While scientists around the world are exploring the impacts of meditation via brain imaging techniques and measuring hormones and biochemical responses, the practices of yoga and meditation have been serving as perhaps the oldest science of psychology and wellbeing that we know of. Western psychology and its clinical application of psychotherapy is a very new science. Arguably, the study and practice of creating emotional and physical wellbeing by observing the ‘brain health’ practices of meditation and yoga traditions, has more than 2,000 years of history to build upon.
Traditions and Practices
As we move into our Mindfulness series of articles, resources, and inspirations this month, I thought I would begin by explaining why I will describe yoga and mindfulness practices nearly interchangeably at times.
Both the tradition of ‘sitting’ meditation and the yoga tradition share common roots. In the yoga tradition, the physical practice is just one of the 8 limbs or aspects of yoga practice. Meditation, awareness of breath and self-study/self-awareness are just a few of the other aspects with equal importance. Mindfulness or Buddhist traditions also include poses that involve physical ‘stretching’ or moving of the body and both histories describe that the physical poses of yoga evolved as ways to limber the body for long hours of meditation. What I hope to share and describe are the benefits of a mind/body practice that results in cultivating mindful awareness!
From someone studying these ‘limbs’ or aspects of mindfulness /yoga practice, these limbs or practices are neither sequential (ie- you work on one ‘step’ then another) nor separable (physical practice, self-awareness, and breath are all happening together). This perhaps is what is challenging to the researchers and neuroscientists designing their research and is at the heart of the critiques of the science of mindfulness impacts. However, from the Eastern perspective, the integration makes perfect sense – it’s separating the part from the whole that is antithetical to wellness and healing.
I’m not a yoga or meditation teacher, just a grateful student. Here are some resources to deepen your practice, in whatever tradition it is rooted:
I am especially grateful to my yoga teacher Anne Adametz (www.adametzorganichealthcare.com) for her opening the limbs of yoga to me. Catch her online lectures if you can.
Frank Jude Boccio has beautifully described the rich history and philosophies of these traditions in his book Mindfulness Yoga: The Awakened Union of Breath, Body and Mind. He includes a number of sequences for asana (physical) practice but the practical integration of the traditions struck me as particularly relevant and interesting.
Sweet Peas Yoga Studio has been giving loving attention to expectant and new moms with prenatal yoga and mom/baby programs for over 15 years. If you are curious about building a physical practice, now is a perfect time in your life to try yoga! http://sweetpeasstudio.com/