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Types of mind-body practices

There are many types of mind-body practices. Here are a few examples you can begin trying at home.

man laying with eyes closed on yoga mat
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Breathwork
breathing ball with child

Breathwork uses focused attention on and/or control of the breath to promote relaxation. Typically breathwork is practiced in repetition and often used in conjunction with another mind-body practice, such as yoga or meditation. It offers a simple technique to switch the nervous system from an alert and active state to a relaxed and calm state.

Breathwork can be widely applied to decrease pain and anxiety, promote sleep, provide support during procedures, and ease anxiety with taking medications.

Pictured: Hoberman Sphere “breathing ball” is used in a variety of settings to guide breathwork.

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Clinical Hypnosis

Clinical hypnosis guides you through an experience of mental self-exploration. It is often referred to as self-hypnosis because the individual experiencing the hypnosis determines how deep into the hypnotic state they want to go. Clinical hypnosis often includes permissive language, imagination, and guided relaxation techniques within the same encounter. 

Clinical hypnosis promotes a deep state of relaxation and focused attention to achieve specific goals and outcomes. These include behavioral development, smoking cessation, weight management, sleep, anxiety, fear, and even procedural anesthesia.

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Guided Imagery

Imagery is a form of focused relaxation that elicits the five senses to create a calming mind-body experience.

Guided imagery allows individuals to reflect on aspects of previous experiences to induce relaxation and positive response. Often a guided imagery session will use calming music or sounds of nature to enhance the experience. 

Guided imagery invites the mind and body to visualize a desired outcome and can help with fear, anxiety, and depressed mood. It can also enhance performance.

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Meditation

Meditation is the practice of focusing attention on an object, such as the breath, sounds, a mantra or whatever sensations and thoughts are arising in the moment.  It can lead to a heightened state of concentration and awareness and calm.

There are many variations of meditation.  The most common forms are sedentary and silent but there is growing interest in moving meditation, such as walking meditation, yoga, and Tai Chi. Meditation sometimes incorporates breathwork or repetition of a mantra.

There is a substantial body of research to support the use of meditation for a variety of ailments including insomnia, anxiety, chronic pain, hypertension and metabolic syndrome. It has also been shown to improve mental and physical performance, reduce stress, and enhance overall wellbeing.

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Mindfulness
man sitting meditating outside

Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and without judgement.   It can be cultivated through sitting meditation, hatha yoga, body scans, and reflective practices, as well as through moments of awareness in daily life.

Mindfulness is a way of being and interacting with the world.  Mindfulness transforms how humans relate to events and experiences. Therefore, mindfulness can decrease stress, anxiety, depression, pain, and increase overall awareness and wellbeing.

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Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR)

PMR involves tensing and relaxing specific muscle groups to down-regulate the nervous system and induce the relaxation response.

Stress and anxiety are often held in the body, which leads to muscle tension and discomfort. Through PMR an individual can learn to control their response to stressors.

PMR is particularly beneficial in acutely stressful situations, such as performance anxiety or an argument. Many find PMR useful for insomnia, chronic stress management, and anxiety.

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Qigong & Tai Chi
people doing qigong outside

Qigong and Tai Chi are meditative movement practices that strengthen the mind-body connection and improve mobility, flexibility, and balance.

Tai Chi and Qigong incorporate meditation and breathwork with slow, low-impact, continuous movement.

Practicing these exercises has been shown to improve cardiovascular circulation, decrease arthritis and joint pain, improve high blood pressure, and lower cholesterol levels. Tai Chi, specifically, improves balance and prevents falls in the elderly population.

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Yoga

Yoga can include physical postures, breathwork, and meditations that promote healing.

There are various types of yoga practices but the most popular include: Ashtanga vinyasa, yin, and Iyengar, as well as various types of hot yoga. What differentiates the types of yoga are the focus on breath (prana), postures (asana), hand gestures (mudras), and pace of class.

There is a strong body of evidence that supports the use of yoga for physical and psychological conditions. Specifically, yoga may alleviate the impact of anxiety, depression, asthma, musculoskeletal pain, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

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