Psychologists have long recognized the mind-body connection in wellness. A growing body of research recognizes the benefits of mindfulness meditation and yoga for mental health. The American Psychological Association published an article about yoga as a practice tool and how psychologists, like Dr. Ochester, are “weaving the practice into their work with clients”. See the Midwest Alliance for Mindfulness Events Calendar to view her workshops and classes in the community.
According to the National Institute of Health’s National Center for Alternative and Complimentary Medicine (NCCAM) “there’s evidence that [meditation] may reduce blood pressure as well as symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and flare-ups in people who have had ulcerative colitis… ease symptoms of anxiety and depression… help people with insomnia… lower the incidence, duration, and severity of acute respiratory illnesses (such as influenza)… physically change the brain and body and could potentially help to improve many health problems and promote healthy behaviors”. In addition, certain types of meditation can increase self-compassion as well as reduce self-critical perfectionism and feelings of inadequacy. Check out these articles about the science behind the practice of meditation:
- Your Brain as Laboratory: The Science of Meditation – The idea that meditation is actually a form of research is gaining respect. Post written by John Yates on February 24, 2017 in Scientific American.
- How much meditation does it take to change your brain and relieve stress? Post published by David R. Vago Ph.D. on Jul 31, 2015 in The Science Behind Meditation
Mindfulness meditation (or Vipassana) is one method of meditation that has been shown to be especially beneficial for managing pain and distressing mood states. Take a moment to watch the 1993 Bill Moyers special Healing From Within featuring Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) classes at the UMass Medical Center:
According to NCCAM, yoga “may reduce low-back pain and improve function… improve quality of life; reduce stress; lower heart rate and blood pressure; help relieve anxiety, depression, and insomnia; and improve overall physical fitness, strength, and flexibility.”
A study published in Frontiers of Human Neuroscience showed that yoga practitioners and meditators had “greater connectivity between the caudate and numerous brain regions”. The researchers concluded that “yoga and meditation practitioners have stronger functional connectivity within basal ganglia cortico-thalamic feedback loops than non-practitioners” and “this greater connectivity might be related to the often reported effects of meditation and yoga on behavioral flexibility, mental health and well-being.”
Yoga is more than exercise. It is a multi-faceted practice designed to unite the mental, physical and spiritual. The Yoga Sutras of Patañjali defines yoga as “the stilling of the changing states of the mind”. Yoga strengthens the body-mind connection and helps build insight and awareness. The physical practice, called asana, is only one limb of yoga. It was originally meant to prepare the body for meditation. The eight limbs of yoga teach us (roughly):
- Integrity (yama)
- Spiritual Observance (niyama)
- Body Control (asana)
- Breath Conrol (pranayama)
- Sense Contol (pratyahara)
- Concentration (dharana)
- Meditation (dhyana)
- Transcendence and Peace (samadhi)
Dr. Ochester practices daily yoga and meditation and she incorporates mindfulness and yogic philosophy in her clinical work where appropriate. She is a registered yoga teacher (RYT 200) having completed a 200-hour yoga teacher training program through a Yoga Alliance registered yoga school, Darling Yoga, as well as a 40 hour Ashtanga yoga teacher training program and internship at Maya Yoga. She is also a Qualified Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy Teacher through the University of San Diego Center for Mindfulness Studies.
Dr. Ochester offers workshops and classes on yoga and meditation in the community. Please visit the Midwest Alliance for Mindfulness Events Calendar to stay informed about current offerings.