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'It’s called a yoga practice because it is a life-long practice' | How yoga, meditation can impact mental health

To kick off Mental Health Awareness Month, we're diving deeper into yoga and meditation with Luis Rodriguez Bayon, a yoga instructor at Khali Yoga Center.
Credit: Jacob Lund - stock.adobe.com

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — May is Mental Health Awareness Month and to kick off the month, WCNC Charlotte Meteorologist Iisha Scott spoke with Luis Rodriguez Bayon, a yoga instructor and bodyworker at Khali Yoga Center, about the impact yoga and meditation can have on our mental health.  

“Meditation, in the simplest of ways, is just observing," Bayon said. "Observing yourself, observing your internal landscape, your thoughts, your body, your physical body. In very simple words, it’s you observing you from like a witness standpoint."  

And while meditation is helpful, many people find it difficult.

“We’re living in a world where there’s so much focus that is required of us every minute of every day," Bayon said. "There are so many things fighting for that attention of ours whether it’s our work or children or driving or to-do lists. There’s always something pulling our attention so it’s become a lost practice."  

Bayon said there is a science behind it, despite it becoming a lost practice for some.  

“It’s all neuroscience," Bayon said. "Everything that we do builds a habit, builds a pattern, builds a groove in our brain and so the more we do that thing, the more accustomed we become to it, the more we adapt to it, the more habitual it becomes."  

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So, you may be wondering how does meditation improves one's mental health? Bayon says it helps us place things in a more objective way.  

“Yes, I might be going through a moment of depression in my life, but I’m not just that depression," Bayon said. "That depression is there, I can look at it, I can acknowledge it, but I don’t have to let it consume me in every way. I can see myself apart from the depression."

And if you’re having a difficult time meditating, Bayon said accountability can help.  

“There are a bunch of apps that are designed to ease and help meditation and they’re very good,” Bayon said.  

Also, friends and family can be helpful if they can set aside five minutes a day to practice with you. 

When it comes to yoga, Bayon describes it as a mind-body union that also has roots in neuroscience when it comes to the mind-body aspects of it. 

RELATED: Charlotte yoga studio pivots business amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Physical movement has been proven to aid in our overall health as well.

Iisha Scott practices yoga herself and has heard people say they aren't flexible enough to try yoga. Bayon said that shouldn't prevent you from giving it a try.

“There’s this misconception that it’s about being flexible, and it’s really not and I think that puts off many, many people," Bayon said. "My advice is for people to just come. You will gain some mobility, you’ll be a little more flexible, but honestly, I’m not that much more flexible than I was six years ago."

Yoga isn’t just about physical movements, although it is a part of the practice. 

There are other things, Bayon said, that make yoga difficult for people.  

“Socioeconomic things because we have priced out many communities in Charlotte -- many studios have," Bayon said. "Where I work, Khali Yoga, we’re trying to work against that. So, that’s one thing."

The other thing Bayon mentions is people are often looking for quick results when they shouldn't be. 

“It takes time to build a practice," Bayon said. "It’s called a yoga practice because it is a life-long practice. There’s no end, no winning. It takes time and repetition to get better at something. And I think we as a society aren’t good at that right now." 

Khali Yoga Center in NoDa is working to make yoga more affordable and inclusive. They offer drop-in classes for $10 and free meditations. 

Contact Iisha Scott at iscott@wcnc.com and follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.