Your Brain on Yoga IS Meditation
Taming the wild bear mind takes some work. It's a skill and skills need to be practiced to stick. One part of taming the mind is to notice all the thoughts; likes, dislikes, guessing what others are thinking, judgements, planning, future forecasting, imagining the worst = anxiety, wishing things were different = resisting the present, and of course, the ever-popular wishing for a better past = depression.
The ancient practice of meditation can help with taming the wild bear mind. One way is to become 'embodied'. What does this even mean? Well it's feeling different parts of our bodies, noticing parts of our body that we never really pay attention to. Some practices you may have heard of is yoga nidra or body scan, or progressive muscle relaxation. The part that makes this work and lifts us out of our usual repetitive thoughts is the fact that in the context of neuroscience, it's a distraction.
Yes, neurologically speaking, it's a distraction. Shifting the focus into our cortex, the wrinkly part of our brain where we feel, hear, smell, see, balance takes up a lot of our brain and when we focus our attention in these areas, it moves the spotlight out of the fight or flight limbic threat-fear system.
We have these wonderfully complex brains because we are organisms that literally move in an environment where we need powerful sensors to figure out the outside world as it relates to us internally, mainly to keep us safe. World renowned neuroscientist, who I'm incredibly fortunate to have had as my research mentor, Dr. Rodolfo Llinas' describes in his book, 'I, of the Vortex' a fascinating sea urchin that eats its own rudimentary nervous system when in its second phase of life, it becomes sessile! In other words, it no longer needs its senses to navigate the physical environment so it gets rid of its 'brain'!!
So becoming aware of our senses immediately puts us into our environment, into the present moment. It makes us interact with the present moment with all of our senses. We can do this through the power of just visualizing; we know that the same areas of the brain light up when we 'see' things in our imaginations or when we 'intend' to move or feel a part of our bodies.
In this way, when we actually involve our muscles in movement, if we become mindful with all of our senses as we move, with breath, with sight (focus/drishti) whether we look at something external or focus on our chakras with the beautiful colors by the way you can memorize as ROYGBIV, we move very powerfully into the present moment, the most powerful antidote to the thinking, ruminating mind. In this way, Yoga IS action meditation.
May you be well, may you be happy