In search of a quiet mind

Many of us feel the need for some mental ‘down-time’ from the pressures of work, home and family life but often struggle to find it. Therapists, councillors, and some NHS practitioners, have long understood that yoga and meditation are very useful tools to help us to look after our mental health.

 

What is yoga?

The practice of yoga goes back well over 5000 years and is both a form of physical exercise and of contemplation. It doesn’t matter how old, fit or healthy you are, you can still practice yoga. The aim is not to push yourself, but to gently move at your own pace and to breathe well. Yoga is most definitely not a competitive sport! 

Spending an hour or so in a yoga class, focusing on your movement and breathing, is a wonderful tonic for your mind and body. Calm contemplation helps us to rest our minds and allow us to think more clearly. Therapists and GPs often suggest yoga to those with mental health problems for this very reason; to help manage conditions such as depression and stress.

Why meditate?

Meditation has been used as part of cultural and religious practices across the world for centuries and indeed, yoga has a meditative element to its practice too. In essence, meditation is a form of mental exercise that promotes relaxation and awareness, enabling the individual to get beyond the ‘thinking’ mind to a deeper, more relaxed state. As with yoga, this is a very inclusive practice and age and fitness are irrelevant.

Outside the practice of meditation in a specific religious or cultural context, it is mostly done today to help clear the mind and give us the tools to help us steer through life’s ups and downs more easily. It can also be used to manage health concerns, including anxiety, stress and depression.  

Where to start?

The NHS website has some great additional advice on yoga and its benefits as well as providing information on where to find classes in your local area.