Your Body On Yoga

Yoga has gained a lot of popularity worldwide because of what the majority says. Most people would say, including me that “I feel so calm and relax after the class”. For those who haven’t tried it and heard this comment, it would sound so intriguing right? Yes, it has been proved that yoga can help you relax but what does it do to your body? What goes on inside the human system? How does yoga affect the human body?

effects of yoga on the body

How Does Yoga Affect The Human Body?

Effects of Yoga on the Skeletal System:

effects of yoga on the musculoskeletal systemThe skeletal system is the hard framework that is mainly composed of the bones, associated cartilages, and joints. It plays an important role in protecting the organs inside our bodies. Imagine the human body without the skeletal system? We’d for sure look like jellyfish.

Recent studies had shown that some yoga poses had improved the health of joints by stimulating the release of synovial fluids. Synovial fluid is responsible for reducing friction between articular cartilages. It helps joints flow smoothly during movements. The synovial fluid is significant for delivering oxygen and nutrients to hyaline cartilages that don’t have any sort of oxygen. Regular yoga practice can make practitioners move around more smoothly and easily.

Even though Yoga is a weight-bearing exercise like running, weight lifting, walking, etc. It is less risky than other exercises because it creates tension on the bones and helps them lengthen and align.

According to a study conducted by California State University in Los Angeles, they said that yoga practice increased bone density in the vertebrae. Yoga’s ability to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol (known as the “stress” hormone) which in result may help retain calcium in the bones.

It is a fact that as we age, our bones start to weaken or even deteriorate and a consistent yoga practice can help improve our strength and coordination.

These are some poses that can help strengthen the bones:yoga retreats in Greece 2019

  • Vrksasana (Tree)
  • Utkatasana (Chair Pose)
  • Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)
  • Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose)
  • Virabhadrasana I (Warrior I)
  • Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II)
  • Table Top and alternate lifting and extending opposite arms and legs

Effects of Yoga on the Musculoskeletal System:

Yoga helps strengthen the joints and support the muscles. The isometric poses of yoga train the smaller muscles surrounding our joints to endure longer holds for balance or coordination. Over time, with regular stretching, the muscles become more flexible. Flexible muscles are far less susceptible to damage in the future and put less strain on the body’s joints. Less stress on the joints means less damage to the joints which reduces the chance of developing osteoarthritis. Also, because the muscles are warmed and stretched during a yoga practice, yoga improves recovery of muscle tissues.

Muscles function properly because of the increased blood flow.

effects of yoga on the musculoskeletal system

Yoga improves flexibility and strengthens postural muscles. Poor posture can cause a lot of injuries in the future. It can result in discomfort, pain, or degenerative disease like arthritis of the spine.

As you practice yoga, you begin to notice where you hold tension. It might be in your tongue, your eyes, or the muscles of your face and neck. If you simply tune in, you may be able to release some tension in the tongue and eyes. With bigger muscles like the quadriceps, trapezius, and buttocks, it may take years of practice to learn how to relax them.

Effects of Yoga on the Nervous System:

Alternating sympathetic and parasympathetic activation. Regular practice of yoga, slowly invites the nervous system to shift out of patterns of chronic stress back into the body’s natural rhythm of activation from sympathetic to parasympathetic.

Yoga stimulates the vagus nerve. This is the 10th cranial nerve. The vagus nerve is the longest cranial nerve of the body. It connects to vital organs like the heart, lungs, liver, stomach, colon, spleen and other parts of the abdomen.

Practicing yoga also increases serotonin levels. Serotonin is commonly known as the “happy” neurotransmitter, serotonin is mainly found in the brain, intestines and blood platelets.

Yoga influences the rate of thyroid hormone secretion. Yoga asana, especially Sarvangasana (shoulder stand), by increasing the protein bound iodine and rehabilitating the thyroid gland it may be effective to treat underproduction of thyroid hormones. Various stretching, twisting and compressing yoga asana provide nourishment to the cells, improve blood circulation, massage the thyroid gland and stimulate it to release thyroid hormones.

effects of yoga on the thyroid

Yoga decreases cortisol hormone. According to a study conducted by Thomas Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia and the Yoga Research Society, a 50-minute yoga session performed for seven days- which included postures such as Sarvangasana (Shoulder stand), Salabhasana (Locust Pose), Vrksasana (Tree Pose) and Halasana (Plow Pose) – significantly reduced cortisol levels.

Practicing yoga also stimulates growth hormones. The body’s diminishing supply of growth hormone is responsible for the frailty that comes with aging. If you want to increase the level of growth hormone being secreted, consider asanas that are of moderate aerobic exercise. Studies have proved that moderate forms of exercise can increase basal levels of growth hormone in humans.

Stepping on your mat and flowing through class also ups oxytocin, the “LOVE” hormone. It plays a role in sexual reproduction, sexual arousal and is released by the hypothalamus when you have an orgasm.

Yoga also balances Dopamine “the reward” hormone. A clinical research from the J. F. K. Institute in Denmark published in Cognitive Brain Research found that Yoga Nidra– a guided meditation that produces deep relaxation- increases level of dopamine in the brain by 65 % on average.

Practicing yoga also balances melatonin “Rest-Sleep-Heal”. Researchers at Rutgers University discovered that melatonin levels for meditation practitioners were boosted by an average of 98%. Incorporating meditation into your life can be your much needed physiological re-balancing tool.

Performing pranayama or simply breathing deeply activates the prefrontal cortex and that results in an increase in cognitive function.

Yoga also increases endorphin levels. Endorphins are the “feel-good” neurotransmitters. Endorphins are the body’s internal painkillers. Endorphins are known to cause euphoria, produce a feeling of pleasure, reduce stress, increase relaxation and are highly effective in pain modulation and management.

effects of yoga on hormones

Spending time on your yoga mat also improves GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) neurotransmitter secretion. GABA is a known major inhibitor neurotransmitter in the brain. This chemical can cause some common problems like: anxiety, nervousness, phobias, restlessness, and insomnia. In 2010, researchers at Boston University School of Medicine found that a 12-week yoga intervention was linked with greater improvement in mood and anxiety and increased levels of GABA than a metabolically matched walking exercise.

Yoga encourages you to relax, slow your breath, and focus on the present, shifting the balance from the sympathetic nervous system (or the fight-or-flight response) to the parasympathetic nervous system. The latter is calming and restorative; it lowers breathing and heart rates, decreases blood pressure and increases blood flow to the intestines and reproductive organs.

Effects of Yoga on the Cardiovascular System:

Deep breathing ignites the sympathetic nervous system, causing the heartbeat to slow and reduces blood pressure. Relaxation exercises found in yoga help increase blood flow throughout the body which also improves oxygen circulation in the body.

Many yoga flows can also increase your heart rate (like Ashtanga Yoga) may lower the risk of heart attack and relieve symptoms of depression. Studies have found that yoga practice lowers the resting heart rate, increases endurance, and can improve your maximum uptake of oxygen during exercise—all reflections of improved aerobic conditioning. One study found that subjects who were taught only pranayama could do more exercise with less oxygen.

Effects of Yoga in the Respiratory System:

effects of yoga on the respiratory systemDeep breathing in yoga can increase lung capacity while reducing breaths per minute. It improves the supply of oxygen to the lungs.

With ‘Pranayama’ breathing exercise in yoga, you can increase your intake of oxygen up to five times. The more oxygen-rich blood that flows to the brain, heart, lungs and digestive organs will enable these organs to work better and further bolster one’s health. Moreover, deep breathing can help you to improve the flow of your lymph system thereby helping the body to get rid of toxins. And it is found to strengthen the diaphragm.

Even the use of chanting sounds such as chanting “Om” can even help soothe the sinuses.

Effects of Yoga in the Digestive System:

Yoga encourages the adrenal glands to produce less cortisol which can reduce cravings for fatty foods. Yoga lowers blood sugar and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and boosts HDL (“good”) cholesterol. This effect can reduce the risk of diabetic complications like heart attack, kidney failure and/or blindness.

Having a regular yoga practice also reduces stress, which can alleviate ulcers, IBS, and constipation, and other digestive problems. Yoga may also be a good method to help the movement of waste to move smoothly out of the body. However, there are some conditions for which using asana for exercise may not a good idea, such as severe cases of diarrhea or constipation, or for someone with an acute bout of pain related to their digestive disorders. In such cases, we recommended turning to other yoga tools, including stress management and relaxation.

Twisting poses can serve as an internal massage of the digestive tract. The massage effect ensures more blood and oxygen and strengthens the muscles of organs.

Asanas that affects the gastrointestinal tract:

  • Parivritta Trikonasa
  • Marichyasana
  • Setu Bandha Sarvagasana
  • Adho Mukha Svanasana
  • Utkatasana
  • Paschimottanasana
  • Balasana
  • Uttanasana
  • Apanasana

Static poses that strengthen and stretch the abdominal area help tone the abdominal muscles that house and support the majority of the organs of digestion and may assist in the movement of material through the system. Dynamic poses that fold, stretch and twist the abdominal area can improve blood and lymph circulation, and create a squeeze and release effect on your organs.

Yoga and its many practices have numerous benefits for the human: body, mind, and soul! What’s keeping you from getting on the mat? And if you already practice, please share in the comments how yoga has influenced your life!

 

Sources:

https://asmy.org.au/yoga/yoga-skeletal-system/

https://www.yogajournal.com/lifestyle/good-bone

https://www.fireengineering.com/articles/fire_life/articles/2014/april/the-skeletal-system-the-yoga-way.html

https://www.gaia.com/article/3-ways-yoga-improves-your-joint-system-and-skeletal-structure

http://yogaforhealthyaging.blogspot.com/2016/03/how-yoga-helps-your-digestive-system.html

http://bahiranga.com/yoga-and-the-digestive-system/

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/28/body-on-yoga_n_4109595.html

http://donthateyourguts.com/benefits-yoga-part-4-nervous-system-benefits/

https://dutchsmilingyogi.com/effects-yoga-on-respiratory-system/

http://www.organicauthority.com/this-is-how-and-why-a-yoga-practice-strengthens-your-nervous-system-and-brings-balance-back-to-your-body/

http://www.theyogamandala.com.sg/how-yoga-helps-in-the-respiratory-system/

https://www.mokshamantra.com/yoga-impact-on-hormonal-health-and-neurotransmitters/

https://medium.com/@RandoxHealth/what-happens-inside-your-body-during-yoga-practice-6deee1019c4

 

Rosalee Oxford

Rosalee Oxford is a passionate seeker of happiness and adventures. She just finished her 200 hr YTT with Ambuja Yoga as well as her 20 hr AYRx with Jen Healy. She’s on an ongoing quest to discover all the joys life has to offer and is excited to share her love for yoga with others. With this desire, when she’s not practicing yoga she’s either swimming, scuba diving, pole dancing, or chasing her brown goldendoodle around the house. Her classes are a combination of Hatha and Vinyasa flow that accommodates all skill levels."

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    The Best Yoga for Better Posture

    Does yoga improve posture? The answer is yes! Yoga is great for overall back care and spinal health. The best yoga for better posture includes a full range of motions: forward folding (spinal flexion), backbends (spinal extension), twisting, shoulder opening, hip flexors and hamstring lengthening, and retraining the body to move in better, healthier ways. It is also important to strengthen muscles that have become weakened and/or overstretched.

    Posture issues and back pain are often caused by poor biomechanics and muscular imbalances due to habitual patterns of movement (or lack of movement), imbalances of strength and flexibility, injury, and sometimes genetic predisposition.

    In this blog post, I will be focusing mostly on gentle yoga stretches for good posture. These good posture exercises help release tension and tightness in the muscles that often become tight, shortened or overstretched when we spend much of our time standing, sitting, or walking with poor posture.

     

    1.) Yoga For A Stiff Back: Cat Cow

    best-exercises-for-posture-cow-pose

    Cow Pose

    Cat-Cow is one of the best exercises to improve posture. I include cat-cows in every single yoga class I teach. Why? Because it stretches the postural muscles, encourages the healthy movement of the pelvis and requires the core to gently engage. Cat-cow also helps release tension in the neck and shoulders.

    gentle exercises for posture-cat-pose

    Cat Pose

    To practice Cat-Cow, come into a tabletop position on hands and knees with your knees directly underneath your hips and your hands directly underneath your shoulders. To start, find length through your spine, draw your lower belly in and up to support your lower back and lengthen your tailbone straight back behind you. Take a few rounds of breath here and experience the length of your spine and the subtle engagement of your core.

    Use an inhale breath to lift your tailbone up towards the sky, draw your belly down, pull your chest forward between your upper arms and finally turn your gaze forward and slightly up while you maintain your core engagement. This will draw your spine into a gentle backbend. You want to think of articulating through each vertebra. On your exhale breath, tuck your tailbone under, pull your navel to your spine as you round your back; Continue to round your back, puff up the space between your shoulder blades, and draw your gaze toward your knees.

    Continue this movement for 10-12 rounds of breath.

     

    2.) Yoga for Rounded Shoulders: Supported Supta Baddha Konasana

    best-exercises-for-posture-reclined-butterfly-pose

    Reclined Cobbler’s Pose

    Reclined cobbler’s pose is one of my favorite yoga poses because it is deeply restorative, reestablishes the lumbar curve, opens the chest, and softens the muscles of the groin and inner thighs. The forward head, shoulders rounded forward, spine rounded forward posture is quite prevalent in today’s society. This forward head, “C” shaped posture is reinforced in our workplaces (computer hunch), our cars, and our homes (super soft couches that you sink into).

    When we allow our shoulders to round forward, the muscles in of our chest get tight, weak and shortened, the muscles between the shoulder blades become weak and overstretched, and the muscles of our neck and upper shoulders become tight and prone to strain. If you notice your shoulders rounding forward during your workday, take a minute and do some shoulder rolls.

    To practice supta baddha konasana, or reclined cobbler’s pose, you will want a bolster (or a couple of pillows or a rolled blanket), a blanket or folded towel, and two yoga blocks (or cushions of the same size).

    Place your bolster or rolled blanket lengthwise behind you and take your folded blanket or towel at the far end of your bolster (this will support your head and neck).

    Take a seat with your sacrum at the short end of your bolster, carefully lower yourself down onto your bolster, support your head with the blanket/towel (optional), and bring the soles of your feet to touch as if you were coming into butterfly pose, your knees drop out to the side like the pages of a book. If you feel like you need support for your legs, slide your blocks or extra cushions underneath your thighs/knees. Settle into the posture and allow your entire body to relax. Hold 4-7 minutes.

     

    3.) Yoga For a Flattened Lumbar Spine: Supported Bridge Pose

    best-exercises-for-posture-supported-bridge-pose

    Supported Bridge Pose

    Supported Bridge Pose benefits your lower back by re-establishing the lumbar curve. The lumbar curve is often flattened in those who sit for the majority of the day. Some individuals will have a deep lumbar curve typical of what you would see in gymnasts. A deep lumbar curve compromises the integrity of the vertebrae and discs of the lower back.

    For supported bridge pose you will want to have a bolster, block or a firm pillow.

    Lay down on your back and bring your feet as close to your bum as you can with your feet and knees both hips-width distance. Stretch your fingertips down toward your heels. From this pose, press into your feet and lift your hips, belly, and chest up toward the ceiling on an inhale. On an exhale breath reverse the motion. Begin at the top and roll your spine down one vertebra at a time. Repeat 3-7 times. The active version of bridge pose strengthens the glutes, back, abdomen and legs.

    On your last active bridge pose slide your bolster, block, or pillow underneath your sacrum, so your hips and lower back are supported. Keep your legs bent for a few minutes. If the posture still feels okay after a few minutes you can play with lengthening your legs long along the floor. This will lengthen your hip flexors, but please be mindful of your lower back. If you experience any lower back pain then bend your knees and bring your feet back down to the earth.

    Hold the pose for 5 minutes.

     

    4.) Two Exercises for Better Posture and Health of The Lower Back & Pelvis: Low Lunge & Half Splits

    best-exercises-for-posture-low-lunge

    Low lunge, or anjaneyasana, is a foundational yoga pose. When linked with Half Splits or Ardha Hanumanasana, it is a great yoga exercise to improve posture because it opens the quadriceps, hip flexors, and hamstrings. Low lunge with the torso upright also trains the paraspinal muscles (the muscles that run along your spine on either side) and abdominal muscles to hold the torso stable.

    You might like to have two yoga blocks to practice the low lunge and half splits

    Come into a standing forward fold with your feet hips-width distance at the top of your yoga mat. Bend your knees enough to bring your hands down to your mat. Step your right foot towards the back edge of your mat and bring your right knee down. Make sure that your left knee is directly above your left ankle. To begin, bring your torso upright and if you feel stable take your arms up overhead.

    Bring your awareness to your lower back and notice if you’re collapsing; if you are, your lumbar curve will be deeper and your belly will have softened forward. If this is you, draw your lower belly in and up. You can think of lifting your pubic bone up toward your ribs, which will teach you to use your core muscles to support your lumbar spine. Hold this posture five to ten rounds of breath and then release your hands to the ground (or onto your blocks).

    gentle-exercises-for-posture-half-splits

    Half Splits or Ardha Hanumanasana

    For half splits you will wiggle your left foot an inch or two forward and then shift your hips back, so your right hip stacks over your left hip. With your left leg extended long out in front of you flex your foot and dray your toes back toward your shin. This posture lengthens your hamstrings. Hold this pose 5-10 rounds of breath.

    When the hamstrings become shortened they pull on the pelvis via the sit bones (ischial tuberosities) and this pulling posteriorly tilts the pelvis and flattens the curve of the lower back.

     

    5.) Supine pelvic tilts

    best exercises for posture pelvic tilts 1

    Anterior pelvic tilt.

    Supine pelvic tilts are incredibly helpful when it comes to rehabbing low back injuries and teach the muscles of the abdomen, pelvic floor, and inner thighs to engage.

    You will want one yoga block to practice supine pelvic tilts.

    Lay down on your back like you’re setting up for bridge pose (see exercise #3). Put your feet close to your bum to start. Place your block between your thighs on its narrowest setting.

    yoga-best-exercises-for-posture-pelvic-tilts-2

    Posterior pelvic tilt.

    Level 1. Keep your feet on the mat. Bring your hands to your lower abdomen and pubic bone, so you can feel the movement. Inhale a full deep breath and as you exhale curl your tailbone up off the mat and draw your navel toward your spine. Your lumbar spine will press into the mat beneath you. As you inhale, reverse the tilt: tailbone down, belly lifts and there is a space underneath your lower back. Make sure to squeeze into your block during this exercise. Repeat 10-20 times.

    best-exercises-for-posture-core-1

    Level 2, position 1

    Level 2. This is more of a core strengthener than a pelvic tilt, but it’s equally important. Stay on your back, keep your block between your thighs, bring your shins to parallel with the floor. From here, superglue your lower back to the mat and lower your heels down to tap the mat on an inhale. As you exhale, lift your legs back up to the starting posture. Repeat 10-20 times.

    best-exercises-for-posture-core-2

    Level 2. position 2

    6.) Yoga For Better Posture: Release Tension in Your Back With Simple Supine Twist

    simple twist yoga for better posture

    Simple Supine Twist not only helps release tension in your lower back, it also helps reduce stress and improve relaxation. It’s also really easy and you can even do it in bed.

    To practice simple supine twist, make your way onto your back. Draw your knees to your chest and give them a little hug in. Then release your arms out to the side, so they go straight out from your shoulders. Release your knees to the right and turn your gaze toward your left shoulder if it feels okay on your neck. Hold for a couple of minutes and switch sides.

     

    7.) Improve Your Posture With A Chest & Shoulder Opener: Downward Facing Dog Using A Wall, Table Or Chair

    best-exercises-for-posture-downward-facing-dogDownward Facing Dog at a wall or table is a gentler version of the traditional yoga posture. It helps those who have tighter/shorter hamstrings, tighter lower back or tighter shoulders get the benefits of the posture. Downward Facing Dog stretches the hamstrings, back, and shoulders. The posture also helps people find a long spine and core engagement.

    To practice Downward Facing Dog on the wall, face the wall and bring the palms of your hands to shoulder width distance on the wall in front of you. Walk your feet back until your back becomes straight. You might need to slide the hands down a bit. You will create an upside down “L” shape with your body. Your spine is lengthened long and your navel draws in to support your lower back. Hold the posture for 10 rounds of breath.

     

    8.) Reduce Your Swayback: Child’s Pose

    best-exercises-for-posture-childs-pose

    Child’s pose is wonderful for those who have tight lower backs. There are two versions of child’s pose: one that works deeper into the hips with the knees wide, and one that works deeper flexion into the spine with the knees together.

    You don’t need any props to practice child’s pose. Come down into a tabletop position, bring your knees to touch and your big toes to touch and press your hips back toward your heels. Rest your forehead on the mat or on a yoga block or pillow if your head doesn’t reach the floor. Hold for 2-4 minutes.

    I hope you find this blog post helpful. If you would like to learn more about strengthening poses specifically related to the postural muscles, read my post on back strengthening yoga poses. If you have lower back pain, please take a look at my four-part series on back pain, where I discuss restorative yoga for better posture as well as active yoga postures to help strengthen your core and back.

    A Mudra for Trust: Vajrapradama Mudra

    hand mudra for trust

    Vajrapradama mudra has been resonating with me deeply. Each time I practice vajrapradama a whole bunch of emotions well up from within. I’m currently in a bit of a life and business transition and there are many unknowns. It’s sometimes hard for me to admit that I don’t know what the next step is or that I don’t know if I’m doing things right. I’m not going to lie… I’ve been experiencing a lot of fear recently and my self-confidence has been lagging. I don’t consider myself to be that fearful when it comes to big leaps of faith or pushing up to my edges, but unfortunately I’ve also built a wall around my heart; a wall that I’ve been mindfully dismantling piece by piece. And it’s not always pretty!

    I practice the mudra for unshakeable trust in my heart meditations, in my asana classes and even when I have something important and/or heartfelt to say. Sometimes vajrapradama feels like the only thing tethering my mind to my heart and right now I need it. Vajrapradama mudra builds unshakeable trust, courage, and self confidence… we can always use more of these three qualities.

    In Sanskrit vajra means diamond and thunderbolt. The diamond represents indestructibility and the thunderbolt represents unstoppable force. When you have unshakeable trust in your True Self (the one that is aligned with the divine) you become a force to be reckoned with and obstacles are overcome with ease.

    I’ve also found Ganesha mudra helpful lately. Ganesha mudra is the hand mudra for confidence, courage, compassion and openness. Are you noticing a theme here?

    How to Practice Vajrapradama Mudra

    Practicing vajrapradama, the mudra for trust, is very simple: interlace your fingers, keep your palms open and rest your hands on your heart. Close your eyes and feel your breath and your heartbeat beneath your hands. You can use this mudra as often as you would like. Like I said, I’m currently using it all the time.

    Positive Affirmations for Vajrapradama Mudra

    I recommend using a positive affirmation that resonates with you. Here are some examples:

    • I am open to receiving divine guidance. I trust that I am exactly where I need to be right now.
    • “I open my heart to the Universe.  I trust the wisdom of a power greater than my own and accept its healing.” From SpiritVoyage.com
    • “I am a creation of the greatest omnipotence, whose strength and power lovingly support me at all times.” From Gertrud Hirschi’s Mudras Yoga in Your Hands.
    • “I am confident because I trust in myself. I am fully supported.” From Anita Goa.

    Quiet Sitting: Nine Different Types of Meditation

    There are many, many different types of meditation practices. When you google “types of meditation” the results can be pretty overwhelming, especially when you’re not sure what you’re looking for or what you like. This is a paired down list of popular meditation types. The most popular type of meditation in recent history is mindfulness meditation with it’s many health benefits.

    Nine Meditation Types For Beginners

    Mindfulness Meditation

    Since mindfulness meditation is the most popular meditation practice today I’ve put it in the number one spot. You’ve probably heard of it before, but may not know what it is or how it is different from other meditation practices. Mindfulness meditation is simply paying attention to the present moment and being aware of all the sensations, thoughts, etc. that arise without judgement or attachment. Here is a cool video from Jon Kabat Zinn about how a mindfulness meditation practice lights up different parts of the brain and here is a link to get you started with a mindfulness practice.

     

    2. Transcendental Meditationmeditation types beginners

    Transcendental meditation doesn’t seem to be as popular today as it was in the past, but there is still a substantial community worldwide. Transcendental meditation was made popular by the Beatles who learned the technique from Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Transcendental meditation (TM) has it’s roots in religion and involves mantra (sound) repetition for 15-20 minutes twice daily. Transcendental meditation teachers are required to undergo a certified training before they can teach and share the practice and students are initiated into the practice.

    Much research has been done on the technique, but the research has been poorly conducted and unfortunately is of little scientific value. But honestly, any form of meditation is likely to create positive changes in your life, so why not try TM.

    3. Mantra & Japa

    Similar to Transcendental Meditation, mantra and japa meditation involve the repetition of a mantra, sound or divine name. This type of meditation practice is often practiced with a mala. A mala is a necklace, similar to a rosary, with 108 beads on it. The mantra is repeated 108 times either softly spoken or internally repeated. This type of ancient meditation practice is used in many different religious traditions like Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism.

    homemade-mala-diy

    A handmade green sandalwood meditation mala.

    4. Guided Meditation: Chakras, Third Eye, Breath, Journey & More

    Guided meditations are wonderful for those who need a bit more guidance and whose minds tend to wander off. Guided meditations can focus on visuals, energetics, sounds, the breath, emotional states and much more. There are many apps you can use on your phone or ipad. Choose your length of practice, the teacher, the focus and get started.

    yoga-chakras

    5. Trataka Meditation (also spelled tratak)

    Trataka is a form of meditation where one focuses the eyes on one point. Very commonly trataka is performed while gazing at a candle flame. Eventually you may want to close the eyes. When the eyes are closed envision the candle flame in all of it’s detail. Hold this vision of the flame as long as you can and when it dissipates you may end your meditation practice. Slowly open your eyes. Don’t look directly at the flame again right after your meditation. You may need eye drops if the eyes feel dry or strained.

    6. Focused Attention- Zazen, Breath, Mantra, etc.

    In focused attention meditation the mind is focused on one thing; that one thing could be the breath, sensation in the body, a mantra, an object, etc. The attention is held on this one thing. As thoughts come up, and they will, the mind’s focus is guided back to it’s original point of focus.

    7. Metta- Loving Kindness

    Metta, or loving kindness, meditation is a practice of sending love to oneself, a good friend, a neutral person, a difficult person, all four of them equally and then eventually to the entire universe. This exercise is excellent for cultivating compassion. Here is a Loving Kindness Meditation with Jack Kornfield.

    loving-kindness-meditation

    Loving kindness meditation is kind of like a hug for the soul.

    8. Vipassana

    Vipassana often begins with awareness on the breath and then moves to a practice that includes noting external stimuli without becoming attached to the source of the stimuli. An example could be if you hear a motorcycle drive by label it “hearing”, not motorcycle or if you notice a sour taste in your mouth instead of labeling it sour note it as “taste”. Noting the sense that recognized the external stimuli. It is very common to attend vipassana retreats where one has the opportunity to delve deep into a meditation practice.

    9. Yoga Nidra

    I hesitate to include yoga nidra on this list because I don’t necessarily consider it a meditation practice. Yoga nidra is “yogic sleep” and it is a way to access the unconscious and subconscious mind. It is a guided practice, similar to that of a guided meditation. Yoga nidra induces a state of deep relaxation and yoga nidra has a multitude of benefits. Here are 8 Benefits of Yoga Nidra.

    relaxation-meditation-yoga-nidra

    Not sure where to start? Google your local community and see what’s available. You might be surprised to find local meditation groups and meditation teachers that would be more than happy to take you under their wing. Another option is to go on a yoga and meditation retreat. On retreat you’ll often go over the basics of meditation and gradually increase time throughout the week and you’ll have an opportunity to talk to others and share experiences.

    Good luck on your meditation practice. Feel free to shoot me a private message if you have any questions via our contact form.

    Love and Light,

    Autumn