Harvard neuroscientist: Meditation not only reduces stress, here’s how it changes your brain – The Washington Post

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Meditation’s benefits may derive from its impact on the shape of the brain, thickening parts associated with mind-wandering, memory and compassion, and shrinking the fear center

Source: Harvard neuroscientist: Meditation not only reduces stress, here’s how it changes your brain – The Washington Post

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92 responses »

  1. I am absolutely thrilled that there is scientific evidence to back up the fact meditation changes the brain; it is all literally learning – and in some cases, unlearning – new thoughts that will translate to new behaviours that result in your brain growing in different ways. I often imagine how I would’ve been if I had been meditating my whole life – not in a regretful “what if” manner, but more as a goal-point to keep me moving forward in my training. I have been aware that yoga/meditation changes you because it focuses in deep, inner thinking and I am constantly thinking (and overthinking).

    The study showed that being mindful shows that you are paying attention. During meditation, we are often told to listen to the sound of our breaths – not just with our ears, but with our bodies; listen to the way our breathing flows in through the nose, goes through the body, and out again. Mindfulness allows us to open not only our physical-tactile ears but also our “inner” ears. Listening to breathing takes you out of the moment of thinking about yourself and into the moment of being yourself.

    I have found that with doing the weekly yoga classes and IK, I am able to listen to myself more which means I move more slowly/deliberately with thinking; however, I will admit that because of my anxiety, I am still prone to mental blackouts but have to remember that if I can calm my body down, my muscle memory will kick in for my brain. I recently had a moment where I overthought a situation too much and completely blacked out and was unable to catch myself; instead of beating myself up for it, I breathed through it in my yoga class and remembered that I am still learning and I should not be attached to mistakes as they will halt me from moving forward and keep me dwelling on that moment.

    I have now learned easier ways for me to deal with my memory in such situations by incorporating the naming of sessions into my IK; for instance, the first part is Detach, the second is Decompress (vocal cords during the ah’s), and the third is Deliberate. By saying what I am doing before I do it, my brain is better at knowing and it is not just up to my body to be aware.

    The study Dr. Lazar did showed change in four areas of the brain that variously affect mind wandering/self-relevance, memory and emotional regulation, empathy and compassion, and the area in charge of regulatory neurotransmitters. With not only consistent but yearning to practice mindfulness and meditation, one will definitely benefit from the results.

    – M. A. Audu

  2. This reading discusses how Sara Lazar, a neuroscientist, found that meditating can not only reduce stress but “literally change your brain.” In the video Sara talks about how she studies how the brain and body interact with each other and how yoga affects the two. She defines neurology as the study of how the mind works and talks about how some neuroscientists study the close relationship of how neurons talk to other neurons and how other neuroscientists study how the brain is structured. When she first heard about the effects of yoga from her psychical rehabilitation yoga teacher, she wasn’t too confident it its healing powers. It was until she started performing yoga that she found that she was calmer, better able to handle difficult situations, more compassionate and open hearted and able to see things from others’ points of view better than ever.
    Meditation is associated with decreased stress, decreased depression, anxiety, pain and insomnia and an increased quality of life and I can relate to this because even though it makes sense why yoga has such incredible effects, the idea of healing so many heavy aspects of life just through yoga and meditation almost sounds too good to be true. But yoga isn’t just an act, its a way of life and leads to incredible mindfulness and the ability to change the way we view the world and appreciate the little aspects that surround us everyday, thus healing these aspects of our lives and and reducing the negativity from our point of view. Meditation is absolutely incredible and allows for us to reflect and understand ourselves on a whole new level that someone who has never meditated before can not even grasp… Lazar constructed two studies, and in her first study she found that found long-term mediators have an increased amount of gray matter in the insula and sensory regions, the auditory and sensory cortex and these mindful humans senses are enhanced as compared to non mediators. They also found there was more gray matter in the frontal cortex of mediators (associated with working memory and executive decision making.) Lastly what I found to be most interesting was how “50-year-old mediators had the same amount of gray matter as 25-year-olds”, I find this interesting as well as motivating because since we as human have discovered the powers that yoga and meditation possess, how come we all aren’t raised and taught this?? I believe that if everyone learned this at a young age and understood how incredible yoga is the world would be a happier place and the way people react to things would be entirely different and stress rates would be lower as well as the dependence on pharmaceuticals wouldn’t be as high.
    I have been practicing Isha Kriya 4 to 6 times a week, performing it twice a day either twice a week or three times a week (once in the morning and once before bed.) I love the effect that this Kriya has on me before I try to rest because it helps me get to sleep a lot better!

  3. The neuroscientist Sara Lazar speaks on her observations regarding the effects of meditation on the human brain. After her team conducted experiments, one of which involved two groups (one that learned meditation and one that did not), she finds considerable differences in brain volume and activity between said groups after an eight-week interval. The thickening of four regions occurs, of which included the posterior cingulate (pertaining to mind wandering & self significance), the left hippocampus (learning, memory, and the regulation of emotions), the temporal parietal junction (empathy, perspective taking, and compassion), and the pons (producing regulatory neurotransmitters). The one region that became smaller was the amygdala, responsible for the brain’s fight or flight response.

    Lazar also notes that mindfulness is similar to exercise that concentrates on the mental health as well as the physical. While she practiced, she saw a gradual change in her demeanor, becoming more open and compassionate to herself and others. She does, however, state that it impacts most symptoms, but not all. The same procedure, furthermore, does not work on everyone. It appears to the reader that she deems meditation highly useful as an adjunct therapy that is done alongside other self-care measures. To ensure good results while keeping in mind the limitations, she suggests that one finds a good teacher and understand how said person’s mind works.

    This video, as well as the article that corresponds with it, does pique my curiosity in regards to the psychological effects yoga has on the body and the brain. Some non-neuroimaging studies by scientists have indicated that meditation proved to be a great help in enhancing attentive and emotional managing skills. Professor Lazar has expressed her hopes that aspects of behavioral and neuroimaging science pertaining to this research can be brought together.

    I’ve been practicing my Isha Kriya during morning and night intervals, sometimes at the crack of dawn. Other times I still do it before bed in order to ease myself into sleep more naturally. The outcomes it has before rest do result in me resting like a child (which compared to my more stressful days, is pretty good). Earlier, my roommate asked me about my practice and told me about how he knows of someone who undergoes similar exercises in yoga. I am continuing to work on solidifying my process and overall form as well.

  4. I found this incredibly inspiring and made me excited to meditate. I thought it was interesting how by meditating and being mindful, one shuts down cognition and becomes more present in the current moment, thus enhancing your senses. I think that mindfulness is such an important quality to practice. So often I become wrapped up with anxieties of the future and nostalgia of the past that my present moment becomes so fuzzy. I’m so curious about how meditation helps memory and thinking because its really amazing that intact does.

    I especially found incredible how quickly results were being seen. With just 8 weeks of meditating so much improvement was seen. I enjoyed the way in which she says that even if you can’t get to it for very long, even just a little bit every day makes a big difference. I found this very comforting and makes me feel like I can do this more often even if Im not meditating for 40 minutes.

    This especially makes me feel good about doing my Isha Kriya. This past week has been one of the most stressful weeks of the year and with all of these midterms and assignments and my new job, its been difficult for me to do all of my Isha Kriyas. Ive done only 2 this week and while it did help me calm down, my relief fled quickly as the weight of school persisted. While I can now do the Isha Kriya with out any aid, I prefer to do it along with the video still because its tough for me to stay concentrated with out it because my mind tends to wander.

    • Well stated but don’t you deserve all the benefits you mentioned in your essay? Can you carve out 12 minutes daily so that every aspect of you and your responsibilities are optimal?

  5. Sara Lazar is a neuroscientist who practices at the General Hospital in Massachusetts and the Harvard Medical School. Lazar was never into yoga until she had a few physical injuries that caused her to take a break from running, and was unable to even join the Boston marathon due to those. In order to heal her body, Lazar was informed by a physical therapist to stop running, and simply begin stretching. Instead of stretching on her own, Sara thought it would be beneficial to begin taking yoga classes.

    After a few classes of yoga, Lazar began to first hand experience the benefits of yoga and how it can heal one’s self, along with open your heart. Like myself, Sara thought yoga and its benefits were more so psychological, like the placebo effect, but after much research, she learned yoga “decreased stress, decreased depression, decreased anxiety, pain and insomnia, and an increased quality of life”.

    In order to test yoga and its long term benefits out for herself, Lazar studied a controlled group of those who never practiced and also a group of meditators who have been practicing for years. The results were absolutely impeccable- 50 year olds who have been practicing had the same amount of gray matter in their frontal cortex (associated with working memory and executive decision making) as a 25 year old, although as science says, the older one gets, the more their frontal cortex shrinks. This right here, proved to Lazar that yoga can help the mind and body.

    As for myself, practicing the Isha Kriya 4 times a week for about 12 minutes each time, is soothing and keeps my mind clear. The only thing I focus on during these 12 minutes are my mind, body and soul. Everything else in my life seems to disappear and I am at ease.

  6. Being someone who suffers from stress very often, I found this video to be very enlightening. There is scientific evidence of the not only mental but physical benefits of meditation, yoga and deep breathing. It’s interesting to think of yoga as a reset button for your body. It helps you get back on track and instills relaxation and balance in your love, which is often altered, especially being a college student. I can definitely see a difference after not doing yoga for a while, and jumping back into it. I think of yoga as a lifestyle. I have noticed the more often I practice, the more often I feel calmer and more relaxed on a daily basis. I hope to be able to make more free time for yoga, because I think the effects are evident and necessary for everyone! I think the more people study the effects of it, the more people are willing to give it a shot, because of all the benefits. The video also talked about mindfulness and the importance of it. I think it is something people often overlook, but a lot of yoga is about being mindful. Being mindful in not just your practice but your everyday life is something I want to do more of. I find myself doing the Isha Kriya right before I go to bed. I think this is a great way to be relaxed before I go to sleep. I have found that doing it has helped me fall asleep easier and faster, and stay asleep longer!

  7. In the article, Neuroscientist Sara Lazar researches the effects that yoga and meditation have on the brain. She started practicing yoga as a form of physical therapy, however she quickly realized that it had an effect on her stress level and her overall state of being. She found herself to be overall more calm and less stressed and found it easier to make hard decisions. Lazar decided to do a study on how meditation affects the brain and she found that it causes actual changes to the brain. She found evidence that when doing yoga and mindfulness practices, your senses become enhanced. Lazar also found that meditation produces more gray matter in the brain which helps with memory and decision making. It was evident from scans of the brains of people who regularly practice yoga, that meditation reduces stress levels.

    I thought this article was very interesting. While I have been practicing yoga for the duration of this class, I have noticed that I have seen the same results that Lazar saw, which include  reduced stress and being overall more calm. I think it’s pretty amazing how meditation has an actual effect of the brain and that change can be seen in scans of the brain. I knew that yoga and mindfulness practices had an effect on the body, however I was not previously aware of the effect it has on the brain.

    I’m continuing to do the IK about four times a week. I try to do it at the same time everyday which is between when I finish classes for the day and start work. I have been noticing that it has been improving my overall concentration at work and in school.
    -Ashley Pagan

  8. This article talks about how Sara Lazar, a neuro-scientist, finds that practicing yoga actually changes the brain. People already know that practicing yoga relaxes and stretches the body. However, there is now scientific evidence to prove that practicing yoga can change the formation of the brain.

    Sara Lazar did the experience by comparing a group of long term meditators and a control group. The result was shocking. “long-term meditators have an increased amount of gray matter in the insula and sensory regions, the auditory and sensory cortex.” it is surprising to find that meditating can actually increase the amount of gray matter in the brain, which is the part that is involved in sensory perception such as sight, hearing, memory, emotions, speech, and decision making.

    It is already known to us that the cortex shrinks as we get older, that is why as we get older, it is more difficult to learn new things or remember things. However, according to the result of the research, 50-year old meditators have the same amount of gray matter as a 25 year old. That further supports the argument that meditating can help to change the formation of the brain.

    This week I did Isha Kriya 4 times. I have been feeling that it is easier for me to do Isha Kriya for a longer period of time now. I used to do the minimum amount of 12-14 minutes. But now I can do up to 20 minutes without realizing how much time has past. I will continue with the practice of Isha Kriya.

    Jenny Tsang

  9. I sort of figured that there was also some science behind yoga. I think this added information makes it that much more amazing to be honest. I think yoga really has no disadvantages and was really made to enhance one’s health all around. It is true that when your mind is clear, so is everything else. Your comprehension, your actions, your decision making and so on and so forth. I think that the prefrontal cortex of a 50 year old and a 25 year old being similar is astounding and makes me want to practice yoga forever. Growing old is something that often scares me just because the idea of forgetting everything I’ve learned and in a sense regressing is depressing.

    The comparison between mindfulness and physical exercise resonated with me because I think both are equally as important. It is very important to cater and take care of your brain because just like our bodies, it is always working and unfortunately it will begin to deteriorate. Any extra exercises or practices we can do to prolong the lifespan of our brains and our bodies should be taken advantage of. I think also pointing out that it is not a cure and won’t completely stop your brain from getting old, it’s a beneficial practice that should be added to all daily routines.

    I’ve also found that I’m more compassionate and calmer after practicing yoga and doing the Isha Kriya. It’s becoming a vital part in my day and really sets the tone for my week ahead. I recommend it to everyone I come in contact with because I feel my results were almost instantaneous and every day I feel myself becoming more and more grounded.

  10. I will be the first to say that it took me many stubborn years to finally give in and try my hand in meditation. Meditation has been recommended to me not only by spiritual people in my life but by medical professionals as well. It has helped me not only relive insomnia and anxiety but has helped me learn more about my inner thoughts and self and allow my mental health to become more stabilized within itself and help me understand myself. It’s crazy how something so simply and something that only you can do for yourself can help you and truly completely change your life. Now that mediation has actual science and statistics backing it up, it further proves that ability it has to change a persons perspective and their mental and physical health.
    I appreciate that this study was conducted on various age groups, and various groups of people who have practiced mediation through out their lives and those who have recently picked it up. This proves that ability and abilities mediation has to cure a person inside and out. It truly is amazing what the mind can do for oneself when we learn to calm down and work with it rather than against it. Mediation through out this study has even shown that the brain becomes stronger and more capable in memory and other functions due to the practice of being able to calm the brain and simply stay calm and focus.
    Mediation truly is a natural therapy that allows the body and brain to learn how to coexist together and become one in a healthy and peaceful manner.

  11. I really enjoyed this article on meditation. Sara Lazar talks about her research regarding meditation and the actual observable physical affects it has on patients brains. It is amazing that through the practice of meditation patients actually experienced physical changes. For example the area of the amygdala getting smaller. At this point I have heard many of the mental affects of meditation but had no idea that there are actual physical differences in the brains of those who practice meditation. I also find the comparison of meditation and exercise interesting as well. It would make sense to view meditation as a form of mental exercise.
    It felt very reassuring to know that so many people actually did experience positive effects of meditation. Sara Lazar does however state that it will not impact everyone the same way and it may not be for everyone, but nonetheless it is still interesting to see that there is scientific research going into evaluating and authenticating the benefits of meditation practice.
    I do appreciate the fact that Sara Lazar, even though a researcher, does in fact practice meditation regularly. This is also a testament to the authenticity of the practice. Before this semester I had only dabbled in meditation, getting most of my information from books or any online sources I could find. I also before this semester, have never done yoga. So far I have really enjoyed the practice. I have left every session feeling relaxed.
    Currently I try to practice the IK 4-5 times a week, and mostly do it before I fall asleep or during times of the day that I feel it is necessary. I have also seen benefits to the practice of the IK as well. After practicing the IK I feel relaxed and it clears my mind of many worries. I have seen the most benefit in doing the IK before I need to undertake some kind of stressful task or project.

    matthew Alioto
    wednesday 8:30 am class

  12. Sara Lazar’s research findings were a key turning point for Eastern philosophy to be taken a little more seriously, with the help of scientific backing. I say this because many people tend to disregard meditation or spiritual philosophy as objectively beneficial but in reality, meditation yields measurable benefits. It can be just as results-oriented as pharmaceutical drugs. I think that meditation has the potential to heal more than we can imagine and with the help of Lazar’s evidence, meditation’s benefits can penetrate the doubts of the skeptics.
    I find it intriguing that long-term meditators had an increased amount of gray matter in the sensory regions of the brain. Additionally, they were found to have more gray matter in the frontal cortex, which is associated with memory and decision-making. This is profound information because it attests to the capability of a mental practice to yield physical changes that can help enhance your wellbeing. Additionally, it exemplifies the neuro-plastic nature of the brain in which it changes in accordance to various circumstances. I once heard of a study that demonstrated the concept of neuroplasticity by comparing the hippocampus of New York City cab drivers, to a control group. The hippocampus is the region of the brain that is associated with memory as well. Surely, the cab drivers had larger Hippocampi than the control group. The reason for this is because their environment of having to memorize landmarks and street routes physically changed the brain to meet these demands of the profession. Thus, you could imagine how certain bad habits can negatively change the brain, or even shrink it. Moreover, Lazar found that 50-year-old meditators had the same amount of gray matter as 25-year old’s. This information alone is enough to motivate me to want to continue to adopt meditation in my daily routine.
    The most fundamental piece of information to take away from this study is that her data showed brain changes after eight weeks of practice, not right away. Thus, through her study, we can conclude that meditation yields its positive benefits only if done consistently for a certain period of time. I like to think of it as exercising. You do not see results after one day in the gym. Rather, it is a long-term process and commitment, but definitely worth it. The benefits that come with meditation will definitely pour out into all other areas of your life. It really is the foundation for wellness.
    I have been practicing the Isha Kriya two times per day ever since I first learned about it in the class. I was going through a minor form of anxiety and depression prior to learning about this practice. In the past two weeks, I have not felt better and had more mental clarity than I have had in a long time. It is important to note that the Isha Kriya was the only thing I added to my daily routine, so there were no other factors that could have contributed to my emotional improvements. Thus, my own experience with the benefits of meditation reflects Sara Lazar’s findings. I wish more people were open to these kinds of things because they could tremendous improvements in their lives.

    • Now I can understand how easily you are able to connect to Sadhguru, as his gift to all via the Isha Kriya has brought you such balance and wellbeing. Do continue to view his videos on YouTube, you will continue to grow and learn amazing things about the changes you are experiencing becoming a Yogi. Namaste

  13. The article reviewed the scientific benefits of meditation. A researcher who had begun meditating tested brain matter density in different regions between a meditating group and non-meditating group two different times, both times finding more gray matter in various sections of the brain for the meditators. These included emotionally regulatory sections, learning sections, the mind-wandering section, and empathizing section. The researcher herself gives a personal anecdote about how meditation has helped her with empathizing, emotional control, and grounding herself. She stresses, at the end, that meditation is simply exercise for your brain, and that ultimately though it’s full effects are not known yet, and it is not a cure all, even a little bit of meditation can help. The more the better!

    I didn’t find the article surprising, as it reaffirmed what I had been feeling exploring meditation and other research we have read for this class. I had found myself wondering earlier in the year whether or not more scientific research on yoga and meditation had been done, and clearly it is being explored. I think findings like these especially are important for treatment for mentally ill people, as the researcher did say that this can be very helpful additional therapy for some. Having little but important ways to help calm and nurture your own mind, and having scientific backing behind it doing so, will definitely be empowering to many.

    Meditation for me has definitely made me feel more in control, and I barely even do it! Certainly not as much as I would like to. But I have noticed definitely a change in my emotional control and centeredness when I meditate. When I was in an acting intensive that had some form of meditation I was made to practice every day, I remember feeling so much better about my mental health and self even halfway through the month long program.

    This memory especially makes me want to keep up my Isha Kriya, and even continue on in this when I am done with this course. I do practice it around 3 times a week still, but especially now that midterms have really set in, I find myself having less time and the Isha Kriya definitely suffers, feeling rushed on occasion or not being done consistently. I hope that I can amend this behavior, and I hope I can continue to find time for meditation and yoga after this class, as it certainly has and will continue to bring a sense of focus and structure to my day.

  14. “But I started noticing that I was calmer. I was better able to handle more difficult situations. I was more compassionate and open-hearted, and able to see things from others’ points of view” (Sara Lazar). I make Lazar’s words my words. I was also skeptical of the benefits of meditation. I am that kind of person who needs to evidence to believe. According to the article, after working on some anecdotal claims regarding meditation benefits and feeling some improvements in her overall physical and mental health, Doctor Lazar decided to study the brain reaction to meditation. Her study comprised of brain scans on people divided into two groups: one group of people who practice long-term meditation and one group of people who did not practice meditation used as a control group). The findings were quite amazing. People who practice long-term meditation had an increased amount of grey matter. Gray matter in the brain is where the terminals of the neurons called axons are and where the synapses occur. I found interesting as well that there was an improvement of the amount of gray matter in the sensory locations in the brain. The doctor explains that this increase is because when meditating, a person is aware of her breathing, her sounds and completely concentrated in that task, which makes with the cognitive process in our brain are put in standby. I see it is as a break to the constant thinking and over thinking about our life’s issues and worries. This is fascinating, because I could never believe that I could not ever not thinking, which makes people feel contentment because we are always in hi-speed, and the fact that one can stop to worry or think intensively for 15 minutes a day for example, this is already a huge gain – in my opinion. There are other benefits of meditation that really impressed me. Studies show that people over 50 years old have a decrease in production of gray matter, but not people who practice long-term meditation. After this 2 groups study, Doctor Lazar decided to do another study, to find out that a lot of benefit occurred to the group that learned how to meditate. Thicker mass was found in brain regions responsible for pleasure, learning capabilities, relaxation and empathy. Also the doctor found out that the changes happen after the week 8 of meditating. If we think about our class, we are in the week 8 in the semester. No wonder I’m feeling much better.

  15. Whenever I have practiced yoga or done meditation in the past, I would always feel a full body calmness and peacefulness. Reading this article and listening to the interview I realized that it makes sense that yoga and meditation effect your brain. I think a lot, about a lot of different things. My brain is always thinking and going but when I meditate, I stop thinking about work or class or life and I focus on my breathing. And that starts with the brain. Getting yourself to not think but to focus on where your body is meeting with the earth, your breathing and your balance is something that your brain is able to start and then spread through your whole body.

    It’s been said that Yoga and Meditation have helped tremendously with depression, anxiety and loads of others mental illness. That’s the key word. Mental illness. When your depressed, your brain isn’t functioning like brain of people who aren’t depressed. Yoga and meditation effect your brain in the opposite way that depression effects your brain. Yoga and meditation spread a peacefulness and calmness that leaves you feeling happier whereas depression will continuously make you sad and feel alone. In my experience, it might not take one yoga class to get rid of your depression. But after practicing it, you are given the tools that will help you fight it. And like I said earlier, it all starts with the brain. I always suggest to friends and family who are feeling down or even feeling sick to meditate. Not only will you feel peaceful afterwards, but if your sick, yoga and mediation have effects on illness.

    This week has been pretty hectic. I am in rehearsals 7 hours everyday, with sunday being the only exception. I normally try to work the IK into my morning routine but this past week i found it was more beneficial for myself to do it at night, after a long day of working. I would come home and sit on my bed, after washing and brushing, and do my IK. After that I as able to sleep and not feel stressed about my past day. I wake up the next morning feeling refreshed and ready to go for another long day. This past sunday, along with doing the IK and finger holds, I also did the sun salutation that we have been working on class. I feel my body working harder and harder but I also feel more balanced and flexible the more I do it.

  16. It’s always cool to see scientific research done on yoga and meditation and stuff along those lines, just because it’s typically seen as a spiritual thing, so seeing science with facts and numbers and stuff is always fun. Showing how meditation helps 4 areas of the brain become larger and the one area that becomes smaller being the area that basically controls the fight or flight response shows how meditation can help calm you down in your hectic day to day life.

  17. Jelan Winston
    SUNY Purchase
    Yoga-Monday Session

    This reading talks about how Sara Lazar made some new discoveries into how meditation can change a person’s brain chemistry, altering their mood, thought patterns, and general outlook on life.She talks about the relationship between a person’s mind and continued yoga practice. Yoga can increase brain activity in certain regions and decrease it in others, people that do yoga therefore tend to be less stressed and more focused in their everyday life. AT first a skeptic, she then talks about how she came to truly respect the practice and all the benefits it has on a person’s health and well-being.

    The study looked into how mindfulness during yoga can affect the brain. Meditation can teach a person how to be aware of their own bodily processes and be aware of the thoughts running through their head. Shutting cognition down is something long time meditators are able to achieve and this has allowed them to enhance their senses over time. Yoga even prolongs the degradation of the brain, it was discovered that 50-year old meditators have as much grey matter in their brains as 25 year olds. The entire study was interesting and certainly eye-opening towards the benefits of yoga.

    In my experience, I’ve always been skeptical about the supposed benefits of yoga, just as Dr. lazar was prior to her study in its observed benefits. I thought all the talk of detachment, heightened awareness, and mindfulness wasn’t really true and that yoga didn’t have any impact on a person besides what happens to the body. But just like in the study, I feel like during the progression of these past weeks, my mind really has been at ease more often, I feel better mentally and I’ve been feeling more compassionate towards others. Yoga opens up things in the brain that a person might not be conscious of, but it’s certainly affected me so far.

  18. The human brain is the focus on Sara Lazar studies. She studies the effect the brain has on constant, mindfulness and meditation.The gray matter is increased in the sensory regions, this made sense to her since during meditation, one’s senses are enhanced, you pay attention the your own breathing and sounds around you, cognition is shut down. Lazar goes about to study if meditation really does enhance the gray matter in people brains and conducts an experiment on people placed in two separate groups over an eight week period. At the end Lazar did notice significant changes in both groups in 5 different regions of the brain. There was thickening in the brain for the group that learned meditation.

    Lazar has also said she has been practicing yoga for many years, and specifically became interested in this when she started yoga as a sort of physical therapy. She notices that she is a lot more open minded towards people, and calm in many situations. Relaxed. She explains how she practices yoga everyday, although it does take a lot of time, to practice it correctly. Forty minutes a day is the best in order to gain full results, but it varies for everyone.

    From reading and watching this video I sense how meditation helps people, even with anxiety issues. Starting meditation at a young age can help one in later years to come, to cope with stressful situations that may arise, and will most likely come around from school, work or even amongst other people, but as Sara Lazar found out, start now, and you’ll be able to better your own brain in just eight weeks of constant practicing of yoga.

    My IK practice has been getting better and better. I still use it to my advantage to help me sleep at night. So i find myself practicing the IK before bed or when I finish some school work. I probably should practice before my school work, since it does reduce my stress before I dive into my work.

  19. In this post, Harvard neuroscientist Sara Lazar is interviewed on her study and research in yoga and meditation/mindfulness in general and its scientifically proven psychological and physiological benefits. As Lazar began yoga and started to notice differences in her daily life, she did more research suggesting incredibly results. Long term meditators have incr. amounts of grey matter in the insult and sensory regions, the auditory and sensory cortex. Lazar says that this makes sense because when you’re being mindful and focusing on breathing, being present, etc., you are shutting cognition down so it stands to reason your senses would be enhanced. There was also generally more grey matter in the frontal cortex; working memory and executive decision making. Our cortex is supposed to shrink as we age. But in this area of the prefrontal cortex, 50 yr old meditators same size frontal cortex as 25 yr old meditators. Lazar decided to conduct a study on this influence. In the study, this class practiced mindfulness once a week together as well as 40 min per day for eight weeks. Results were seen in just these eight weeks on brain imaging and MRI’s in regions of the Posterior cingulate, left hippocampus, TPJ, Pons, and amygdala.

    This seems to relate to many previous posts we’ve read of the benefits of yoga in that it reduces stress and anxiety, makes for clearer thinking, more present interactions, etc. However, I had never heard that yoga increases your sense of empathy and compassion, and am not sure about the connection there. I tried to do some research but didn’t find much on this online. However, there was an article in USNews from 2015 about the combination of yoga and a specific Compassion Meditation that was used to help family members of those with Alzheimer’s disease become more compassionate, empathetic, and patient.

    I appreciate articles that show the science behind yoga, and gives specific information about how exactly they came to these conclusions and it isn’t just an article from someone who practices saying, “studies suggest,” or, “scientists say…,” This is an actual specific study and gives examples of development in different regions of the brain, unlike the first video we watched about the science behind yoga. I found it especially interesting that the cortex in 50 year olds was the same size as that of 25 year olds.

    My Isha Kriya is going alright. I am back to practicing 4 times/week with the allotted 12 minutes per practice. Sometimes I am doing it with the video but mostly am doing it on my own. I can’t say that I have felt a significant shift in my practice, it still at times feels uncomfortable or strange doing it alone; different from when we do it in class. However, I usually walk away from the meditation feeling lighter and more grounded, which I always appreciate and can definitely equate to a sense of peace throughout the day and clearer thinking. Overall, it’s going well. Sometimes I feel my body physically unaligned and this is distracting and I am not always sure how to fix it. Still working on this.

    Michaela Lunden, Wednesday 8:30am class

  20. After reading the article and watching the video, I was not really surprised by what I read and heard. The information from both the article and the video is just more proof that yoga and meditation can change your brain. But because of advances in medical technology, we now have measurable proof, rather than just anecdotal evidence. Or what people would dismiss, saying ‘… maybe it was just the placebo response.’ [1]

    In the article from The Washington Post Dr. Lazar said they ‘found differences in brain volume after eight weeks …’ [1] Since we have had more than eight weeks of classes, plus yoga and meditation outside of class, I wonder how much our brains have changed?

    I also agree that mindfulness and meditation are like exercise, the more you do it, then the greater the benefits. I also believe that yoga and meditation is not the cure for everything. It should be used as part of a broader approach to a specific problem. But if there is no medical reason for practicing yoga and meditation you can still reap some incredible benefits.

    The video did a great job of going over the information in the article. The way Dr. Lazar explained what she does and the way she was able to help me visualize the data made the medical terms much easier to understand. This would make it more appealing and accessible to a broader audience.

    [1]
    Schulte, Brigid. “Harvard Neuroscientist: Meditation Not Only Reduces Stress, Here’s How It Changes Your Brain.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 26 May 2015, http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/inspired-life/wp/2015/05/26/harvard-neuroscientist-meditation-not-only-reduces-stress-it-literally-changes-your-brain/?utm_term=.7424b0e4099c.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    My Isha Kriya practice is now as much a part of my bedtime routine as brushing my teeth and washing my face, but it is also a necessary part of my routine. I can feel the difference when I don’t practice. I begin to feel anxious and a little unsettled the next day. I usually end up closing myself off in the library in the middle of the day and just practice the breathing part of the Isha Kriya.

    Polly Hunt
    Monday 6:30 PM Class

  21. Great reading. Even though I am not in the field to check brain changes, I can agree that there some noticeable changes just after taking a few classes. I have notice out of the 6 classes taken doing yoga I see a difference in myself. I feel much more calm in general. I am able to talk out situations instead of getting angry and letting my emotions take control. I still stress a lot over classes and assignments but it has taken less of a control over me. I feel randomly peaceful. As the classes continue I start to learn more about myself and what the poses and breathing benefit for me. I am currently trying to see how they benefit me medically. A lot of doctors want their patients to take certain medications for money or just because they think it will help. Personally there have been a lot of juggling around of medication with terrible side effects and interference with other medications. I am looking to yoga to see if it can help improve things like my migraines and asthma, which would help wean off medication. I have also been teaching my mother and friends certain poses and how to breathe. I’ve mentioned the finger holds to introduce them to something simple that they can try anywhere. After finishing school I am interested in continuing this practice, it is helpful in every way.
    I was told to do IK two times a day because I was going trough a lot and not being able to focus much. I realized I wouldn’t be able to do it twice a day because of my busy schedule so instead I did it every night for a week. I feel much better now, I still have stress and a lot to get done but I am able to have a full night of rest and my focus is back. I just need to get my senior project done so I can have myself back! But I am thankful that yoga is playing a big part in my support system.

  22. I am someone who constantly has to deal with anxiety and stress. With that being said, I found this video to be helpful. I liked learning how there is actual scientific evidence having to do with yoga. There are both physical and mental benefits to the yoga practice, deep breathing and mediation. Being enlightened by this makes me feel more fulfilled in my yoga practice, like I am actually making a difference to better my brain and body.

    The video talked about mindfulness and the importance of it. I think it is something that can often be overlooked, but a lot of yoga is about being mindful. Being mindful in not just the practice of yoga, but one’s everyday life. This is something I want to practice more, and the video made me look forward meditating again because I am now aware that meditating and being mindful makes one more present in the moment, and greatly enhancing your senses. I have experienced this before, I just didn’t know there was science to back this up. Mindfulness is an important quality to practice; it helps one become rejuvenated and balanced in life. I feel as though this is especially important for those who lead busy stressful lives, such as students.

    The more often I practice, the more benefits I feel. After the IK I feel relieved and more relaxed. I think that if people became aware that there was scientific evidence that yoga helps ones overall health, more people would be subject to try it.
    Abby Collins

    • Another perspective is for people to learn to trust their feelings as they are always valid and ever present. However if we await for scientific studies which are always looking for funding we could die before realizing what we could have known if we trusted our feelings whether an experience is useful and valid.

  23. The post is an interview with Harvard neuroscientist Sara Lazar, more specifically on her research in yoga and meditation. Her studies show that yoga and meditation have a lot of scientifically proven physical and mental benefits. What she speaks about is grey matter in regions of the brain that deal with sensory information, and how those who practice yoga have an increased amount in these areas. People who have meditated for years especially have a significantly larger amount of grey matter in these parts of brain, as well as in the memory and decision making centers of the brain. While these parts of the brain tend to shrink with time, but Lazar’s data finds that those who meditate often can retain their prefrontal cortex size for years, well into their 50’s.

    This makes sense to me. Being mindful and aware of one’s surroundings and place in the world is a huge part of yoga and meditation, so it’s no surprise that the parts of the brain that receive and process that information are strengthened by yogic exercises. Lazar also claims that yoga makes its participants more compassionate. While I couldn’t find more information about that online, I also think that it makes sense. I think that if one has a greater ability to make decisions, is more relaxed, and has stronger sensory receptors, they would naturally behave better. All of those things contribute to how one would behave, and since people generally want to be good to one another, it makes sense that with a healthier brain, they would be more compassionate.

    I am really happy to hear real scientific studies with actual logic and facts supporting the rewards of meditation. I think for those who practice it, all the good things are obvious, but for those who are skeptical, these studies will help to convince others of the good that yoga can do. I also think that it is important in general to understand the reality behind things in my life, so it is good to know why yoga has a positive impact.

    I have finally been able to perform my Isha Kriya without using the video as a guide, but sometimes I lose track of how long I spend on each section. That being said, looking at how much time has passed since I begin, I know I do not spend too much or too little time on any one section. I tend to perform the exercise in my room, and I do it three to four times a week. I started to fall behind in previous weeks, but have started to catch up again, and feel more regular as a result.

    Josh Sandler, Monday 6:30 class

  24. I found this video extremely helpful and informative. I’m the type of person that trusts, but verifies. So I believed about the benefits of yoga, but it’s amazing to see that you can actually prove this with science. I’ve definitely noticed since I started my meditations that I am more calm and focused. I continue to do my IK at least 4 times a week for about 12 minutes each. I always try and do more, but sometimes things come up or I don’t have the time. I’ve noticed that the more and more I do it the more comfortable I am and the more of a benefit I feel. I know personally that there is a positive change, but its interesting to know now after reading this article that through a MRI there can we physical evidence to support this.

  25. This post is about a neuroscientist named Sarah Lazar. She studies how yoga and meditation changes the brains by using MRI to study the brain before and after the use of meditation and yoga. Through control groups she was able to state that the brains of those who meditated had an increase in gray matter in numerous different parts of the brain as opposed to those who didn’t. This is an amazing discovery that something as simple as meditating for a short amount of your day can physically cause a change in your brain. This correlates to how you deal with life on an everyday basis. You can face life stresses with a different view on life. You can deal with problems in much more positive ways.

    This also makes me feel great about my own yoga journey. As I have stated before I’ve suffered from migraines my whole life, but since beginning my yoga experience I have seen a huge decrease in the frequency of said migraines and the severity of them. I knew I could attribute it to the yoga, as it is the only thing that has changed in my life but when I would tell my friends they mostly thought it was a placebo effect. I thought it was helping, therefore it helped. As it turns out it would seem that it is helping, not in only reducing my stress but changing things up there for the better.

    Boris Yanez

  26. The Washington Post article is about Sarah Lazar, who has used MRI imaging to study the effects of yogic meditation on the brain. Those who regularly practiced showed increased grey matter retention with age and even increased population of grey matter. 50 year olds were shown with regular practice to have as much grey matter as people half their age. Lazar indicates that the brain and body interact beyond the scope of human scientific understanding and we’ve only begun to scratch the surface since technological developments in the 90s.

    I’m sure Lazar’s ideas are true beyond the scope of what she and others have proven through research. Even practicing IK in a noisy sunny apartment today made me feel more lucid when I finished, helping me do better work and more quickly. I’m looking forward to being able to go outside for IK practice.

    Like any computer, brains work best when given ample rest either through sleep cycles or quicker resets like IK. In my electroacoustic music class, we’re studying psychoacoustics, specifically sound-walk therapy that has been shown to improve hearing due to negative reinforcement of harsh sounds over a period of time. This reminded me of Lazar’s work, demonstrating another kind of neuroplasticity which we are only beginning to understand.

  27. Sara Lazar was able to take something as complicated as neuroscience and explain it in a way that I can understand. Her personal experience coupled with scientific research help shed light on the power of meditation. Lazar admits her skepticism on the mental and emotional effects of yoga. Her initial interest was physically driven. She just wanted to stretch. But then she began to experience more than physical change; she was becoming more compassionate and open hearted. Before her own research started, she had already found published research that showed mediation is “associated with decreased stress, decreased depression, anxiety, pain and insomnia, and an increased quality of life.” With the use of an MRI, she was able to photograph the brain’s activity and brain structures. Her experiments showed her that change can occur with as little as eight weeks. She said “Mindfulness is just like exercise. …But, just like exercise, it can’t cure everything. So the idea is, it’s useful as an adjunct therapy.”

    That’s how I like to view my current status with yoga. It’s ‘adjunct therapy’. I too see the positive effects of its practice in my life. I think it is something I plan on continuing beyond this course study. Incidentally, when searching for the spelling of skepticism, I came across this interesting article – https://www.britannica.com/topic/skepticism/Criticism-and-evaluation There is one sentence that held my attention. “The original Greek meaning of skeptikos was “an inquirer,” someone who was unsatisfied and still looking for truth.” I should like to think of myself as someone “still looking for truth”.

    CITE

    · Contributor:Richard H. Popkin

    · Article Title:Skepticism

    · Website Name:Encyclopædia Britannica

    · Publisher:Encyclopædia Britannica, inc.

    · Date Published:June 12, 2017

    · URL:https://www.britannica.com/topic/skepticism/Criticism-and-evaluation

    · Access Date:March 04, 2019

  28. This article and video highlights studies in mindfulness and meditation by Sara Lazar, a neuroscientist at Massachusettes General Hospital and Harvard medical school. Several years ago, after facing some running-related injuries, Lazar took on yoga as a means of physical therapy–using asanas to stretch out tight or hurting muscles. She admits she was really only in it for the stretching, but as she continued to practice, she started to notice a positive shift in her overall wellbeing. Eager to investigate, she began to set up studies to look at brain structure and activity in non-meditators and meditators. Her first study involved long term meditators versus a control group, and found that long term meditators had an increased amount of gray matter in the insula and sensory regions of the brain as well as the frontal cortex, which deals with memory and executive decision making. After this study, she wondered about the length of time one would need to meditate to notice a structural change in the brain makeup. In a second study, she took a large group of individuals that had never meditated and split them into two subgroups. One group served as the control, while the other group underwent an 8 week mindfulness based stress reduction program. Lazar found that the new meditators had thickening in 4 regions of the brain: the posterior cingulate (dealing with mind wandering/self relevance), left hippocampus (learning/cognition/memory/emotional regulation), the temporal parietal junction (perspective taking/empathy/compassion), pons or the brain stem area (where regulatory neurotransmitters are produced). There was a thinning of the amygdala, or the “fight or flight” part of the brain that is connected to stress and anxiety. Based on these studies, and her own practice, Lazar is an advocate for mindfulness as a way to be calmer, more centered, and self aware. When practiced regularly, just like devoting time to exercise, one will start to see benefits in as little as two months.

    I appreciated the Q and A with Lazar, especially because I identify with the runner pains and the focus on just the stretching and not all that yoga encompasses. She mentions she started to feel like maybe the energy and clarity she was gaining was a placebo effect. I thought the same because I have never practiced yoga on a regular basis. When I used to practice irregularly, I would feel the benefits right after a session but not throughout the week. I really feel that that was because I was treating my sore muscles and trying to relax. Now that I am practicing regularly, I am consciously shifting my thoughts to a better state of being. Lazar mentions that yoga/mindfulness is like exercising–the more time you dedicate to it the more natural it feels and the more necessary it becomes within your daily routine. Now that I feel I have a decent grasp on the asanas we have been working in class, I like to practice a few when I wake up in the mornings or at night before bed. These in combination with the Aisha kris has made my head feel much clearer and my body more energized.

    After reading these studies, I wondered where and how everyone would get a chance to learn of and practice mindfulness, even if it was just an 8 week course like the one Lazar used for her variable group. I came upon an article from Psychology Today showing studies of their own looking at mindfulness programs in elementary-middle school, especially in low-income communities. It was found that students were more focused, kinder to one other, and promoted a better environment for teachers to teach in. Not only is this great for students in school, but it’s exciting to think that this foundation of mindfulness can serve a student well past school and into adulthood.
    https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/creative-development/201902/global-trend-mindfulness-in-schools

  29. Georgia Cummings
    Monday Yoga 6:30-9:50

    This article focuses on neuroscientist Sara Lazar’s studies of meditation and yoga’s effect on the brain. Lazar noticed actual physical changes in the brains of people who regularly practiced meditation.

    I identify strongly with Sara Lazar’s perception of yoga’s changes on her, specifically how she noted that she went in expecting to stretch but was visibly calmer and happier. Since practicing yoga and the Isha Kriya regularly, in addition to other lifestyle changes directly related to these new practices, I have noticed that I’ve been calmer. This has allowed me to think more, do more, and start becoming a better version of myself.

    Because this study focused mostly on meditation and its benefits on the brain, it reminded me of when I used to meditate regularly. I used an app called Headspace that a doctor recommended to me and it always left me feeling calmer, whether or not I thought I was doing it correctly at the time. The app offers different programs depending on how long you want to meditate and your past experience with meditation and is very helpful for someone new to meditation like myself.

  30. Something that would be helpful for more people to realize, is when assessing a situation it is so important to put emotions aside. This may sound obvious, but the majority of dangerous situations or actions that people regret, occur because of a clouded mind. You cannot make serious decisions if you are judging through an emotional mental state, because it wouldn’t be a genuine decision. It can be hard to level your perspective, especially when you are overwhelmed by the circumstances.
    Meditation is one of the ways people are able to begin controlling their emotions and clearing their mind on their own, without doctors or the use of medication. Part of the influences on your mood can come from the frustration of trying to deal and focus on every single aspect of the overwhelming circumstances. Meditating may not help right away like taking a pill, but with motivation and persistence meditation is known to actually have more effective long term effects. According to the article, meditation not only is good for your mental health, but it can also essentially change your brain.
    The article states that meditation is similar to any form of exercise, it takes practice to become good and see an effect. If done correctly and consistently, you can improve your mindset for long term, instead of the temporary medicated relief. Meditating can help you learn how to not let your emotions interfere with your life, which is extremely important for people to know.

  31. Before watching this video just by reading the title I did not know that meditation helps your brain. In this Washington Post article, Sara Lazer a neuroscientist explains how yoga changed her when she had to get physical therapy. She was able to handle a hard situation in her life because she was calmer because of yoga. Yoga decreases depression, anxiety, pain and insomnia and increased quality of life. When you’re focused on the practice you’re paying attention to your breathing and the present moment. One thing that stood out to me was that If you do yoga constantly you feel good within yourself. For me, I feel like with the Isha kriya and 3 hours worth of yoga practice I’ve become more at peace with myself and before handling a situation I take a deep breathe and keep a positive mindset.

    Shavell Fernandez
    Wed 8:30

  32. Meditation induces changes in the brain after just 8 weeks of 40 minute meditation that occurred once a week. All the changes were positive- people reported decrease in anxiety and increase in problem solving abilities. Lazar says that meditation was like an exercise, and it’s an exercise for your brain. It was an exercise that she initially did not even want to do- her physical therapist recommended yoga for her, and initially, she just wanted to stretch- instead, she began an endeavor to examine the interaction between the brain and the body coupled with new mental exercises.
    My experiences with meditation and mindfulness have been extensive. Though I am more familiar with mindfulness than meditation, I have worked to incorporate them both more fully during my Isha Kriya practice as well as during class. This has helped me to focus more- something I struggle with, having ADHD. It also helped me sort through thoughts more effectively, and I feel more open hearted.
    The Isha Kriya helps balance your mind and body so you can more easily achieve what you set your mind to. I read on the Isha Kriya foundation website that manifestation is actually an important part of yoga. Good for increasing focus and clarity of thought, yoga most definitely helps you achieve your dreams. I know that after meditation, I do not feel indecisive- my thoughts are much clearer and I know what I want.

  33. Ok woah. Knowing Harvard there’s no doubt they would come up with stuff like this and reading this made me more happy to meditate. It’s mind blowing how the mind can shut down and let the body do it’s magic to be more present in real time, and it makes it feel like no time is going by. Knowing you can be there in the moment is super important, but also sorta mind-boggling. I always find myself thinking about the ‘what ifs’ for the future, and even thinking about the things that I have done in my youth make me anxious; how much of an outcome/karma will that bring for my life in the next few decades? Meditation without a doubt really helps, especially with taking care of my body and skin.
    I wish they had more time to really focus on the research, instead of 8 weeks, why not 12? But it’s very impressive to see what was finished within the mindset of these people, I usually meditate for 30 minutes, but I feel like If I went for an hour, would things be more different?
    I’ve now been doing my IK for 4 times a week (including once in class), but with midterms coming up, I can’t help but worry about the outcomes, it only makes me calm down a little bit, but I try my best to stay on the positive side of things and let them roll through. I prefer to do my IK when no roommates are present because I just need peace and quiet for myself sometimes.
    Mackenzie Depietro, Spring 2019, Wednesday Class

  34. Kache’ Mumford
    Wednesday class
    3/5/2019
    “Reflection Paper”

    This article, written by Brigid Schulte, followed Sara Lazar a neuroscientist at massachusetts general hospital. This article interviews lazar her neurological findings on yoga. This whole idea came to Lazar when she started doing yoga as a form of physical therapy. While she was doing this someone told her that yoga increased compassion and opens your heart.

    I was surprised when I read that yoga creates more gray matter in the frontal cortex, which is associated with working memory and executive decisions. The regions that the brain that are influenced by yoga is the amygdala (memory) , left hippocampus and the brain stem. The TPJ (Temporo parietal junction) is also affected by yoga and mediation. This was shocking to me because this part of the brain influences empathy and compassion. Therefore the statement that the person made above is true.

    In the first reflection that we ever did we watched a video that showed us the science behind yoga. The video was directed to explain why yoga is a legit practice. The things that we learned in this article however was specifically tied to the brain. Because of that I learned things that I didn’t know yet.

  35. This article on how meditation can affect the brain is really interesting because Sarah Lazar talks about the benefits it has on people and their health. The result of her research was interesting because she found differences in the brain volume after several weeks in different part of the region brain. It took not less than 40 minute at home practice to see the changes in the brain.
    I definitely agree with Sara that mindfulness is an exercise that helps us with out stress, think more clearly and promote longevity. Meditation can’t obviously cure everything, but it can lower the pain. It’s something that you have to do everyday so that it becomes more effective.
    In the video Sara talks about how she used MRI to capture like a camera shot a picture of the brain while meditating. It’s interesting because in my physiological psych class we talked about many ways we can measure brain activity and one of those ways was through an MRI. I actually had an MRI scan but it was for my thoracic (middle) spine.

  36. This was an incredibly compelling articles and interview, that scientifically backs up the practice of yoga. Like Sarah, I found myself simply addressing yoga as a practice that only informed my body by doing stretches and becoming more flexible. I had little knowledge on the level of mindfulness needed to have a profound and in depth experience with yoga. This has been a revelation in my journey and I find myself constantly thinking about the relationship between my own body and mind, which one would think goes hand in hand, but for many that relationship has not been developed. Lazar’s article and research illuminates that relationship, and how meditation and mindfulness attribute to the growth and resilience of different areas and functions of our brains.
    For Lazar, practicing mediation on a daily basis reduced stress and gives way to new abilities to our brain. In out current social climate I feel as though this is the least we can do to try to maintain some type of mental stability and inner peace. Although, we are currently living under a capitalist society that requires to live in rapid motions from on activity to another to try to maintain basic human conditions; at this point I feel as though taking time out of our daily lives to practice mediation can help relieve the tension, pressure, anxiety and stress that we are living. As it is shown,in Lazars results that when doing so we can see actual differences, and even though it helps or not (because it may not help) it is something worth trying.

  37. Sara Lazar a neuroscientist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, was one of the first scientists to take the anecdotal claims about the benefits of meditation and mindfulness. A neuroscientist is the study of the brain. She used an MRI to test the brain activity of those in her experiment. She found that long-term meditators have an increased amount of gray matter in the insula and sensory regions, the auditory and sensory cortex. Hence, an increase in attention to your senses. They also had more gray matter in the frontal cortex, which is associated with working memory and executive decision making. In another study she took people who’d never meditated before, and put one group through an eight-week mindfulness- based stress reduction program. There were major differences in brain volume.

    It’s interesting how with the advancement of science we can use this in testing the amazing power yoga has. Sara Lazar didn’t consider yoga until she practiced it as a physical therapy for running injuries for the Boston marathon. Even without the science, she noticed decreased stress, decreased depression, anxiety, pain and insomnia, and an increased quality of life in not only herself but others.

    When I practice yoga, my senses have increased, and my anxiety has decreased. There is definitely an increase in the quality of my life as I begin to practice the five Yamas and the Isa Kriya where I become aware of myself. Sara Lazar’s experiment has been proven right.

  38. Meditation is absolutely an exercise, and like Lazar states, exercise can be challenging as well as rewarding. I know that for myself, I have always met challenges when meditating. Something I have always struggled with is being able to quiet my thoughts and that in and of itself is exercise. I think Lazar’s findings on yoga and meditation are wonderful and I feel it is so important that they now have scientific credibility for any skeptics. When Lazar first tried yoga she believed that the benefits that she was feeling were due to the placebo effect, which I feel is what a lot of people who have never practiced yoga or meditation might give as an explanation on their first try. This article breaks down the specific parts of the brain that are getting the most benefits, such as the amygdala for example. I have never studied the parts of the brain in great detail before, so I did not know that the amygdala is the part that is largely responsible for anxiety, fear, and stress. After 8 weeks into Lazar’s study, she found a difference in brain volume significantly in the amygdala. This just goes to show the power of mindfulness and the significant impact that it can have on your life. Making time for mindfulness is an excellent way to exercise your mind and to help change yourself for the better.

  39. I really was fascinated by Sara Lazar’s text. As a neuroscientist, I thought it was interesting how she found meditating doesn’t only reduce stress but can “literally change your brain”. If yoga was introduced to youth at a younger age, I feel that it could have reduced any kind of stress teens get at an early age and early in their college years. This time in many young people’s lives is when stress is rising. It’s a time when everyone is figuring out what they want to do for the rest of their lives, how do they define themselves and what is their purpose in life. Yoga is a healing process for a lot of people with anxious thoughts and depressive actions. It is not just an act, it can lead a life of incredible effects, the idea of healing so many different aspects of life. Lazar talked about two studies she performed; long-term mediators have an increased amount of gray ,atter in the insula and sensory regions, the auditory and sensory cortex. “50 years old mediators had the same amount of gray matter as 25 year olds”, I found this quote interesting, how is this possible. With a lot of time during yoga meditation, practicing Isha Kriya at least 4-6 times a week can benefit one’s mental health and physical health not only now, but also in the long run.

    Kathy Mathews
    Wednesday 8:30 am Yoga Class

  40. This was a really great reading. I enjoy it mostly because I find it to be so true with my own personal experiences. Sara Lazar speaks about her discoveries on how meditation can change a person’s brain chemistry, help your thought patterns, and intensify your moods in a positive manner.
    Finding this out was not a very fast process, and in fact is not the easiest thing for me. Being fully aware of my body and mind came after a few IK practices, but once I found it I truly felt my day my day get easier and easier. The yoga I perform weekly for this class shows me a lot of similarities in my body as meditation has inn my last semester. I still incorporate meditation in my life by using attention and awareness. Bringing in Isha Kriya and Meditation as my daily practices has by far made me live life and be more open minded with the people around me.
    My life has been so hectic lately that I find it hard to sit and find time to just simply relax. Isha Kriya isn’t necessarily a meditation, but similarly eases my mind, helps me progress with my daily life and being more mindful in the things I do. For example I have been eating more healthier, been more on top of all of my assignments and projects, and has let me walk around with less stress.
    Lazar discusses a lot about stress and how people of an older age have the same grey matter in their brains than younger people. This information reminds me of a lecture I went to where Dan Goleman was speaking about his book on meditation and the brain. He stated that people who have meditated for decades can be in a loud situations and just g into a full meditation with complete ease and no problem. I find this to be so interesting and so powerful. It is a very warming feeling that there is so much research and proof on yoga, and meditation’s health benefits. I start to wonder why everyone doesn’t practice it!

    I found this interesting reference of someone else’s story on their experience through meditation.
    https://www.businessinsider.com/how-to-practice-mindfulness-meditation-2015-4

    And also, here is a link of Dan Goleman’s lecture. It is a great watch and highly recommend watching!!

  41. This article is about Sara Lazar, who is a neuroscientist at the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, and how she was one of the first scientists to take on the claims about how meditation and mindfulness can be very beneficial. She started looking into this claim while she was training for a marathon and had some injuries. She started doing yoga as a form of physical therapy and realized how powerful it was so she started to do her research. She took people that have never meditated before and put one group through an eight-week mindfulness stress reduction program. She found differences in brain volume of the two groups. The group that had gone through the mediation program had brain thickening in four regions.

    The experiment doesn’t surprise me at all as I have been doing yoga for quite some time now. I started doing yoga a couple years ago but unfortunately, took a break when I came back to school because I did not have the time. I started taking yoga classes because I am such an anxious person and I refuse to take any sort of medication to control it that I started to take yoga classes instead. I found myself leaving the class, less anxious and ready for the day. I also just loved to stretch as I was a cheerleader for about 8 years and did ballet for about 4 years so stretching was a huge part of my life. After graduating from high school, I got caught up with working so much that I never had time to do anything until I realized that I needed to get back into something. I started to make time for yoga and I felt like it just made a better person – more caring and compassionate. This class reminded me of how much I enjoy doing yoga so I am also taking one class every Wednesday.

    This article reminded me of this class I took last semester – the science of happiness. One of the chapters was about mindfulness and we had to do daily activities including meditation. We always ended the class with a meditation session which I thought was amazing.

  42. Sara Lazar’s reaction to the words of a yoga teacher, stating how yoga can help increase compassion and open your heart etc., are words that Ive heard many times before. Im not sure why, but so many people are hesitant to believe the benefits of yoga and meditation. To me, it seems just about obvious; I really don’t understand why people are so hesitant. When she talks about noticing its benefits pretty much instantly, I think it basically speaks fo itself. If everyone who doubted the benefits of these introspective practices took a second to try it for themselves, the world would be a different place and nobody would be skeptical about it again.
    When reading her research I was floored. It is so insanely interesting to see the results of an in-depth scientific study done on yoga and mediation by an accomplished neuroscientist. From reading the works of Jon Kabat-Zinn (who I am a huge fan of) and other articles which outlets like the New York Times have reported on, I had seen some benefits of mediation. What is often listed is a higher occurrence of better mood, improved circulatory system, and overall better oxygen intake as well as overall better quality of life. Seeing results such as the increase in size of the left hippocampus, bigger temporo parietal junction and Pons was, for lack of a better word, awesome.
    What would be of society if this study was widely published? Would people participate more in meditation and yoga in pursuit of a healthier brain? Im not sure the answer to this is so straight forward. While the correlation between a healthier brain and regular practice is clear (and now scientifically proven), I cant say that a difference would be seen in attendance. People are stubborn, and I would assume that more people would still be focused on trying to loose weight than better their lasting brain function. I chose to break this stubborn mold and focus on the longevity and health of my brain, hopefully this does me well in the end.

    -Rebecca Hartigan

  43. This article discusses the benefits of meditation as it relates to the shape of the brain. A neuroscientist at Harvard conducted studies where they looked at meditators brains versus non-meditators brains. The difference was clear: in the group of meditators, they found increased brain growth in many different areas. One of these areas concerned mind wandering and self-relevance. Other affected areas include those of cognition, learning, memory, emotional regulation, empathy, perception, and compassion. It was also found that those subjects who took part in a mindfulness-based stress reduction program lost mass in their amygdala, which is essential to fear, stress, and anxiety.
    This was a really interesting study, and reading that there is scientific research that proves the brain is physically shaped by our mindfulness is great. It is clear that people who practice mindfulness in their everyday lives lead less stressful, happier lives. Meditating has incredible mental and emotional benefits. It can almost be likened to any other type of exercise. When you want to gain muscle mass in your arms, you lift weights and train your muscles that way. When you want to gain mass in your brain, you have to exercise it as well. Although the results are different, the process is the same. If you go to the gym once or twice a month, you’re not likely to see much improvement. The same goes for your brain. If you only practice mindfulness a few times a week, or month, you won’t experience the same benefits that someone who practices mindfulness or meditates every single day will experience.

  44. This article talked about a study that doctor Lazar was conducting to see if there was a connection between meditation and how the brain functions. She started to practice yoga to help herself stretch to help heal an injury that she had. She never thought about all the benefits that yoga had to offer. After practicing for a while, she believed there might be some correlation between meditation and how the brain functions. To conduct the studies, she uses and MRI machine to see the activity in a subject’s brain. The first study she had a group of people who have meditated for quite a while and a control group. She found that the people who meditated had more gray matter because of the practice. When you meditate you pay attention to what you are doing in the moment like your breath, so cognition shuts down in your brain. She then conducted a second study to see how long it would take for the average person to really feel the effects of yoga. The findings found that it takes, for most, 8 weeks to feel the effects of it but for some it takes even less time.
    The science behind yoga that has been discovered over the past decades is just proving what people who have practiced yoga for a long time has been saying all along. It is good for us to practice. It helps us relax our minds and just be in the moment. After reading the article it explains why someone who practices yoga would feel calmer. It’s because parts of the brain actually shut down because there is no need for them to be working.
    In an article by Real Simple they explain all of the benefits of yoga that can be offered just like the Harvard Neuroscientist article. It explains that it can make someone less stressed, it boosts brain power and clarity, and it can increase happiness. There’re of course a million other resources that could be listed to back up this article, but I think it’s easier to understand it through simpler terms.

    Outside source:
    realsimple.com/health/fitness-exercise/stretching-yoga/free-yoga-classes-online

    -Charlotte Johansen

  45. Majlinda Novaj
    Honors Yoga Journal #3
    09/28/19

    Lazar is a neuroscientist that took brain scans of people who meditate to see if the claims of the benefits are valid. Meditation is known for being able to change one’s brain. It is a great form of therapy for your body and mind. Yoga in general is known for increasing your compassion. It is also able to make people more open hearted which will results in a positive flow of feelings. These are all important and were tested in Lazar’s study of how Meditation affects the brain.
    Meditation is one of the many ways to benefit your health. It is useful in decreasing stress, depression, anxiety, pain, and sleep disturbances. By using meditation we are able to get maximum benefits for our bodies as well as reflecting and understand ourselves. In the text, Lazar speaks of the studies that were performed. For example, gray matter in the brain was higher in people that meditated. Whether a person was 50 vs. 25 they still maintained that gray matter in their Frontal Cortex which is our working memory and decision making center. I found this so interesting because before I did Meditation I didn’t find it to be something that is a way of benefiting health.
    The claims about Meditation are true. https://mindworks.org/blog/meditation-research-science-meditation/ states, “ For instance, the anterior cingulate cortex – the area associated with controlling impulses and maintaining attention – was found to have more tissue mass. The brains of consistent meditators were also found to have thicker tissue in those regions responsible for body awareness, enhanced focus, stress management and attention control” Meditation as Lazar points out has many strengths for the brain. The brain is an organ that stores all of our knowledge and sometimes it can be pressure if not treated correctly (Mindfulness). By using Meditation, you allow your brain to lose that pressure and this allows the brain to maintain plasticity. “According to the research cited above, some brain regions are activated while others are deactivated during meditation. For instance, with regular practice, the amygdala (the brain region linked with processing sadness, anxiety and myriad negative emotions) shrinks in size” This right here shows that Meditation is a very important practice because it is helping many people with their brain functions. Lazar uses her skills, aspects of behavior, and Neuroscience to help show the many strengths Yoga gives us.

  46. I loved reading this article, as it had a more scientific and medical perspective on the benefits of meditation and mindfulness. Too often, people seem to be hesitant about the possible benefits and aren’t willing to try it, as if they would find it degrading if they did. However, meditation can be really helpful. I think the people who aren’t willing to give it a chance often think this way because they believe there isn’t any hard, physical, scientific evidence to prove it to them. Well… I think this article certainly helps in that sense. There’s only so many people you can convince by telling them how you feel after meditating, sometimes people need more tangible proof.

    The fact that parts of the brain physically changed after repeated and consistent practice was really fascinating. You really are training your brain, and more than just training it how to think. You are training it to physically change to better adapt to your lifestyle, which can actually affect your life. The various parts of the brain that changed and increased/decreased made sense, considering what each of them did. This made me think of meditation in a different, more positive way than I already did, and I hope it does the same for others.

  47. Jordan Reynolds

    A neuroscientist at Harvard medical school took brain scans of those meditating and found that meditation changes your brain. The scientist found that meditation increases your grey matter, essentially enhancing your senses. People’s brain volume increased after five weeks of mediation. Their memory capacity and empathy also increased with mediation. These changes are not immediate though and it takes at least eight weeks to see results.

    I try to meditate at least three times a week, but I would like it to be everyday. Since I began my practice I have noticed considerable improvements. I feel calmer and I have more control over my thoughts. I have a better understanding of my body and when something is wrong I know sooner. Mediation has truly allowed me to connect my mind to my body. Before mediation I felt like I was on autopilot.

    There are so many different benefits to mediation that were not covered in the article about the Harvard neuroscientist. On healthline there was a list of all of the things that come from a meditation practice. One of the benefits that stuck out to me was the benefit of helping one fight addiction, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/12-benefits-of-meditation#section5 . This is something that should be implemented in inner cities to help combat drugs. Most people feel that meditation is a gimmick. If mainstream science were more vocal about the benefits of mediation then perhaps more people would be open to trying it.

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