You don’t have to be a yogi or a meditation guru to reap the benefits of mind-body exercises. Just like anything else, finding what method works best for you takes practice. Consistency is the key to improving your abilities; however, be kind to yourself when you miss a day or two. Every day is a new day to start again. The short-term effects of these practices are felt immediately. The cumulative effects, if they become habits, will be seen by you (and others) for a lifetime.
Whether it’s ten minutes a day or one hour a day, medical research has shown that calming your mind is essential to excellent health. Even more good news, a positive attitude and a mental “reset” through meditation, yoga, prayer, or visualization may also aid in treating certain maladies. Meditation can…
- Reduce Your Inflammatory Response
- Improve and Deepen Your Relationships
- Provide an Emotional Boost
- Improve Your Eating Habits
- Enhance Your Sexual Performance
- Improve Your Immune System
- Decrease Your Frequency of Migraines
- Reduce Your Anxiety Disorders
- Improve Your Emotional Stability
- Increase Your Creativity
- Develop Your Intuition
Moreover, meditation may even physically change the brain and body as well as promote healthy behaviors.
When you think of meditation (especially yoga), do visions of contorted poses and blank minds flow through your head? Take heart that meditation has evolved over its thousands of years of existence and there are many forms available to those of any age and physical ability. Whether or not the Hollywood beach body or the tranquility of a Tibetan monk is your goal, a higher version of your mental and physical health is always in reach.
The Practice of Meditation
Most practices have four elements in common: a quiet location with as few distractions as possible; a specific, comfortable posture (sitting, lying down, walking, or in other positions); a focus of attention (a specially chosen word or set of words, an object, or the sensations of the breath); and an open attitude (letting distractions come and go naturally without judging them).
Breathing – Just as in any form of exercise, how you breathe is foundational. Transporting oxygen to the blood is pivotal in how our exercise will impact our bodies, nourishing it with what it needs to flourish. Breathing in meditation can be…
- Passive or Active
- Through the Mouth or Nostrils.
- Natural or Slow Rate
- Shallow or Deep
Mantra – A mantra may or may have a meaning in and of itself; however, the sound, word, or phrase that’s recited repetitively is an object of concentration. A novice meditator may find absence of thought especially challenging. Mantras may be chanted aloud or silently. The most familiar example of a mantra is “Om” (pronounced Oh-m), which ancient sages identified as the most basic tone in nature. To them, it signified unending universal consciousness and an awareness of the divine.
Object of Attention – Regulating your attention is crucial to the practice of meditation. Thoughts still exist, but are simply discouraged – a state called “thoughtless awareness.” It’s being in the present moment, rejecting thoughts of the past and the future (ego infiltration).
Mindfulness – In contrast to “thoughtless awareness”, “mindfulness” meditation techniques aim to cultivate an objective openness to whatever comes into awareness (i.e., by focusing on a single activity or bodily sensation). Mindfulness increases self-awareness and understanding so that you can respond to events without impulse, but with reflection.
Spirituality and Belief – All meditation may be practiced without adopting a specific system of spiritual or religious belief. There are factions who believe that meditative practices and attempting to tap into one’s higher consciousness is sacrilegious. However, it’s an individual choice although the traditional practices were developed within specific spiritual or religious contexts. Some practices developed for purposes other than spiritual enlightenment (i.e., Tai Chi and Qi Gong). Although yoga has spiritual and religious elements, it’s more of a system of metaphysics and psychology.
For the purposes of keeping information easy to digest, the major types of meditation below will give you an overview to begin your search to decide which form is best for you.
Vipassana, or insight meditation, is the oldest Buddhist meditation technique. Some believe its the technique practiced by Gautama the Buddha himself more than 2,500 years ago.
Zen Buddhist Meditation, or Zazen, is perhaps the most widely-known form of meditation. It originated in India several thousand years ago and was introduced to Japan from China in 1191 A.D. Zazen is the study of self.
Yoga dates back perhaps 5,000 to 8,000 years according to research. It’s thought that the first guidelines on Yoga, “Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras”, outline practical instructions for attaining certain psychological states, as opposed to a certain strict philosophy. There is another school of thought that classical yoga is an all-encompassing lifestyle which includes both moral and ethical observances, as well as posture and breathing techniques.
Tai Chi, a martial art with a meditative focus, has a history stretching back to the 13th century A.D. Sung dynasty. All styles emphasize relaxation, mental concentration, and movement coordination, despite differing in focus on posture and the position of the center of gravity. The movements of Tai Chi are slow, gentle and light – a “moving meditation.”
Qi Gong origins began more than 3,000 years ago during the Shang Dynasty (1600 to 1100 B.C.). As the basis for ancient Chinese medicine, it’s categorized as an “energy healing” practice which involves using the body’s energy frequencies to bring about balance and healing. The words Qi Gong translate to “breathless exercise”.
Practicing any form of meditation is a behavior modification technique that can help you improve your overall fitness. Meditation can bring about a true personal transformation. As you learn more about yourself, you’ll naturally start discovering your untapped creativity and energy like never before. We’re spiritual beings living a human existence. An exciting new phase of your life starts now! If you’d like to learn more about how to meditate and it’s incredible benefits, check out the free e-book, Downward-Facing OM: Supercharging Your Mind, Body, and Spirit with the Power of Meditation at www.luvyourspirit.com.