SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - Many studies have cited the benefits of meditation and yoga, such as lowering stress, relieving anxiety, and reducing blood pressure.

Dr. Ari Kriegsman, medical director of addiction consultation services at Mercy Medical Center, spoke with Western Mass News about these practives and how they can improve your health.

How does yoga and meditation reduce your stress levels?

Kriegsman: “Yeah, I think one of the best ways to think about it is, our breath, and through our breath, most of yoga and meditation traditions have this focus on our breathing and if you think about often when we experience stress or fear, we kind of take this shallow gasping breath and as we focus on our breath and manipulate our breath in yoga and meditation, we can end up taking these deeper and longer breathes and we see what happens is there is a shift from this fight-or-flight to a more parasympathetic and relaxation sort of thing, and as we do that we can sort of change our psychology and our thoughts corresponding with that.”

What are some of the ways you can incorporate these practices, like yoga and meditation, into your day-to-day life?

Kriegsman: “It’s easier and easier with technology with apps and YouTube to find five or 10 minute guided meditations or guided yoga practices and I think, as you try it and if you enjoy it, the things that are good for us tend to have a way to build on themselves, we try it, we feel well, we are more likely to do it. In the beginning, as you start to experience something new or try to build a new positive habit, it can be helpful to say ‘I’m gonna do this for 21 days.’ There’s a little bit of science that says if you can get 21 days in, you can make a good habit of something. That would be two tips and the third, I would say is to just go easy on yourself in the sense of don’t have any crazy expectations. Just by doing these things that are helpful, we don’t have to be too focused on doing it right or that our brain relaxes too much, so in the beginning, it’s just going easy on yourself too.”

Does science confirm the benefits of meditation and yoga helping with your stress and anxiety levels?

Kriegsman: “Absolutely. At this point, we have probably 30 or 40 years of science, both the hard sciences of looking at EEG’s and brainwaves to yoga and meditation practices. We also have real clinical studies, where people were tought yoga for the first time and you track their anxiety and depression over time. There’s definitely a real positive and strong benefit to these practices.”

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