Taking care of your brain
Self-care has been a trending topic lately, to say the least. And we’re on board. With the busyness of daily life, dedicating some time to just take care of yourself can be a game changer. But beyond taking a bubble bath or curling up with a book, how do you practice self-care? We mean, really, there’s got to be more to it than just doing stuff you like (although we’re absolutely into that, too).
Two of the most scientifically backed ways to get in on this new trend turn out to be pretty old. Meditation and yoga — which both date back 5,000 years — encourage mindfulness, a key element of checking in with yourself and helping yourself feel, well, good. But there are only so many hours in the day, so which is better if you want to be a happier, mentally healthier person?
The basics of yoga and meditation.
First things first, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page. Meditation is the practice of sitting with your thoughts. During meditation, you’ll observe your thoughts without judgment. The goal is to be present and get a healthy perspective. Meditation is more of a workout for your mind, although you’ll need to be aware of your body, too. Sitting still is hard!
Yoga, on the other hand, is more of a physical practice, though it’s integrally linked to what’s going on in your mind. During yoga, you use your breath and certain physical postures to promote both your physical and mental wellbeing.
Meditation and yoga: what they have in common.
In case you couldn’t guess, both meditation and yoga encourage you to be mindful. Most of our busy, modern lives are pretty distracting. These two practices are invitations to slow down and be present.
And, thanks primarily to the emphasis on present-minded observance of the self, both yoga and meditation can support wellbeing. Most people report feeling more balanced and uplifted after both activities.
But, again, we’re not made of time here, people. So, if you’ve only got 15 minutes to an hour to dedicate to one of these things, which one should you choose?
Meditation vs. yoga: who would win?
Faced off in a ring, would meditation or yoga emerge the victor? It really depends on the parameters of the competition. If you’re battling anxiety, work stress, or another mental burden, the very mentally involved practice of meditation might give you better results faster. But if you’ve got a naturally hectic mind that has a hard time slowing down long enough to meditate, moving through a yoga flow and focusing on your breath might be an awesome first step towards learning present-mindedness with some support in place.
On the other hand, if you’re looking to take a more holistic approach to total-body wellness, the blend of physical and mental engagement could make yoga ideal. Find yourself constantly spacing out during a yoga class? Meditation might be worth trying out so you can focus your energy on staying observant of your thoughts.
Meditation + yoga: a counter to cultural stress.
Long story short, both yoga and meditation are awesome. Like, really awesome. Yoga can:
- Boost your energy
- Improve flexibility and help you avoid injury
- Support cardiovascular health
- Relieve anxiety
- Make you stronger
- Help you sleep better
And that’s just to name a few benefits. And as for meditation, it can:
- Shrink stress
- Spark creativity
- Increase your self-awareness
- Improve your attention span
- Help you control emotional reactions
- Get a fresh perspective
- Fight age-related memory loss
So why not both? Blending yoga and meditation together can help you become more mindful and more physically and emotionally healthy.
How often do I need to be doing this stuff?
Now let’s talk logistics. How often should you meditate? How often should you practice yoga? Do you need to go for marathon sessions, or are a few minutes here and there enough?
Meditation is hard, especially at first. So most experts recommend starting with shorter sessions on a regular basis (like ten minutes each morning) to get your sea legs.
Yoga can also be challenging when you’re a newbie. Your body is probably going to be doing some different things than it’s used to, so be mindful (this must be a theme…). If something hurts you, ask a teacher about how to modify a pose so it feels okay in your body. As long as you’re practicing carefully and, ahem, mindfully, you can safely do yoga pretty much every day (if you want). But even a few times on your mat throughout the month can make a big difference in the way your body feels.
Yoga and meditation are both great. You can do them together or separately, pretty much as often as you want. And when you do, you’ll help yourself learn mindfulness and feel more balanced.