Recent years have seen a dramatic increase in the scientific study of contemplative practices. While seated meditation practices have historically been at the center of inquiry in contemplative sciences, movement-based practices, such as yoga, t'ai chi, qigong, and others, are currently coming to the forefront of this discourse.
Hatha Yoga is a form of Yoga that employs a number of different body positions. These postures are held in place for a period of time before moving to the next while utilizing a specific breathing technique.
Movement is slow, and focus is placed on the body and how the body reacts to different postures. Practitioners scan their bodies to become aware of stiff muscles, which they can then loosen until the posture is correctly attained.
Mindful exercise is defined as physical exercise executed with a profound inwardly directed mental focus. This focus allows postures to be performed with a meditative, proprioceptive, sensory awareness component.
The term mindful may be best described in several ways as: Self inquiry to gain knowledge to answer questions on self- control and understanding, or maintaining moment-to-moment awareness.
New 2014 research by biomedical engineers at the University of Minnesota shows that people who practice yoga and meditation long term can learn to control a computer with their minds faster and better than people with little or no yoga or meditation experience. The research could have major implications for treatments of people who are paralyzed or have neurodegenerative diseases.
Researchers from the University of Washington found that regular yoga practice is associated with mindful eating, an awareness of physical and emotional sensations associated with eating. By facilitating breath awareness, yoga practice allowed individuals studied to improve emotional regulation associated with food cravings.
The ancient practice promotes growth in brain regions for self-awareness.
Yoga seems to bestow mental benefits, such as a calmer, more relaxed mind. Now new research may explain how. Using MRI scans, Villemure detected more gray matter—brain cells—in certain brain areas in people who regularly practiced yoga, as compared with control subjects. “We found that with more hours of practice per week, certain areas were more enlarged,” Villemure says, a finding that hints that yoga was a contributing factor to the brain gains.