World Meditation Day: 5 therapeutic benefits of practising yoga

Explore these yogic approaches for enhanced mental wellbeing

By Ishan Shivanand

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Published: Thu 16 May 2024, 5:51 PM

The fast pace of life today, has made the need for mental resilience an imperative. As research on mental health intensifies globally, evidence-based yogic modalities are emerging as powerful non-pharmaceutical interventions to improve well-being. Yogic modalities take an integrated approach to holistic well-being. As part of preventive and promotive healthcare, they present practical solutions to navigate common mental health challenges; build resilience; and improve quality of life.

Yoga-based meditative practices are rooted in a deep connection between the mind and body. They help uncover the correlation between thoughts, behavioural patterns and emotions, influencing our lifestyle and day-to-day actions. Today there is a strong consensus in the healthcare sciences fraternity on the ability of meditative practices to develop supportive neuropathways and improve efficiency, build self-awareness, and enhance overall cognitive coherence.


Here, we delve into five ways yoga-based meditative practices nurture mental resilience:

1. Combating anxiety and depression

There is ample empirical research validating that meditative practices help prevent and manage mental health disorders like anxiety and depression. Non-pharma, non-invasive meditation and yoga techniques are part of “integrative medicine” to treat such disorders. Enabling emotional and cognitive stimulation, such modalities help practitioners enter a non-judgemental state of heightened awareness, fostering relaxation.


The key findings from a research are:

*72 per cent decrease in depression.

*75 per cent decrease in anxiety symptoms.

*82 per cent decrease in insomnia symptoms.

*77 per cent improvement in quality of life.

2. Moving beyond the fight-or-flight response

If you are prone to stress and anxiety, there is a likelihood that the nervous system’s fight-or-flight response is more active. When you feel relaxed and less anxious, the parasympathetic nervous system’s rest-and-digest state becomes more active. Yogic breathwork practices like “Pranayama” (a breath retention and release technique) regulate the heart rate and induce stillness, prolonging the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system. Their regular practice eventually regulates cardiovascular functioning that may have fluctuated due to recurring fight-or-flight responses.

3. Recipe for good sleep

Improvement in sleep is a corroborated benefit of yogic meditation modalities. Several studies have established the positive impact of yogic practices on insomnia. A third of adults regularly face challenges in falling asleep or staying asleep and experience poor sleep quality. Meditative interventions foster sound sleep, regulating hormonal and metabolic processes and further helping reduce and prevent chronic stress and burnout.

4. Fostering awareness and self-acceptance

Yogic practices take the practitioners on a journey of self-exploration. Upon sustained practice, they help build body, mind and thought awareness. Self-acceptance help you discover your innate capabilities. The awareness that the only thing you can truly control and change is yourself improves your quality of life.

5. Building connection and community

Human connection provides support and a sense of belongingness during challenging times. Meditation communities offer a nurturing environment where individuals come together to practice, share experiences, and offer mutual support while working towards a common goal. Research highlights the role of social support in buffering the impact of stress and promoting resilience. By fostering connection and community, yogic practices not only nurture individual well-being but also cultivate a sense of belongingness that strengthens collective resilience.

Dr Ishan Shivanand is a mental health researcher, professor with expertise in non-pharmaceutical non-invasive meditative modalities, and the Founder of Yoga of Immortals (YOI) programmes.)

wknd@khaleejtimes.com


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