Yoga Meditation Benefits Brain Neuroplasticity

There are many yoga meditation benefits to our bodies and our spirits, but our minds and, in particular, our brains also benefit. In this Huffington Post interview, writer and interviewer Dr. Eva Norlyk Smith interviews author Dr. Timothy McCall on the ins and outs of your brain’s wiring and how it affects what you do —  and also how what you do affects your wiring.

Yoga Meditation Benefits Brain Neuroplasticity

Trying to lose weight? Wanting to get off the couch and onto your bike? Craving a little more R&R? We all have a nagging voice

yoga meditation benefits

Yoga meditation benefits and improves the brain’s neuroplasticity. Photo by Kiyoshi Takahase Segundo c/o Photos.Com.

telling us that we need to eat better, lose those extra pounds, get more exercise, feel less stressed.

But, as most everyone has also experienced, positive resolves often have the life span of fruit flies. Indeed, there’s nothing like going on a diet to prompt you to head straight for that pint of ice cream in the freezer and, while you’re on the way, pick up that second bag of Oreos.

Like it or not, we are creatures of habit. In this interview, Dr. Timothy McCall, author of Yoga as Medicine and medical editor at Yoga Journal, discusses why it’s so hard to change our habits and shares his insights into that one thing that just might help lay the foundation for a lifetime of better health habits: yoga.

Eva Norlyk Smith: We’ve all heard the statistics: As much as 90 percent of chronic illnesses, including coronary heart disease and Type 2 diabetes, as well as one-third of cancers, can be prevented simply by eating better and getting more exercise. Yet the obesity epidemic is only gaining momentum, and as a society, we’re as sedentary as ever. What gives?

Dr. Timothy McCall: It’s just not that easy to change habits. Doctors are continually telling patients to change their diets and to start exercising. But when a doctor says, “Don’t eat this food, it’s bad for you,” it’s hard for most people to follow that advice. They want to, but, again, habits are stubborn.

Eva Norlyk Smith: You have argued that changing habits is really a matter of rewiring the brain, and that yoga offers a uniquely useful way to replace negative patterns of thinking with positive ones. Could you elaborate on that?

Dr. Timothy McCall: Well, it has to do with a phenomenon known as neuroplasticity. Researchers used to think that the architecture of the brain was fixed after a certain state of development. Today, we know that the brain changes structure over time, based on what we do. Each time we do something, neurons forge connections with one another, and the more we repeat certain behaviors, the stronger those neural links become. And that happens at any age, not just in young people. In other words, the brain is constantly reshaping itself, and the more you think, say, or do something, the more likely you are to think, say, or do it again.

This really refers to the same thing as the ancient yogis were teaching. In the yogic tradition there’s a concept called samskaras, which are patterns of thought, word, and deed that we tend to repeat over and over. This is very similar to our current understanding from neuroanatomy and neurophysiology — that the neural networks of the brain are shaped according to our repetitive activity.

The good news is that if you begin to introduce a new pattern of progressive habits, it eventually gets stronger than the old habits — then you really can change.

Read the rest of this fascinating interview at huffingtonpost.com:

Yoga meditation benefits your brain by keeping the wiring and connections optimal for what you should be doing that’s good for you. Why not give it a try and see what you can accomplish for yourself and your brain? What do you have to lose except a few bad connections?

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Change is not something that we should fear. Rather, it is something that we should welcome. For without change, nothing in this world would ever grow or blossom, and no one in this world would ever move forward to become the person they’re meant to be.

                                                                                                                                                                 —  Anonymous

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