specific health concerns that you have? A good instructor will suggest alternative poses to prevent aggravating existing injuries such as a back or knee injury.
  3. Is the class part of a series which you need to join from the beginning, and if not, is there an introductory class which you can attend to learn/be reminded of the basics before jumping in?
  4. What focus does the class take – is it stress management, muscle toning, weight loss, yoga for older citizens?

At the end of the day (literally!) there is a yoga practice for babies, children, adults, the elderly, your face and even cats, so find one which suits you and one day you may be able to master yoga like this Equinox pro in the below video!

P.S. Do you practice yoga? Are you struggling to build a yoga practice that you can stick to?

Join our 7-Day Yoga Challenge on Mindvalley’s newest platform, Zenward and build a healthy yoga practice in a fun and effortless way.

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