“Your worst enemy cannot harm you as much as your own unguarded thoughts.” Buddha
In recent years, the affects of meditation have been a hot topic in the science world. Researchers are trying to scientifically explain why mindfulness practices have such a profound impact on participants. One scientist, Gaelle Desbordes, began studying the brain via functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to determine the physical changes in the brain before and after meditating. Desbordes began practicing meditation in medical school to help her manage the stress of academic life. It made such a big difference for her that she wanted to understand why.
"In 2012, she (Desbordes) demonstrated that changes in brain activity in subjects who have learned to meditate hold steady even when they’re not meditating. " (The Harvard Gazette) The interesting aspect of Desbordes' study is that she studied the brain when people were engaged in everyday tasks, not when they were meditating. She proved that the impacts of a meditation practice are not limited to the practice itself but have far-reaching and lasting impacts.
One form of meditation that I love to practice - especially before bed - is yoga nidra. I recently recorded a yoga nidra practice for my newsletter crew. Every month I send out something special in my newsletter. To sign up, click HERE.
Yoga nidra is often referred to as the "yoga of sleep". It's a very calming practice that helps to transition the nervous system from a sympathetic state of "fight and flight" to a parasympathetic state of "rest and digest". And as Desbordes and other scientists have proven, the affects of these mindfulness practices can transform the brain and change peoples' lives.
Mindfulness practices like yoga nidra are not just about strengthening the mind, they're also about letting go of control and developing a deeper awareness of the mind's chatter. Have you ever sat back and observed your brain bounce from one topic - and one story - to the next? It's a fascinating practice, and with a little sense of humor can be quite enlightening!
Learning to step back from the mind's three-ring-circus allows for perspective and creates a space between the soul and thought. The mind is thinking all day long, but it doesn't mean that we have to believe every single thing we think. One of the greatest results of mindfulness is the space it creates to rework thoughts and to create a new dialogue over time.
There are hundreds of studies that show how our thoughts create real changes in our physiology. A study at UCLA showed that method actors playing various negative emotions showed a lower immune response in just one day.
I know there aren't a lot of hours in the day, but remember that even five minutes a day of mindfulness practices can make a huge difference not only in your brain, but in the way you view yourself and the world.