Silicon Valley's biggest tech companies are embracing meditation techniques in a big way.

Mindful meditation becoming prominent in Silicon Valley

Mindful meditation techniques have been used for centuries as a means of reducing tension, alleviating anxiety and helping the practitioner find new levels of peace, tranquility and self-understanding. In the modern world, this becomes increasingly important as people are growing more and more invested in technology and disconnected with each other and themselves. That may be the reason why meditation has become so popular in Silicon Valley as of late.

What is Mindful Meditation?
Mindful meditation is an effective tool in finding relief from suffering and pain that works by allowing one to recognize their own inner wisdom. It requires you to accept the here and now – live in the moment and accept the thoughts and emotions that you experience, not judging them as good or bad, and them simply letting go of them. This act of letting go allows you to uncover thoughts and feelings that you may have been previously unaware, letting you to go deeper into the present moment and dig down to find the roots of your inner self.

Silicon Valley Meets Mindful Meditation
As the technology world becomes more aware of meditation benefits – largely through exposure to the practice while creating smartphone apps and other programs for practitioners – they have started to embrace the exercise in tranquility. According to San Jose Mercury News, some of the world's biggest technology companies, which are largely located in California's San Francisco Bay Area known as Silicon Valley, have been offering tech workers meditation opportunities, and it's making the region one of the most renowned for the practice.

"There are more teachers of this in the San Francisco Bay Area than any other place in the world except Toronto, I'm told," Renee Burgard, a Los Altos mindfulness-based psychotherapist and educator, told the source.

Google has taken the lead in incorporating meditation techniques into the daily lives of its employees. As Wired magazine reported, the search engine giant offers the Search Inside Yourself training program (which is also open to non-employees) as well as classes in energy management and special mealtime gatherings called "mindful lunches." The tech behemoth even installed a labyrinth for walking meditation. Other bigwigs embracing meditation techniques include Twitter and Facebook, which hold in-office meditation sessions. The aim of these initiatives is to train the brain, get the synapses working and stimulate creative thinking.

The R.I.S.E. program exposes students to the benefits of yoga poses.

Yoga for Schools Program Raises $31,000

Yoga poses can benefit children in a number of ways, from boosting energy to enhancing concentration in the classroom. While some people are wary of integrating this ancient practice into the classroom, many are embracing the plethora of ways it can improve physical, mental and emotional wellness. One such person is San Francisco Bay Area resident and yoga practitioner Erin Lila Wilson.

As an instructor for nearly a decade, Wilson has taught a variety of people, from the elderly to cancer patients. But according to GOOD magazine, she was reluctant about teaching children, as she believed they wouldn't be able to appreciate the practice. However, she was proven wrong after reluctantly agreeing to teach yoga to at-risk students.

"I was pretty intimidated going in initially," Wilson said. "But once I started actually teaching the teens, I was just blown away at how transformative the practice is in their lives."

Since then, Wilson founded the organization R.I.S.E., which aims to introduce yoga poses and wellness programs into the school setting. It serves students at a dozen schools on the West Coast and she hopes to keep expanding with the help of a recent Indiegogo campaign that proved to be immensely successful – it raised more than $31,000 in about a month. With these funds and Wilson's commitment to yoga and children, more students can strive for greater health and academic achievement.

A study suggested that people who practice meditation techniques and yoga on a long-term basis may have greater brain power.

Study: Yoga and Meditation Boost Brain Power

It’s no secret that meditation and yoga benefits are plentiful and far-reaching. Yoga postures can enhance flexibility, improve balance and posture, increase muscle tone and raise one’s energy levels. Meditation is widely known for soothing the nerves, improving concentration and lowering blood pressure. As a new study suggested, these ancient techniques may also help train the brain.

About the Study
The study, published in the online journal TECHNOLOGY, was conducted by biomedical engineers at the University of Minnesota who sought out to test the effects of yoga poses and meditation on brain-controlled computer usage. For the experiment, 36 participants were divided into two groups: one with 12 people who had at least a year of experience in meditation or yoga and a second group with 24 people who had no experience in these practices. Both groups of were unfamiliar with the technology that the study utilized – computers that could be controlled by the brain.

Each group were subjected to three 2-hour experiments once per month for 30 months. They wore high-tech caps over their heads that detected brain activity and sent these signals to the computer. They were asked to imagine left or right hand movements, which would move a cursor across the computer screen.

The Findings
The results of the study showed that those who engaged in yoga or meditation techniques on a long-term basis were twice as likely to successfully complete the brain-computer interface exercises as those who did not practice. Additionally, the yoga and meditation group learned to utilize the technology three times faster than the second group.

In a statement published by the University of Minnesota, the researchers discussed how this study has revealed important information about the brain and the advanced technology.

“In recent years, there has been a lot of attention on improving the computer side of the brain-computer interface but very little attention to the brain side,” said lead researcher Bin He, who serves as biomedical engineering professor and director of the Institute for Engineering in Medicine at the university. “This comprehensive study shows for the first time that looking closer at the brain side may provide a valuable tool for reducing obstacles for brain-computer interface success in early stages.”

Future Implications for Human Health
This study proves the brain-boosting powers of yoga poses and meditation that scientists and doctors have long suspected. Bin He and his team of researchers are planning on studying a group of participants with no experience in yoga and meditation and then test how their brain functions with the computer as they learn the practices.

The technology at the center of these experiments will someday be used to help people with life-impeding conditions and injuries.

“Our ultimate goal is to help people who are paralyzed or have brain diseases regain mobility and independence,” Bin He said. “We need to look at all possibilities to improve the number of people who could benefit from our research.”

Yoga poses can improve flexibility, breathing and muscle tone.

Yoga Benefits for High-Endurance Athletes

People from all different corners of the sports world utilize yoga poses for their plethora of benefits. From relieving tension to enhancing flexibility, the ancient practice can help athletes improve performance on the field, in the pool, on the track or wherever they get active. It can be especially beneficial to high-endurance athletes in these ways:

Tones Muscles
Though a gentle practice, yoga has the capacity to help you boost muscle tone. It works every part of the body, and after a few sessions of yoga poses you may find that your hamstrings, quadriceps, biceps and other muscles are firmer and more pliable. Additionally, nearly all of the postures work to strengthen the core, not just by working the abdominal muscles but also massaging the intestines.

Increases Flexibility
Flexibility is important for any sport, in terms of both performance and reducing risk of injury. The postures gently stretch the muscles, ligaments and tendons and loosen the joints for heightened form and balance, which in turn lead to greater flexibility. These stretches also serve to improve your posture by exposing your body to a variety of motions – many athletes experience soreness and stiffness from conducting the same motions repetitively.

Improves Breathing
High-endurance sports, such as swimming and running, require you to maintain steady breathing throughout long periods of activity. Yoga poses can help you achieve this by teaching your body to inhale and exhale naturally and comfortably while deepening and lengthening the breaths. This can both increase stamina and steady the heart rate.

"The ABCs of Yoga for Kids: A Book for Coloring" teaches children the alphabet and yoga poses at the same time.

Author Helps Children Learn their ABCs with Yoga Poses

Yoga benefits people of all ages, from tiny tots to the elderly. The mindful meditation, soothing postures and deep breathing promote not only physical health but also mental, emotional and spiritual wellness. But author Teresa Anne Power has come up with a unique new way to use the ancient practice to help the youth – she has written a book that helps teach children the letters of the alphabet while introducing them to yoga.

Power, who resides in Los Angeles, has been practicing yoga for about 25 years and has spent nearly a decade teaching it to kids in local organizations and schools. She created "The ABCs of Yoga for Kids: A Book for Coloring," combining her passion for yoga and her interest in teaching children. It takes the form of a coloring book, and it uses each letter of the alphabet to introduce a yoga pose that starts with the same letter. Children can not only exercise their artistic abilities by coloring in the pictures of kids doing these yoga poses, but they can also practice their alphabet and learn how to conduct these postures.

But The ABCs of Yoga for Kids is more than just a book, it's actually based on an organization by the same name that promotes yoga and healthy living in general among youngsters. Power even travels the country to help spread word of the initiative, and in summer 2014 she took to Newark, New Jersey, to visit the Montessori Community School. The author led a group of young children in a fun session of yoga poses, according to the Newark Advocate. The room was filled with the sounds of cows mooing, frogs croaking and playful singing and laughter. While the kids were busy having fun, Power knew that there were really practicing their alphabet as they engaged in physical activity and received the many benefits of yoga.

"A lot of people don't realize kids are getting the same benefits from yoga as adults," Power told the source. "And there's something about it that's just fun. They don't even know the benefits they are getting. It helps everybody. They don't need to have any special athletic abilities."

Firefighters can use yoga to enhance their performance and safety when saving lives on emergency calls.

Firefighters Embrace Yoga Benefits for Mental and Physical Health

Some people are under the impression that yoga poses are only for those obsessed with religion or health, but the practice can benefit people of all interests, creeds and professions. It may seem like an unlikely pairing, but firefighters are becoming increasingly active in the yoga world. The soothing exercise, with its gentle postures, deep breathing and mindful meditation techniques, can have an immense positive effect on these life-saving men and women, particularly in these two aspects:

Stress relief
Firefighting is a high stress job. Not only do these professionals experience apprehension and anxiety over running into burning buildings and risking their lives for the sake of others, but it's also a very consuming job that requires long hours, overnight shifts and being on-call at all times of the day. Post-traumatic stress disorder can also pose a whole array of issues for those who have seen some truly chilling things. Yoga poses are among the most stress-relieving exercises out there. The postures can improve blood flow, which helps to ease the nerves, while mindful meditation helps one accept and heal from negative thoughts and feelings.

Physical benefits
Firefighting can be tough on the body, so the gentle practice of yoga makes for a nice complement for the roughness of the profession. It also has many physical benefits that can help firefighters improve performance and stay safe when out on an emergency call. Yoga poses improve balance, flexibility and body awareness, which can be helpful in getting out of a sticky situation and even save lives. The breathing exercises serve as a form of breath control training – the deep breathing principles involved in yoga are the same that firefighters utilize to enhance oxygenation.

Researchers have found that meditation techniques can enhance memory function.

Can Meditation Techniques Help Improve Memory?

Meditation benefits the mind in more ways than the scientific world has yet to discover. But the known perks include relief from anxiety, increased concentration and even relief from insomnia. Another major perk that has been unearthed in recent years is meditation's ability to help enhance memory function.

You don't have to have a memory disorder such as dementia or cognitive impairment to experience how meditation can improve your memory function. Even mentally sound people only use a small portion of their gray matter and memories, leaving much more to be explored and utilized. It may even be especially useful for upcoming generations, which many believe will continue to have diminished memories due to the role of technology. But researchers have proven that mindful meditation techniques may have great benefits for memory.

About the Study
University of California at Santa Barbara researchers conducted a study in which 45 undergraduate students took either a nutrition or a mindfulness class. Each met for 45 minutes, four times each week for a duration of two weeks, meeting with experienced professionals in the respective fields. Both before and after the classes, the participants took the Graduate Record Examinations – standardized tests for graduate school applications – in addition to memory tests.

The Conclusion
The researchers discovered that the mindfulness-trained group had improved scores on the GRE after conducting two weeks of meditation techniques, while the nutrition group did not. For example, the meditation group had a score of 460 at the beginning of the study, and that score raised to 520 during the GRE second exam. This led researchers to conclude that taking time to breath deeply, process one's thoughts and find calm can be even better for cognitive and memory function than cramming to memorize information. 

Mindful meditation techniques can boost your creativity and help you reach your artistic goals.

Meditation Techniques Support the Creative Thinking

It's well known that meditation benefits the mind and body in a variety of ways, from reducing anxiety to enhancing concentration. A lesser known perk of practicing mindfulness is that the technique can also help promote creative thinking, whether you're artistic at heart or a left-brained individual.

How Mindful Meditation Supports Creativity
Meditation benefits the mind in ways that can translate to your artistic abilities. Firstly, the mindfulness and breathing exercises enhance the creative mind by helping you obtain mental clarity. This can cleanse you of negative thoughts that have hampered your ability to create in the past, and it help you find greater insight into yourself and the world around you. Additionally, the practice can enhance your ability to focus and improves patience, two skills that any professional artist knows are essential for finishing a creative project.

Scientific Proof Behind the Claim
While many people have reported enhanced creativity, there is also scientific proof. Researchers from Leiden University in the Netherlands conducted a study into how meditation techniques affect two main elements of creativity: divergent (the development of new thoughts) and convergent (the development of solutions) thinking.

The study asked participants to complete creativity tasks that measure imaginativeness before and after conducting one of two different types of meditation – either open monitoring such as mindfulness that involves opening up to all thoughts and sensations or focused attention that requires concentrating on a specific thought or object and blocking out everything else. The findings revealed that those who engaged in open monitoring meditation performed better on creative tasks.

Children with juvenile arthritis can turn to the healing affects of yoga poses for relief from joint inflammation and pain.

Yoga Benefits for Kids During Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month

As we enter the latter half of Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month, it's a great time to explore this often neglected condition and the therapeutic effects of yoga poses. Many people think of older adults and the elderly when it comes to arthritis, but the disorder is actually made up of a variety of arthritic conditions that destroy the joints, cartilage, bones and muscles. It can greatly hamper movement among people of any age, and when it affect children 16 and under, it's referred to as juvenile arthritis.

The exact cause of joint inflammation that is the overarching symptom of this condition is still unknown, and there are no cures for juvenile arthritis. However, there are ways to control pain, reduce inflammation and enhance quality of life. Medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help, but there are natural treatments.

Supports Range of Motion in Joints
Yoga poses are gentle on the body, which is ideal for people with limited movement due to joint inflammation. It also works to increase joint function by promoting the flow of synovial fluid, which is found in the joints and allows for smooth movement of the bones. The ancient practice can also strengthen the cartilage in the joints that support muscles and, by helping people reduce their body weight, relieve the joints of pressure that can enhance inflammation and pain.

Reduces Stress and Anxiety
Juvenile arthritis can greatly affect the mood of young ones. The pain and disability can lead to anxiety and frustration. That's where yoga can help. The soothing movements, mindful meditation techniques and breathing exercises have been used for thousands of years to clear the mind and enhance a sense of tranquility. Children who engage in a regular yoga routine may find with time that they are better able to control their emotions and, in effect, better cope with their juvenile arthritis.

Eases Body Aches and Pains
People of all ages can turn to yoga for relief from pain. It do so by easing the anxiety and stress that often reinforce pain as well as promoting self-healing. As Maureen McBeth, a physical therapist at Baltimore's Mercy Medical Center, told Everyday Health, yoga poses can directly affect inflammation.

"There has been research to measure cytokines, which are markers in the body that indicate inflammation," McBeth said. "Cytokines have actually been found to decrease after people do exercises like yoga."

Research has shown that yoga benefits children living with autism spectrum disorder.

Can Yoga Help Children with Special Needs?

You don't have to be the parent of a special needs child to understand that these youngsters need a unique learning environment geared toward their disabilities. Those who live with autism, attention-deficit disorder, down syndrome and other social and learning disabilities often have great trouble dealing with change, maintaining focus, sitting still and interacting with others. There's a multitude of ways to help these young ones learn to live with their conditions, from occupational therapy to learning disability educational programs, and yoga poses may also prove beneficial for special needs children.

The effect of yoga poses on those with special needs has been a topic of growing interest over the years. According to an April 2010 study published in the Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine, researchers looked into the effectiveness of yoga as a form of therapy for kids suffering from autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Those with ASD tend to show symptoms such as notably abnormal development in communication and social interaction. The study involved a low number of participants (six ASD patients), but the results were significantly consistent: After two years of yoga practice, participants showed great improvement in at-home behavior, familial relationships and ability to focus.

The researchers postulated that the guided imitation that students engage as they learn to replicate the instructors' postures stimulates neuron activation that works to improve the children's sense of self. It's no surprise, considering that people of all ages and capabilities have used the deep breathing exercises, gentle stretches and mindful meditation to enhance the mind-body connection and reach a place of calm and tranquility.

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