TRY MEDITATION TO HEAL YOUR BODY AND MIND
The Medicine Behind Meditation
Your body is wired for survival. Throughout daily events, it can go through the classic “flight or fight” responses numerous times, which releases hormones that increase both heartrate and blood pressure. From meeting important deadlines, to conflicts with work colleagues and fighting rush hour traffic, stress takes a huge toll and can even manifest as prolonged illnesses or disease.
The compounding effects on your body over time are described as the allostatic load. This has been measured in a variety of physiological systems including the central nervous system and the immune system. Combating the allostatic load is one of the primary goals of meditation.
Some of the proven health effects of meditation are:
- Improved Cardiovascular Function
- Lowering of Blood Pressure
- Better Sleeping Patterns
- Increased Natural Immunity
When you slow down your mind, your body slows down too. Meditation elicits a relaxation response, which decreases your breathing rate and releases your muscles and allows them to relax. This begins the healing process.
Find the Type of Meditation That is Right for You
Just like physical exercise, there are a number of different types to suit your personalized needs. If you try out one particular kind and it doesn’t quite feel right, just choose another until you feel really comfortable and are able to truly relax and reap all of the benefits meditation is meant to produce. Here are some of the popular types:
- Mindfulness- You can practice mindfulness meditation in practically any position, from sitting, to lying down to walking. Focusing on your breathing, you basically “scan” your body in your mind starting from the tips of your toes all the way to the top of your head, relaxing and releasing tension through all of the parts of your body.
- Zen- With interaction with an experienced teacher, this Buddhism-based type of meditation is typically done sitting down. A mix of focus on breathing and the mind, Zen is practiced in search of enlightenment. Some individuals use chanting within the practice of Zen.
- Mantra- Mantra meditation is focused on the repetition of a particular word or sound. Traditionally, the word Om has been used within the practice of yoga in conjunction with meditation, but you can be creative and find the right sound or word that brings you into an optimal state of relaxation.
- Primordial Sound- This type of meditation is also using a mantra, but you repeat it in your mind silently, instead of saying it aloud, promoting stillness and reducing noisy thoughts.
- Chakra- A chakra is a particular part of your body that exudes energy. This is another type of meditation that is often used in cooperation with yoga and uses visualization, certain placement of your hands, and sounds. Individuals looking to heal a particular part of their body frequently choose chakra meditation.
These are just some of the many types of meditation that are available to promote health and overall wellness. The most important thing is not to judge yourself when you begin because there is a learning curve to be able to meditate effectively. If you try something and it doesn’t work for you, open yourself up to new techniques and try again.
Keeping it Simple: The Basics of Meditation
Whatever technique you choose to end up practicing, know that the healing powers of meditation are real. There are basic universalities within any practice, though, and those precious minutes you spend meditating will make an impact on your body, and your mind, throughout the whole day.
Find a Space
Whether you have the luxury of a special room in your home or just enough space near a window with a yoga mat or a pillow, utilize a familiar and comfortable place that your body will recognize as your meditation area.
Get Rid of Distractions
For the minutes you are practicing, turn off or mute your cell phone and the television and make sure any loved ones in the home know this is your meditation time. Many mothers with young children will choose to meditate during nap time to make sure to fit it in. Soothing music can be used if you like to help you relax.
Set a Soft Timer
This helps to keep you from thinking about the time. Start off slow by practicing two to three minutes, working yourself up to five and ten, and eventually up to twenty minutes or more.
Focus on Your Breathing
Concentrating on your slow inhales and exhales is a central part of most meditation practices, promoting stillness, muscle relaxation, and the reduction of anxious thoughts.
The research on the positive health effects of meditation continues to build. From helping you deal with the rush of hormones from daily stressors to promoting improved cardiac health for a longer life, meditation has a tremendous power to heal your body and address the challenges of life. Be open to trying different types to find the right one for you, and allow yourself time to learn.
Once you begin a regular practice of meditation, your body will thank you, and your mind will be able to deal much better with the busy activities and stressors of your daily life.