Grow Your Gray Matter

Be Well Be Happy
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Being in a state of good health, mental clarity and a peaceful heart is a good start for defining a good life. Living is complicated, could be stressful, and this basic state of being can easily be uprooted to a regular state of chaos. That is, if we let everything take over and if we let our minds think whatever it wants to and if we act on all of that.

The alternative is to practice mindful living, which could mean a whole lot of things to different people.  This week, a friend shared this article which is backup in the form of a scientific study: “Science Review Confirms Yoga Benefits Your Brain,” (fitness.mercola.com).  The author reports studies that show better brain health as a result of not only yoga poses but breath practice (pranayama) and meditation. 

“...Yoga—which is suitable for most people, regardless of age or fitness level—has been shown to support healthy brain function and stave off neurological decline. Through modern imaging technology, researchers have been able to objectively confirm that yoga impacts the brain in beneficial ways… Regular yoga practice has also been shown to lower stress, reduce body image dissatisfaction and anxiety, and much more. Yoga practitioners have thicker vortexes and greater gray matter volume and density in several brain regions… It appears to be the unique combination of physical movement, breath work and meditation that confers these beneficial brain benefits.” 

Mindful breath practice can be incorporated into any part of our days. While specific breath practices are usually part of a yoga class, taking mindful breathing off the yoga mat and into your day will add to the benefits above and also bring you to a calm state. “Conscious breathing,” as described by Thich Nhat Hanh, is a centering, focused breath practice that can be done anytime, anywhere.  

“Breathing in, I know I am breathing in; breathing out, I know I am breathing out.” By acknowledging the “knowing,” or the control of the mind over the breath, the body and mind align, which has an inner effect. After a while, as he says, you can come to just saying to yourself “In” on the in breath, and “Out” on the out breath. I do really like, however, to repeat the whole phrase. 

Expanding this “conscious breathing” to a meditation practice, further helps to grow our gray matter!  Finding your “meditation” is a process, one that most likely will take time. I can share that a shift in inner energy definitely occurs by bringing this into your life. I can describe what that is for me, but it is a unique experience. Using the conscious breath practice is a great way of beginning to meditate or practice one-pointed concentration. The focus on the breath helps to stop the thinking, even though thoughts may be pinging all the while. Be comfortable in your seat, whether it be on a cushion or blanket on your mat, or on a chair with feet planted on the floor. And, turn the corners of your mouth upward in a gentle smile. “Our smile affirms our awareness and determination to live in peace and joy.” - Thich Nhat Hanh

May you be happy. May you be free. May you be grateful. May you be compassionate. May you let go of things that do not serve you. May you have inner peace. 

By Paulette Mancuga

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