For much of the last century, scientists believed that the brain essentially stopped changing after adulthood. We now know the brain continues to change in what is referred to as neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to change, structurally and functionally, on the basis of environmental input.
We can choose to have a positive effect on the rate and amount of change known as self-directed neuroplasticity. Yoga and meditation do exactly that!
Meditation increases the power and reach of gamma brain waves.
Brainwaves are measurable electrical waves produced by a large quantity of neurons firing in rhythm together. Gamma brain waves are the fastest brainwave frequency with the smallest amplitude and are associated with peak concentration and very high levels of cognitive functioning. Tibetan meditation practitioners produce uncommonly powerful gamma brainwaves of electrical activity.
We can improve production of positive hormones with practice.
The saying, “use it or lose it”, rings true in neuroscience. Intentionally focusing your awareness on positive mental states will increase dopamine levels, a neurotransmitter that controls our reward and pleasure centers. Meditation also decreases cortisol release, a stress related hormone that suppresses our immune and digestive systems.
Meditation stimulates the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS), our rest and digest system, which…
- Improves functions in Anterior Cingulate Cortex (ACC); helps you think clearly, brings emotional intelligence to logical reasoning.
- Increases activation in left frontal regions associated with positive moods.
- Strengthens immune system.
- Supports medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease, asthma, diabetes, PMS, and chronic pain.
- Helps improve psychological conditions such as depression, insomnia, anxiety, phobias, and eating disorders.
“Attention is like a spotlight, and what it illuminates streams into your mind and shapes your brain. Consequently, developing greater control over your attention is perhaps the single most powerful way to reshape your brain and thus your mind.” – Rick Hanson, Ph.D.
Even small positive thoughts and actions on a regular basis can gradually build new better functioning neural circuitry. After paying close attention to the sensations, sounds, and thoughts present during yoga and meditation we naturally learn to apply this same level of mindfulness and awareness in our daily lives.
As awareness improves so does the overall sense of control and purpose in one’s life.
Meditation teaches us to be less reactive to stressful triggers in our life, in turn strengthening our parasympathetic nervous system and shifting us in the direction of optimal health and well-being.
“Your mind is your instrument. Learn to be its master and not its slave.” – Unknown