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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 July 8, 2020

How to Say No When You Say Yes Too Often

How to Say No When You Say Yes Too Often

Do you say yes so often that you realize you aren’t really happy about this, wondering how to say no to people?

For years, I was a serial people pleaser. Known as someone who would step up, I would gladly make time especially when it came to volunteering for certain causes. I proudly carried this role all through grade school, college, even through law school. For years, I thought saying “no” meant I would disappoint a good friend or someone I respected.

But somewhere along the way, I noticed I wasn’t quite living my life. Instead, I seem to have created a schedule that was a strange combination of meeting the expectations of others, what I thought I should be doing, and some of what I actually wanted to do. The result? I had a packed schedule that left me overwhelmed and unfulfilled.

It took a long while but I learned the art of saying no. Saying ‘no’ meant I no longer catered fully to everyone else’s needs and could make more room for what I really wanted to do. Instead of cramming too much in, I chose to pursue what really mattered. I started to manage my time more around my own needs and interests. When that happened, I became a lot happier. And guess what? I hardly disappointed anyone.

The Importance of Saying No

When you learn the art of saying ‘no,’ you begin to look at the world differently. Rather than seeing all of the things you could or should be doing (and aren’t doing), you start to look at how to say yes to what’s important.

In other words, you aren’t just reacting to what life throws at you. You seek the opportunities that move you to where you want to be.

Successful people aren’t afraid to say no. Oprah Winfrey considered one of the most successful women in the world confessed that it was much later in life when she learned how to say no. Even after she had become internationally famous, she felt she had to say yes to virtually everything. It was only when she realized that after years of struggling with saying no, I finally got to this question: “What do I want?”

Being able to say no also helps you manage your time better.

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Warren Buffett views no as essential to his success. He said,

“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”

When I made ‘no’ a part of my toolbox, I drove more of my own success focusing on fewer things and doing them well.

How We Are Pressured to Say Yes

It’s no wonder a lot of us find it hard to say ‘no.’

From an early age, we are conditioned to say ‘yes.’ We said yes probably hundreds of time in order to graduate from high school and then get into college. We said yes to find work. We said yes get a promotion. We said yes to find love and then yes again to stay in a relationship. We said yes to find and keep friends.

We say yes because it feels better to help someone. We say yes because it can seem like the right thing to do. We say yes because we think that is key to success. And we say yes because the request might come from someone who is hard to resist like the boss.

And that’s not all. The pressure to say yes doesn’t just come from others. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves. At work, we say yes because we compare ourselves to others who seem to be doing more than we are. Outside of work, we say yes because we feel guilty we aren’t doing enough to spend time with family or friends.

The message no matter where we turn is nearly always, “You really could be doing more.” The result? When people ask us for our time, we are heavily conditioned to say yes.

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How to Say No Without Feeling Guilty

Deciding to add the word ‘no’ to your toolbox is no small thing. Perhaps you already say ‘no’ but not as much as you would like. Maybe you have an instinct that if you were to learn the art of ‘no’ that you could finally create more time for things you care about. But let’s be honest, using the word ‘no’ doesn’t come easily for many people.

The 3 Rules of Thumbs for Saying No

1. You Need to Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

Let’s face it. It is hard to say no. Setting boundaries around your time especially you haven’t done it much in the past will feel awkward.

2. You Are the Air Traffic Controller of Your Time

Remember that you are the only one who understands the demands for your time. Think about it, who else knows about all of the demands on your time? No one. Only you are at the center of all of these requests. are the only one that understands what time you really have.

3. Saying ‘No’ Means Saying ‘Yes’ to Something That Matters

When we decide not to do something, it means we can say yes to something else. You have a unique opportunity to decide how you spend your precious time.

6 Ways to Start Saying No

Incorporating that little word ‘no’ into your life can be transformational. Turning some things down will mean you can open doors to what really matters. Here are some essential tips to learn the art of no:

1. Check in With Your Obligation Meter

One of the biggest challenges to saying ‘no’ is a feeling of obligation. Do you feel you have a responsibility to say yes and worry that saying no reflect poorly on you?

Ask yourself whether you truly have the duty to say yes. Check your assumptions or beliefs about whether you carry the responsibility to say yes. Turn it around and instead ask what duty you owe to yourself.

2. Resist the Fear of Missing out (FOMO)

Do you have a fear of missing out (FOMO)? FOMO can follow us around in so many ways. At work, we volunteer our time because we fear we won’t move ahead. In our personal lives, we agree to join the crowd because FOMO even while we ourselves aren’t enjoying the fun.

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Check in with yourself. Are you saying yes because of FOMO or because you really want to say yes? More often than not, running after fear doesn’t make us feel better.

3. Check Your Assumptions About What It Means to Say ‘No’

Do you dread the reaction you will get if you say no? Often, we say ‘yes’ because we worry about how others will respond or the consequences of saying no or because of the consequences. We may be afraid to disappoint others or think we will lose respect from others. We often forget how much we are disappointing ourselves along the way.

Keep in mind that saying ‘no’ can be exactly what is needed to send the right message that you have limited time. In the tips below, you will see how to communicate your no in a gentle and loving way. You might disappoint someone initially but drawing a boundary can bring you the freedom you need so that you can give freely of yourself when you truly want to.

4. When the Request Comes In, Sit on It

Sometimes, when we are in the moment, we instinctively agree. The request might make sense at first. Or we typically have said yes to this request in the past.

Give yourself a little time to reflect on whether you really have the time, or can do the task properly. You may decide the best option is to say ‘no.’ There is no harm in giving yourself the time to decide.

5. Communicate Your ‘No’ with Transparency and Kindness

When you are ready to tell someone no, communicate your decision clearly. The message can be open and honest to ensure the recipient that your reasons have to do with your limited time.

Resist the temptation not to respond or communicate all. But do not feel obligated to provide a lengthy account about why you are saying no.

A clear communication with a short explanation is all that is needed. I have found it useful to tell people that I have many demands and need to be careful with how I allocate my time. I will sometimes say I really appreciate that they came to me and for them to check in again if the opportunity arises another time.

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6. Consider How to Use a Modified ‘No’

If you are under pressure to say yes but want to say no, you may want to consider downgrading a “yes” to a “yes but…” giving you an opportunity to condition your agreement to what works best for you.

Sometimes, the condition can be to do the task but not in the time frame that was originally requested. Or perhaps you can do part of what has been asked.

Final Thoughts

Beginning right now, you can change how you respond to requests for your time. When the request comes in, take yourself off autopilot where you might normally say yes.

Use the request as a fresh request to draw a healthy boundary around your time. Pay particular attention to when you place certain demands on yourself. If you are the one placing the demand on yourself, try to evaluate the demand as if it were coming from somewhere else.

Try it now. Say no to a friend who continues to take advantage of your goodwill. Or, draw the line with a workaholic colleague and tell them you will complete the project but not by working all weekend. Or, tell someone in your family you can’t loan them money again because they never paid you back the last time. You’ll find yourself much happier.

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Featured photo credit: Chris Ainsworth via unsplash.com

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