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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

9 Reasons to Incorporate Yoga Meditation and Mindfulness into Your Life

9 Reasons to Incorporate Yoga Meditation and Mindfulness into Your Life

I’m mindful. Mindful in running down my to-do list, my wish list, my dream list, my ‘it seems impossible’ list. Mindful of the demands of life, work, relationships, communication, travel, meetings, traffic, and a constant conversation of positives and negatives having an NPR style narrative in my head.

Sure, I’m mindful. I’m a yoga instructor. It comes naturally, right? But the reality is, so much of the “mindfulness” in our mainstream is a cheap imitation of real connection, a desire to fast track our minds to a calm, focused space where we can be happy — but without much work, of course.

Being mindful is about being an impartial observer. It’s the ability to stay present in your moment without allowing the mind to get side-tracked. We all know that can be hard to do. Mindfulness is meant to be a state of awareness without judgement. Also, hard especially when we want easy happiness in the midst of a complex world.

Mindfulness isn’t exactly a new concept. It’s been a part of ancient meditations and yogic practice for centuries. Yoga started 5,000 years ago with the Vedic priests of India and yoga meditation has traces in 1500 BCE. Their original purpose was to train the body and mind to be self-aware. Not so different from what we want today.

Incorporating yoga and mindfulness into my lifestyle has not only allowed me to make it financially beneficial but it has shaped my body and mind in new and important ways. It is a full-time lifestyle, but it can be done with a few simple things. Here are nine reasons to help you increase your yoga meditation and allow everyday miracles to happen while connecting with real people and yourself:

1. On the Go Meditation Tools Are Everywhere

Downloading one (or a few) meditation apps is a good alternative to doing nothing at all. There is some controversy on the approach of meditation apps that are based in financial gain but have little to no incentive to get people to an independent place of stillness.

Many feel it takes away from the original purpose of learning with a trained coach. But for those on the go, they offer easy access to guided inspirational words to boost their day.

Mediation shouldn’t be a business about consumption, it should be about improving personal wisdom, real meditative yoga skills and mindfulness. If you’re a traveler these come in handy. Try Pocket Yoga and Universal Breathing apps.

2. It Allows Your Body to Physically Relax (Tons of Benefits)

Ever found yourself clenching your muscles, shoulders drawn up to your ears, without even being aware? This combination of muscle rigidity and stress can create a variety of connected issues including, sharp or persistent pain, body misalignment, and headaches, to start.

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Yoga, meditation and mindfulness allow a space to align your body correctly, lengthening and toning muscles that support long term health. Combined with breath, the body can release stress and finally relax.

Try Hatha or Vedic Meditation for deep meditative yoga options, and simple poses like Supta Tadasana to open hips, or Up Dog to open the chest and release the back. Five to ten minutes of simple stretching or holding an active resting position with deep breathing allows the muscles of the body to release. So, release those lines in your forehead and take a moment to try it now.

3. “Active” Silence Is Important

It’s a loud world out there, one that seems to distract from our true selves. One of the most powerful things we can do to be mindful is to take control of our thoughts. Our inner dialogue creates the reactions that drive our life, and they can dig in and take hold.

Taking a moment (5-10 minutes) to sit in stillness and breathe deep, activates the awareness to slow down. It oxygenates our muscles and tissues, improving real oxygen intake unlike our accustomed shallow breathing habits.

A moment of silence is best recommended in the morning. Before opening email, apps or swiping through dating profiles.

As a reminder, I enjoy spiritual leader and activist, Thich Nhat Hanh’s quote on active silence:

“This is not the kind of silence that oppresses us. It is a very elegant kind of silence, a very powerful king of silence. It is the silence that heals and nourishes us.”

I choose to find active silence in the outdoors hiking a mountain, or resting on my back in the ocean taking in the amplified sounds underwater. Nature is powerful.

4. Mental Breaks Not Mental Breakdowns Help Productivity

The brain naturally gives itself “time outs” by day dreaming. When you find yourself zoning out, your brain is taking time to reconfigure its complex maze of neurons. This usually happens when not involved in a detailed task, and the brain is tapping into its muscle memory. Basically, you’re on autopilot, and that’s a healthy part of our physiology.

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If we’re not taking time for self-awareness and self-actualization, we’re putting ourselves at a higher risk of mental and emotional stress. Leading to increased anxiety and pressure that affects our ability to concentrate.

If there are underlying genetic factors or negative experiences that spike emotional stress, this increases exposure to breakdowns. On the other hand, a scheduled time out allows our brains to take a break and be more productive.

If you’re new to yoga meditations, here are a few inspirations to start your own personal mantra:

What is my deepest desire? What are the emotions I’m feeling? What is my reactivity based in? What can I let go?

I invite you to take a moment to breathe deep, hold for five seconds, and breathe out, emptying the chest and belly. Namaste.

5. Brain Health

When we add time for yoga meditation and mindfulness, we tap into the brain’s state of “waking rest” or our default mode network. If done actively, we can take control of our thoughts and instead of our mind running us, we can run our mind.

The result? The ability to stay centered in many circumstances, circumventing ruminating thoughts, and added stressors.

Stress damages our body and brain. Here are just a few ways it does: anxiety and depression, emotional reactivity, eating disturbances, sleeplessness, weight loss, heart disease, chronic pain, affecting memory, over active cortisol levels in the brain, lower decision making and a shrinking pre-frontal cortex.

Luckily, according to Psychology Today, we can repair many damaged neurons and brain connectivity by reducing stress and cortisol production.[1] Yoga meditation is a simple, free, effective tool to do on your own time, almost anywhere.

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Yoga meditation is about observing our own thoughts and sensations in the body with real openness. I’ve had many yoga students share their stories of improved health and focus by adding this into their lifestyle, so I know the physical postures, breathing and mindfulness improve brain health.

We are more than our emotions, and there is a scientific chemistry behind our functions, let’s give ourselves the tools to be as healthy as possible.

6. It Allows Depth over Superficiality

We are all meant to create and enjoy deep relationships, leaving behind difficulties in our lives, childhood wounds and emotionally charged experiences. We do this inner work to allow authentic connections to happen and for a healthy mindset.

I believe most people want to go deeper, they just may not know how. Yoga meditation and mindfulness can help get you there. You don’t need to accept and stay around superficial relationships that don’t serve you, or worse, hurt you.

Start by evaluating your relationships. Which ones can you cultivate to be deep? Which ones lead you into superficiality? Which ones leave you feeling negative, depleted or insecure?

Evaluate your activities. Which ones cultivate deeper thinking, deeper relationships? Which ones benefit long term health and mental clarity? These may sound unoriginal, but ask yourself, when’s they last time you sat and really gave yourself an answer.

Here’s some meditation insight from Dr. Joe Dispenza,[2]

“Meditation opens the door between the conscious and subconscious minds. We meditate to enter the operating system of the subconscious, where all of those unwanted habits and behaviors reside, and change them to more productions modes to support us in our lives.”

Those supported lives lead to deeper everyday relationships.

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7. Connecting IRL with Others Looking for the Same

Most of the time it seems like the online world, mindfulness apps and practicing with others have been mutually exclusive. But they don’t have to be. Finding your yoga tribe at a local studio or wellness retreat can happen for you. There are so many options to choose from, and the increased desire to find more introspection is creating more outlets to explore.

According to neuroscience research, a subject I love, mindfulness increases the connections between the amygdala and prefrontal cortex,[3] ultimately helping us be less reactive and more resilient to stress. Real social interaction should be the heart of a meditation experience, not an add on, and there are plenty of welcoming tribes.

8. Eventually It Becomes a Habit

Productivity isn’t usually what you think of with mindfulness, but the more clarity you have the more productive you are. That starts with creating good habits and minimizing the ones we love to love; chocolate, snooze buttons, procrastination….and practicing regular meditation then becomes part of our lifestyle.

The habit of regular mediation is being explored by schools, pro sports teams and military units to enhance performance, according the Scientific American.[4] In addition, there are positive results with chronic pain, addiction and tinnitus. And because our emotional minds are so connected to our physical responses, there is evidence it helps with certain physical conditions, like irritable bowel syndrome,[5] cancer,[6] and HIV.[7]

Give yourself time to proactive adding meditation and mindfulness to your life daily. It can be as simple as 90 seconds of deep breathing in the car before work. Breathe, be aware, repeat. Soon those synapses will have new mindful pathways.

9. Sharing Your New-Found Stillness with Others

Like our life, the best advice I can give to share your mindfulness journey is to find the unique version that works for you and be supportive of others on their own journey.

The meditative technique that is the “stillness of the mind” is meant to pull us out of our self absorbed state and be more open. It’s basically in search on “mental fitness”.

Just like we would lift weights for physical fitness, accepting that mental health is important is part of the process. Allowing yourself to take a moment of stillness.

Final Thoughts

Yoga meditation is not a cure for everything or everyone, and it can unlock subconscious thoughts you’d rather leave alone. It’s not all rainbows and butterflies, sometimes it’s hard to face inner truths and feelings or get beyond the monkey mind.

In the end, whether you decide to do this as a personal quest or share it with a partner or group, take the time to prepare your mind for yoga meditation and do the version that works for you. Make it yours. It takes some work, more than we may be used to, but it’s worth it.

More Resources About Meditation & Mindfulness

Featured photo credit: Ksenia Makagonova via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Liz Galloway

I'm an idealist, columnist & traveler helping people connect through personal discovery. Stay inspired!

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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

How to Clear Your Mind and Be More Present Instantly

How to Clear Your Mind and Be More Present Instantly

You may be wondering how to clear your mind. Maybe you are facing a tough presentation at work and really need to focus, or perhaps you’ve got a lot going on at home and just need to relax for a few minutes. Whatever the reason, having a clear mind can help you find your center.

The only problem is that you can’t completely erase the thousands of thoughts you have each day. The goal is to be able to observe those thoughts without engaging with each one of them.

The good news is that clearing your mind and returning to the present moment comes from a simple act of acknowledging that you’re overwhelmed in the first place. A path to better mental health and overall quality of life starts here.

What Happens When You’re Not Present?

We’ve evolved to keep looking and working towards a future goal. The very nature of our careers is to make sure that we’re setting ourselves up for the future. Our thoughts and, therefore, our habits and actions consistently point in the forward-moving direction, whether it’s in your relationship, career, or goals.

The point at which this becomes harmful is when we become too stuck in this forward motion and can’t reduce stress in the short or long-term. The result of this is burnout.[1] It’s a term that is most often used in the workplace, but burnout can happen in any area of our life where you feel like you’re pushing too hard and too fast.

The idea here is that you’re so engrossed in the forward movement that you take on too much and rest too little. There is no pause in the present because you have this sense that you must keep working.

On a physical plane, the body takes a real hit with burnout. You feel more muscle fatigue, poor concentration, insomnia, anxiety, poor metabolism, and so much more.

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These symptoms are the body’s way of throwing you red flags and warning you that you must slow down. But because your mind is so preoccupied with this forward momentum, it disconnects you from listening to your body’s signals. The only time you really hear them is when the signals are too loud to ignore, such as during serious illness or pain.

As we can see, not being present is something that snowballs over time. Eventually, it can cause serious mental, emotional, and physical ailments. 

To help you deal with this, you can check out Lifehack’s Free Life Assessment to see where you may be off balance. Then, you can check out the points below to keep moving in the right direction.

How Do We Come Back to the Present?

Answering this question will answer the question of how to clear your mind because they go hand in hand. There are many tools you can use to begin a mindfulness practice.

To reiterate, mindfulness is simply defined as the act or practice of being fully present.[2] Tools that allow you to step into this practice include meditation, journaling, a body-centered movement practice such as Qigong, or simple breathing exercises.

Underneath it all, however, is one technique that acts as a universal connector, and that is acknowledgment. This term may not sound like a technique, but its power truly flourishes when put into practice.

For us to come back to the present moment, we have to acknowledge that we have trailed off into the past or the future. Likewise, for us to clear our mind, we have to acknowledge that our mind is overwhelmed, distracted, or scattered.

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This simple act of pausing and catching ourselves in the moment is how we can build our acknowledgment practice. So, the next time you find yourself overwhelmed at work with mental to-do lists, pause. Acknowledge your state of mind and say to yourself that you’re overwhelmed. This sends a signal to your whole being that you’re aware of what’s going on.

It cuts the cords of illusion, denial, and ignorance. You are now building your awareness of yourself, which is an incredibly potent gift.

How to Clear Your Mind

Now that you’ve acknowledged where you are and how you feel, you can take action and learn ways to clear your mind. You can take a few moments away from your desk or to-do list, and practice something to ground yourself back into the present moment.

1. Take a Walk

Grounding yourself can be as simple as taking a walk and admiring the changing of the leaves. This practice is also known as “forest bathing,” and it doesn’t necessarily need to take place in a forest. It can be in your favorite park or even walking around your town or neighborhood.

Bring your attention to the senses as you enjoy your walk. Can you tune in to the sounds of your footsteps on the earth? Can you notice the smells and take in the sights around you while staying present in the moment? Can you touch a leaf or the bark of a tree and allow the texture to teach you something new?

Such a practice does wonders in clearing your mind and bringing you back to the now. It also connects you more deeply to your environment.

2. Box Breathing

As you’re learning how to clear your mind, a mind-clearing practice may look like sitting down and going through a nourishing meditation or breath practice. Breathing is, honestly, the easiest and best way to clear your mind. Even taking a few deep breaths in and out and feeling and noticing the breath will bring you right back to the present moment.[3]

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In yoga, we call this breath Same Vrti, meaning a 1:1 breath ratio. It can also be translated as “box breathing.” The idea is to make the length of your inhales and exhales the same, as this allows you to take in more oxygen and slow down the chatter of the monkey mind. It also kicks on the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for rest and digestion, offering many health benefits in the long run.

This will allow your heart rate to slow down so that you can reduce any anxiety you may be feeling. It also aids in digestion, as the metabolism is back on track, and helps you physically process food and drink properly.

3. Add Meditation

how to meditate and clear your mind is also helpful when you want to clear negative thoughts and relieve stress. In fact, following your breath is a meditation in itself. Adding a visual, like imagining gentle ripples on a lake or clouds passing along a beautiful blue sky, can give the mind something to attach to without running through the train of your thoughts.

On the other hand, if you are mentally overwhelmed and meditation sounds like more stress, tuning in to a guided meditation session can be alleviating. It often helps to hear the voice of a teacher or guide who can walk you into more peace and contentment with their words and energy. If you can’t find such a guide in a local studio, turn to the many meditation apps on your phone, or YouTube.

4. Write Your Thoughts

Alternatively, another powerful practice for when you’re learning how to clear your mind is sitting down and writing out all of the thoughts in your head. We call this a “brain dump,” and it is an effective method for simply releasing your thoughts so that you can mentally breathe and process things better.

Grab a piece of paper and write out all of the thoughts that are pressing for your attention. The idea is not to analyze the thoughts or fix them, but to give those thoughts an exit so that you can move on with your day without fixating on them aggressively. This can look like a laundry list of thoughts, or a diary entry.

Afterward, feel free to close your journal or rip up the paper as part of your stress management. You don’t need to hold on to what you wrote, but it does help to see the expression of what you’re holding on to mentally. Likewise, this practice is very potent to do at night before bedtime. So many of us struggle to sleep soundly with many thoughts bouncing back and forth, and this exercise before bed can allow us to enter a deeper level of rest.

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Regardless of what you do, understand that practicing mindfulness is a lifelong process. With life’s ups and downs, it’s stressful to attach yourself to the practice of being mindful and in the present moment because it’s never guaranteed that you will be present for 100% of your life.

In this practice, what matters more than anything is intention. Our intention of staying present and sticking to our mindfulness practice is what will encourage us to keep coming back to it, even when we forget.

Final Thoughts

With the thousands of thoughts that we have in our head each day, it can sound overwhelming to even tackle this and try to learn how to clear your mind. The technique, however, is powerful, simple, and effective.

It all comes down to first recognizing and acknowledging that we are overwhelmed, stressed, or far away from the present moment. That acknowledgment acts as a wake-up alarm, inviting us to examine our state of mind and take action.

In this way, not only are we clearing our minds in a manner that works for us, but we’re also building our self-awareness, which is a beautiful and powerful way of being in the world.

More Tips on How to Clear Your Mind

Featured photo credit: Elijah Hiett via unsplash.com

Reference

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