While many people turn to yoga to reduce stress, an equal number go to yoga class in order to experience a greater sense of connection—with themselves and with each other. We come in to class feeling separate, disconnected, even resentful (Why did she put her mat so close to mine?). We leave smiling, warmed by [...]
“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.” ―Thich Nhat Hạnh, Stepping into Freedom: Rules of Monastic Practice for Novices Yogic breathing is a fundamental practice in the study of yoga. As one of the limbs of Patanjali’s eight-limbed path, yogic breathing, or pranayama, is defined as the [...]
High blood pressure, or hypertension, affects one in three Americans. Known as the “silent killer” because its symptoms often go undetected for years, high blood pressure is correlated with numerous health conditions, including heart attack, stroke, and metabolic syndrome. Typically, the go-to solution is medication, but meds for high blood pressure often come with negative [...]
One increasingly popular form of meditation is loving-kindness meditation (LKM), the practice of wishing one’s self and others to be happy, content, and at ease. In the yoga tradition, loving-kindness is seen as an opportunity to “cultivate the opposite.” Where many meditation techniques encourage students to explore difficult feelings or emotions directly, in loving-kindness, the [...]
One of the most well-known and utilized tools in meditation and yoga is the practice of self-observation without judgment, or mindfulness. Swami Kripalu called self-observation without judgment “the highest form of spiritual practice.” Likewise, if you go to any yoga or meditation class you‘re likely to hear words like mindfulness and nonjudgmental awareness repeated throughout [...]
In 1998, researcher Barbara Fredrickson published a paper called “What good are positive emotions?” The paper discussed, in detail, the importance of positive emotions on cognition, action, and interpersonal relationships. While at the time it was arguably a risky scientific article, it turned out to be pivotal. Prior to this, most research focused almost exclusively [...]
In this edition of Ask the Expert, Angela Wilson, a senior Kripalu faculty member and Project Leader for the Institute for Extraordinary Living’s Frontline Providers program, answers questions about the health benefits of meditation, the best time to meditate, and more. Does meditation have any actual health benefits? What does meditating do for my parasympathetic [...]
In his book Light on Pranayama, B. K. S. Iyengar writes: “Prana is the breath of life of all beings in the universe.” It’s no surprise, then, that pranayama, or the regulation of breath, is an essential part of yoga practice. In fact, it’s unusual to enter into a yoga class that doesn’t have at [...]
Ever wonder why it’s easy to call forth self-discipline one moment, but difficult in another? Several years ago, researcher Dr. Roy Baumeister, a professor of psychology at the University of Florida, pondered the same question. To understand why self-discipline can be elusive, Dr. Baumeister and his team ran an experiment: they wanted to know whether or not self-discipline was like a muscle—something that could be weakened with overuse. To test this question, they brought a group of hungry subjects into their lab and had each subject enter into a room with a bowl of cookies and a bowl of radishes on a table. They told half of the group not to eat the cookies, but instead to eat the radishes. The other group could eat whatever they wanted. (They all ate the cookies.) Then, immediately following this experience, the subjects were brought into another room, where they were asked to complete a complex math problem. In actuality, the math problem was insolvable—the researchers were actually measuring how long the subjects persevered in trying to complete it.
Scientists Offer an Explanation of Why Yoga Increases Well-Being
With the ever-growing amount of scientific studies conducted in the field of yoga research, it’s no surprise that we’re starting to get answers to the question: why, exactly, does yoga work? Research has shown that yoga improves symptoms of a variety of conditions, providing relief from depression and anxiety, diabetes, chronic pain, and even epilepsy. Recently, the National Institutes of Health awarded several large grants to the study of yoga.
One such grant, given to Lorenzo Cohen, PhD, director of the Integrative Medicine Program at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, explores the impact of yoga on the health of women with breast cancer. Another grant, awarded to Kripalu-affiliated researcher Sat Bir Khalsa, PhD, assistant professor in the Division of Sleep Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, supports a study to investigate whether Kripalu Yoga prevents or diminishes high school students’ use of illicit substances.