Our lives move quickly, and we’re all very, very busy. So making time to slow down is essential to make some peace with your life. Meditation and yoga can be just the thing our busy bodies need to calm down, relax and bust the stress in our lives. Here’s some information about yoga and meditation and why they can be so good for you.
What is yoga?
Yoga is a simple form of exercise that’s been around for centuries. It’s a gentle way of focusing on the body and calming the mind. There are a wide range of yoga practises available, suitable for anyone from beginners to advanced. Yoga can be practised by any age group – from toddlers to the elderly – and has a wide range of health benefits for the body and the mind.
Yoga benefits include:
- increasing flexibility
- increasing body tone and strength
- improving mental clarity
- stress relief
- improved fitness
The most commonly practised types of yoga include:
Iyengar yoga is the purist form of yoga, where you can use blocks, straps, harnesses and incline boards to help perfect positions. This type of yoga is suitable for all people, from beginners to advanced – simply adapt as you progress.
Hatha yoga is a gentle, basic class focusing on physical poses. It’s quiet, gentle and meditative and perfect for anyone who needs to slow down and focus on calming the mind.
Bikram yoga is also known as Hot Yoga as it’s commonly practised in a room heated to between 37°C and 40.6°C which is said to help warm the body’s muscles and blood – helping to protect the body and allow for greater flexibility.
Ashtanga yoga focuses on creating a balance between the body and the mind. There is a focus on posture and breath in Ashtanga Yoga. Ashtanga Yoga is a practice involving the eight limbs of yoga and is a series of movements and breaths that is deliberate and controlled.
What is meditation?
Meditation is a way of focusing the mind and practising calm, gentle focus. It’s a great way to relieve stress and help improve your mental wellbeing.
Why is meditation good for you?
Meditation has a range of proven health benefits. Meditation can:
- help reduce stress by decreasing levels of cortisol
- improves study by helping concentration and improving the memory
- it can reduce the symptoms of colds
- it helps you sleep better
How do you meditate?
Meditation doesn’t have to involve sitting in the lotus position and saying “Om”. Meditating is actually simply the practise of taking time out to turn the mind’s attention and focus onto one thing. You can focus on a feeling, an image or an object – just so long as you focus on one thing, forcing your mind to pay attention and focus.
While 20 – 40 minutes of meditation can bring great benefits, as little as five minutes will benefit anyone. Simple sit or lie in a comfortable place. Turn off any television or music, switch your phone to silent and close your eyes.
- Focus on one thing. If another thought comes in to distract you, acknowledge the thought, then dismiss it.
- Focus on your breathing, breathe in through your nose and feel the breath fill your lungs and then your stomach. Slowly breathe out. Repeat.
- Start with five minutes once or twice a day and slowly build up to 20 or more minutes
- Mark your meditation time on your calendar, and accept no excuses for missing it.
Now before you say, “Oh, I can’t possibly meditate, my mind’s too busy!” then you’re exactly the person who should be meditating. Meditation and yoga are a simple way of making time for yourself and to take some time out of a hectic day. Try it.
Yoga and meditation for kids
Kids can really benefit from simple yoga and meditation. It helps them relax, focus and boost their wellbeing. Kids are naturally really good at yoga, their flexible bodies adapt readily to the poses. Practising yoga can benefit children of any age, but starting at pre-school age can be a great way to help them adapt to the changes that school brings, along with the ability to concentrate and focus. Look online for a kids yoga class near you, or buy a DVD or book for the family to practise together.
A family affair
Taking 10 minutes out of the day to relax and bond through meditation and yoga is the perfect exercise in winding down before bed – or a great way to kickstart the day. Here are some tips:
- Make time for quiet time – everyone sits in a circle and concentrates on breathing until the alarm gently sounds (start with a few minutes a day and move up to 10)
- Do a pose a day – kids love yoga poses such as Downward Dog, The Tree Pose and the Cat.
- Get outdoors for your yoga or meditation – taking your practise to the water adds another element of relaxation and peacefulness to it.
Making time to slow down and give your body a rest through yoga or meditation can be the best thing you can do for yourself. Make it a family fun thing, or, set the alarm 30 minutes earlier in the morning and start the day off in a gentler way.
This article was written by Linda Drummond for Kidspot.
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