Yoga, Meditation, and Mindfulness

Theresa Kosch

I was blown away by the research that has been done on yoga, meditation & mindfulness on the brain. I was aware of the physical gains and the calming affects produced by these practices. I was unaware of just how much these practices can change the actual structure of the brain. I went to a showing of a film called, Free the Mind, hosted by Dr. David Vago. The film was directed by Phie Ambo and the research was collected by Dr. Richard Davidson. Dr. Davidson is a neuroscientist who decided after meeting the Dalai Lama to focus his attention on mindfulness practices to aid in disorders such as ADHD, PTSD and depression. The film follows two Iraqi veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and one young child suffering from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and a phobia of elevators. Dr. Davidson uses techniques such as yoga, meditation and breathing. Dr. Davidson also points out that people who perceive stress have a 43% increased risk of dying after 9 years. Dr. Davidson along with others, found that mindfulness, meditation, yoga and breathing trainings can have potential age defying affects and can change grey matter atrophy in your brain. According to the research, structures in a brain can actually grow because of these practices. The grey matter density in the hippocampus can increase, the hippocampus is what we use for learning and memory. Individuals have also been known to show a decrease in grey matter in the amygdala which plays a part in anxiety. Studies have shown that people who do yoga and meditation that their brains were aging slower than non-meditators. People’s moods have also been known to improve because these practices induce an expansion of myelin. By the end of the film the two Iraqi veterans showed positive results. One of the veterans who was taking Ambien for sleep and for his flashbacks from the war, no longer needed it after the experiment. The young child with ADHD seemed calmer and less fearful. At the end he was able to face his fear of the elevator and join the other children. These positive results were seen after only a couple of weeks. If people can do them on a regular basis the results will be even more astounding. All these practices are exercises for the brain that can improve their function. Just like positive results are seen from exercising, one can feel from these mindfulness practices. If you haven’t tried yoga, meditation or breathing exercises I suggest you start today!








Works Cited

Luders, E., Thompson, P. M., & Kurth, F. (2015). Larger hippocampal dimensions in meditation practitioners: differential effects in women and men. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 186. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00186

Desbordes, G., Negi, L. T., Pace, T. W. W., Wallace, B. A., Raison, C. L., & Schwartz, E. L. (2012). Effects of mindful-attention and compassion meditation training on amygdala response to emotional stimuli in an ordinary, non-meditative state. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 6, 292. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2012.00292

Gard, T., Taquet, M., Dixit, R., Hölzel, B. K., de Montjoye, Y.-A., Brach, N., … Lazar, S. W. (2014). Fluid intelligence and brain functional organization in aging yoga and meditation practitioners. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, 6, 76. doi:10.3389/fnagi.2014.00076

Posner, M. I., Tang, Y.-Y., & Lynch, G. (2014). Mechanisms of white matter change induced by meditation training. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 1220. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01220

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