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Yoga, Meditation, and Your Happy Brain

gratitude brainWe all want to lead a happy and healthy life, but one key to cultivating health and happiness may reside in your brain—more specifically with the power of your breath and learning to control your thoughts. How do the latest research in brain science and behavioral medicine mirror sacred Yoga teachings and timeless meditation practices to cultivate a Happy Brain? As I discuss in my upcoming book Science of a Happy Brain, I define a “Happy Brain” as enjoying balance, longevity, and resilience in an age of anger, anxiety, and addiction.

Yoga is more than mastering physical postures. The 3,000 year-old philosophy of Yoga declares how Yoga is a practice to “calm the incessant turnings of the mind.” Meditation is more than simply sitting in quietude. Meditation is a timeless contemplative practice observed among all the world’s spiritual traditions that brings you into the present moment.

Many ancient healing traditions—such as Yoga, meditation, and Tai Chi—have all recognized that one of the simplest and most effective tools we have to alleviate stress and create more balance, longevity, and resilience is by harnessing the power of your breath.

You may be surprised to learn that recent advances in neuroscience and mind-body medicine offer a deeper understanding of how something as simple and available as the breath is the key for unlocking a Happy Brain! A phrase I’ve always said: How you choose to breathe, determines how you choose to live. How you choose to live, determines how you choose to heal. How you choose to heal, determines how you choose to be happy.”

So when someone says to you “take a breather,” there might actually be some medical merit to it. I find that one of the easiest ways to achieve greater calm in your day is to focus on your breath for as little as five minutes. As Dr. James S. Gordon, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the Georgetown University Medical School, states, “Slow, deep breathing is probably the single best anti-stress medicine we have.” Doing mindful, calm breathing exercises for just five minutes a day can begin to shift your emotional and mental health. So it just might be that focusing on your breathing, specifically on the quality and state of your breath, could be the key to unlock your potential for a Happy Brain!

WARNING: Slow, deep breathing may cause long-lasting side effects such as increased happiness, optimism, health, calm, and alertness.

If you’re curious to discover how ancient Yoga philosophy and meditation techniques align with cutting-edge brain science research to help you achieve greater health and happiness, join us Sun. Feb. 24th at Loyola Marymount University’s Center for Religion and Spirituality’s workshop on “Yoga & Your Brain.”

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