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How yoga and meditation help reduce stress

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Dr. Helen Lavretsky is a professor, researcher, and leader at the UCLA Longevity Center. She specializes in geriatric psychiatry and mind-body interventions for better health. Her research focuses on how Tai Chi and yoga can improve mental health and cognition in older adults. Dr. Lavretsky joined us at the Bold Summit in 2023 to talk about how to deal with anxiety and stress through mindful practices.

Mindful practices like meditation and yoga can help to support emotional wellness, and decrease your risk of developing dementia. In her talk, Dr. Lavretsky identified common symptoms of stress including fear and worry about one’s own health and the health of loved ones, changes in sleep or eating patterns, difficulty sleeping or concentrating, worsening of chronic health problems, worsening of mental health conditions, increased use of substances, and irritability, anger, and violence. Although stress management can be difficult, Dr. Lavretsky has studied the benefits of practicing yoga and meditation to reduce stress and anxiety.

How yoga reduces stress

Dr. Lavretsky says that “mindful physical exercise, such as yoga, is now used to improve psychological well-being, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance, depression, and anxiety.”

How meditation reduces stress

Practicing meditation can increase blood flow to your insula, which is the part of the brain in charge of self-awareness and sensorimotor processing. More blood flow to the insula increases your sensory awareness, and can make you more aware of your self and your mind-body connection. Dr. Lavretsky explains that meditation has “direct neuroplastic effects in the brain across [one’s] lifespan, and [leads to] shifts in conscious awareness so people no longer pay attention to negative events, and view them as an opportunity for growth and learning.” While you meditate, Dr. Lavretsky recommends taking deep breaths and sighing slowly to release stress.

To hear all of Dr. Helen Lavretsky’s talk, visit the Bold Explore page.