Get Healthy! Benefits of Meditation and Yoga

It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of yoga…for so many reasons. For one, yoga is an incredibly helpful accompaniment to therapy due to it’s focus on creating self-awareness and present-centered focus (mindfulness). Yoga, like meditation–another love of mine–helps us to tune into our body states. Whether an active flow yoga, a gentle yin yoga, a restorative series or any number of other styles–yoga provides a built-in opportunity for meditation practice. An opportunity to explore the Self.

By tuning into and developing greater awareness of our body (heart beat, breath and bodily sensations) and our thought patterns, we develop a powerful knowledge–self-knowledge. Understanding our mind and it’s tendencies allows us the chance to make changes in the ways we respond to any number of situations. We can begin to refrain from our reactive tendencies and move toward healthy responses. In addition to reducing things like depression and anxiety, this may also be the key to developing healthy relationships. The more we connect with and understand ourself, the greater chance to foster acceptance and compassion for ourself–refraining from criticism and judgment. As we develop compassion for ourself, we can become more empathic with others. Our mirror neurons begin firing and we are able to “feel” the imagined experience of another–made easier by increasing our capacity to “feel” our own emotional experiences more fully. Thus, even those with a lower emotional intelligence may begin to increase their connection to self and other through activities like yoga, meditation and therapy.

It’s not a far stretch to imagine how those with difficulty identifying their own emotional state would have difficulty connecting fully in their relationships. Those struggling with emotional connection may feel less connected in their relationships due to an inability to attune to the needs and experiences of others. This is partially a learned way of being. That is to say, developmentally, our early caretakers played a huge role in helping develop the neural connections needed to foster healthy relationships–to understand and be able to tolerate our own emotional states (as well as the emotional states of others). Without predictable/consistent nurturing interactions by our early care givers (including regular experiences of attunement and empathic reflection as well as reparative experiences after being appropriately shamed or punished), the development of our important neural connections, like mirror neurons (amongst others), may suffer. We may avoid activating (possibly without awareness) our “emotional brain” for fear of not being able to manage or understand it once it’s fired up. This avoidance might result in a lesser ability to clearly and deeply understand our own emotional states and thus the emotional states of others–a kind of avoidance feedback loop, if you will. But, there is hope!

Therapy, yoga and meditation are all great ways to begin to create connection between mind and body–or more specifically, create stronger neural connections in your brain. For those already attending or planning to attend therapy–try a meditation or yoga group to help expedite your therapeutic process and growth as well as your personal and relational gains!

~Dr. Rebecca Harvey
Total Wellness Consultants

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