By Graham Ray
Our ever-moving, uber-modern society is dominated by a slew of technological advancements that have made our lives easier, but have they necessarily made our lives better? Are we ever truly free to just relax when the need to stay connected has us chained to our smartphones and tablets — always just a text, tweet or email away?
Well, just in time for National Relaxation Day on August 15, take a look with us as to why yoga and meditation are the best de-stressors. Both ancient arts emphasize connecting with the breath to quiet the mind.
Meditation and yoga are gaining popularity in various settings around the world as their benefits are discovered:
- In the United States, even the manliest of men – American football players – have begun incorporating yoga into their training routines to increase flexibility.
- Recently in Houston, Texas, yoga and meditation were lauded as keys to preventive healthcare at the First World Congress on Preventive Healthcare.
- A study by Harvard researchers found that meditating for just eight weeks produced substantial decreases to the brain’s gray matter density, which is known to play an important role in anxiety and stress.
- A foundation called Warriors for Healing was created to help veterans recover from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) by practicing yoga.
Though technology can often make us feel rushed and disconnected, it has actually contributed to the popularity of yoga through social media. Many yoga practitioners around the world connect on Instagram through challenges that require users to post a picture of a different pose every day for 30 days.
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The best part about yoga: All you really needed to get started is a mat. A great value is the Gaiam Marrakesh 5-mm Thick Yoga Mat at $29.99 from Kohl’s, where you get up to 8.4% Cashback. The mat is thick enough to provide plenty of cushion, while its non-slip surface provides safe grip in case your mat is inundated with sweat, especially for all you hot yoga fans. Now if you want the Rolls Royce of yoga mats, then check out the Manduka ‘Quantum Pro’ Yoga Mat from Nordstrom (up to 10% Cashback). It’s quite an investment at $128, but it comes with a lifetime guarantee and has earned the praise of satisfied yogis across the globe.
Meditation doesn’t have to be associated with any particular religious or spiritual tradition. A great book to pick up is Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Gunaratana. The book breaks down meditation in a jargon-free language that everyone can understand, providing a valuable meditation starter kit for newcomers or a great reminder for seasoned meditators. You can order Mindfulness in Plain English for just $9.97 from Barnes & Noble and get up to 11.2% Cashback.
As you’re starting out in meditation, you will probably struggle with how to sit. Trying to twist your body into a full lotus position can distract you and discourage you from continuing the practice. You can make the whole sitting process a bit easier and more comfortable by picking up this Hugger Mugger Zafu Yoga Meditation Cushion from Hayneedle for $33.99 and get up to 9.9% Cashback when you shop through DubLi.
So the next time you feel overwhelmed, turn towards a tried and true path to relaxation and mental wellness. Take a deep breath, bring out your essential yoga gear, turn off your smartphone and avail yourself of these simple relaxation arts that have worked for centuries.