Yoga and mindfulness meditation: What it could do for you

Yoga and meditation might bring to mind visions of an exotic retreat, the loud chorus of "om" with your legs twisted up into lotus position, or might raise a few unconvinced eyebrows. But research has linked the ancient practice to modern day stress management. So if you're feeling the pressure from work or life in general, read on to see what yoga and mindfulness meditation could mean for your wellbeing.

How yoga and mindfulness meditation could fit into your life

Firstly, if you're interested in yoga or mindfulness, the best way to learn about it is to find a class near you! Grab your BPA free water bottle and a small towel and chuck them into your reusable bag from Onya before heading out. Some studios will have spare yoga mats for you to borrow/hire, so don't worry about needing to buy one when you're just initially trying a class out. Even better, for new students, it isn't uncommon for studios to offer a special deal or a complimentary class.

A recent experiment was initiated by a group of MPs from various parties in the UK, with the aim to see whether they could improve absenteeism in the public sector. It involved training government employees in mindfulness techniques and observing consequent effects over the course of eight months. According to the Guardian, their findings were positive; those practising meditation were found to be less likely to develop stress-related illness, and subsequent absence from work, or to consider leaving their job.

Managing Director Shona Mitchell attributes her return to work after a textbook case of burnout to meditation, as she writes in her Guardian article. She now works at Headspace, a digital wellbeing company, and suggests starting with a guided programme, or at least taking 10 minutes for yourself each day to breathe a little deeper and tune out from the busy world around you.

The evolution of mindfulness – from temple to contemporary

Mindfulness meditation is a practice involving enhanced awareness of the present moment, without analysis or emotional reaction to it, writes Amishi Jha in her article for the Scientific American. It has its roots in a centuries old Buddhist tradition called Vipassana, the goal of which could be described as self observation and the clearing of the mind according to the Saddhama Foundation.

But modern mindfulness practice is described by Maria Konnikova as "less about spirituality and more about concentration" in her New York Times piece. You can think of it as a way of deflecting distractions, and being able to focus and quieten our constantly working minds.

The benefits of yoga and mindfulness

Yoga also stems from an ancient practice, which can work to improve strength, flexibility and relieve stress, according to the folks at WebMD. Many of the breathing techniques in yoga work to regulate our breathing and slow our heart rate down, which can be beneficial to those with high blood pressure as well as those who've suffered from a stroke or heart disease.

Mindfulness meditation has also evolved into a cognitive therapy, developed to help those who find themselves subject to bouts of unhappiness and possible depression. A key application of the method is its potential to help individuals who have experienced depression to avoid relapse. Research by Oxford University and the Danish University of Aarhus have both produced promising findings to support this theory.

So whether work is beginning to take its toll, or you find the little things are just starting to get to you (you know the things), maybe it's time to consider something new to help look after your body and mind.