This article was written and contributed by guest author, Nicole Allen. If you have an idea for a story that complements this blog, contact Paula today.


Rising in popularity, and controversy, yoga and meditation are everywhere in health conversations. Whether you’ve read about yoga and meditation before and want to learn more, or are looking for additions to you or a loved one’s treatment options, here is a summary of the proven benefits of yoga and meditation, and how you can incorporate it into treatment.

Yoga has existed for thousands of years in India and travelled to other parts of Asia. It gained popularity in The West over the last half century and is still rising in popularity, thanks to “all-natural” and spiritual lifestyles gaining prominence. Its popularity has prompted extensive research, and studies have shown benefits in conjunction with other mental health treatments.

If you’re in a conventional therapy program to treat a mental illness or a drug addiction, and are looking for a more holistic approach to add to your routine, yoga and mediation may be right for you. They introduce focus, clarity, and physical activity that can keep symptoms such as anxiety, depressive thoughts, and obsessive/racing thoughts at bay. Here’s some of the benefits and how they can help your treatment plan:

Breathing exercises in yoga encourage mindfulness

Mindfulness can include being more conscientious in our daily choices and increasing our attention span. Controlling your breath, which is taught in many yoga disciplines and poses, puts your focus on the moment, displacing it from what is bothering or triggering you.

Reduces stress which may trigger addictive behavior and thought spirals

Yoga has a proven calming effect. By shifting consciousness towards positive thought and concentration, yoga gives practitioners coping tools, which have been compared to the grounded mentality and mental honesty that twelve step programs teach. Yoga is complimentary with a twelve-step program or conventional therapy because its mental techniques can help keep practitioners grounded in the moment, rather than focusing on triggering thoughts about the past or future.

Physical activity, including yoga, can reduce stress and depression

Incorporating physical exercise into daily life has been found to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. Studies show that this includes yoga. The endorphins that strenuous exercise produce combat brain chemicals which cause depression and anxiety, and even out your nervous system and brain chemistry.

Yoga can help improve sleep habits and function

A good night’s sleep is a big factor in overall mental health. From mood to concentration, sleep quality affects a plethora of everyday health issues. Yoga can help focus or calm the mind and get it ready for a good night’s sleep – breathing exercises keep the brain from dwelling on thoughts that keep people up late at night, improving your ability to fall and stay asleep.

What About Meditation?

Meditation, however, can be more hit-and-miss. On one hand, a recent study has shown it can help reduce cravings associated with addiction. On the other hand, it can worsen anxiety and long stretches of meditation have been linked to psychotic breaks. The key is to use guided meditation, and only for short periods of time, to treat symptoms of mental illness, especially Depression and other disorders which are linked to thought spirals or negative thoughts.

Here are some tips for including mediation and yoga into your treatment plan:

Start easy at first

Especially if you are a beginner, start slow. A few simple poses along with ten minutes of meditation can be a great start to a lifelong habit. Build from that – even if it’s just starting at once a week. By starting slow, you can also learn your limits and what you like and don’t like to do.

Focus!

When you are trying yoga or mediation for the first time, focus on the present moment. Let go of past worries or future concerns. The point of yoga is to connect with a higher consciousness or with a present focus that is outside your day-to-day. This clears your head and gives you a better vantage point to tackle everyday problems.

Seek out a yoga or meditation therapist

To better guide you through therapeutic yoga and meditation, seek out a guide or someone certified in yoga or meditation therapy like Paula Carrasquillo, a meditation teacher and trained yoga therapist. These therapists are trained in yoga history and practice, as well as anatomy and physiology and diet and nutrition. Your conventional therapist may be able to recommend some licensed teachers to you. For more detailed information on yoga therapy visit Maryland University of Integrative Health (MUIH) and International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT).

Incorporate it into your daily routine

If you want to meditate and practice yoga daily, carve out the same time each day to practice. The best times to aim for are right after you get up to bring focus to your day, or at night to calm your mind before going to sleep. Ask your yoga guide which one is right for you, and which poses, breathing techniques, and concentration exercises you should do.

Don’t get Discouraged!

If you find that the practice you’re using isn’t for you, change it up! If you miss a day? Try again tomorrow! A path to healing and a healthier you isn’t instant, and there’s no quick fix. Like every other habit, take it a day at a time to see the best results!


This article was written and contributed by guest author, Nicole Allen. If you have an idea for a story that complements this blog, contact Paula today.

Paula Reeves-Carrasquillo
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Paula Reeves-Carrasquillo

Mindfulness Coach at Love. Life. Om. Mindfulness
Paula is a passionate and innovative author, educator, and mindfulness coach.
Paula Reeves-Carrasquillo
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