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Meditate Daily to Reduce Stress

Remember gazing at the clouds when you were a child? Meditation is a seated form of daydreaming. Do it daily to reduce stress.
Sitting still for an hour. Humming strange noises. Changing your religion. Ask most people what’s involved in meditation and the answer is likely to be any or all of these things. Actually, meditation is a simple way to quiet the mind and calm the body. Should be easy, right? Well, in our busy Western world, taking the time to sit quietly and breathe deeply seems to be an almost impossible task. Yet, study after study is proving that a meditation practice can help us to be less stressed, more focused and much healthier.

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Consider the facts: Chronic stress is at the core of many of our modern ills. We’re working more, exercising less and not always making healthy food choices. Genetically, we have the bodies of our ancestors — built to deal with the occasional threat of a wild animal attack but not the ongoing, daily stress of deadlines and overdue bills. Unchecked, this chronic stress leads to a whole host of physical problems, such as muscle tension, elevated blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, blood sugar swings, lowered immunity, increased pain and more. Our minds are affected as well. Chronic stress makes it harder to concentrate or to remember, disturbs our sleep, increases our anxiety and self-doubt, and gets in the way of our enjoyment of life. A regular meditation practice can help by focusing the mind, quieting that mental “chatter,” reducing tension in the body and calming the breath.

Do you remember lying on the grass and gazing up at the clouds when you were a child? You just watched the world go by without judging whether your experience or thoughts were good or bad. Meditation is a seated form of daydreaming (or you could lie down). To begin, take a few moments to move and stretch your body, loosening up tight areas like the shoulders and lower back. Next, find a quiet area and a supportive chair. Sit with your feet planted firmly on the floor, hip-width apart, with the knees directly over the ankles. Sit up tall and let your hands lie gently in your lap. Close your eyes and start paying attention to your breath. Try saying to yourself, “I am breathing in” on the inhale and “I am breathing out” on the exhale. As thoughts come up (and they will), just notice them like the clouds passing by and return to your breathing. At first, try this for about five minutes. Remind yourself that this is a practice, and with practice comes progress. It won’t take long to notice that your breathing is deeper and more even, your heart rate has slowed and you feel calmer. You may not know it, but you have reduced your blood pressure and your body is no longer pumping out the same quantity of stress hormones. This practice is so simple you can do it almost anywhere and at almost any time.

— from the Cleveland Clinic’s yoga program manager, Judi Bar, and certified yoga instructor Sally Sherwin
cleveland clinic

 

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Perk Up Energy, Reduce Stress and Alleviate Pain

Here’s how to perk up your energy, reduce stress and alleviate pain: Focus on taking deep, slow breaths.

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Paying attention to your breath — how fast, how deep — can help boost your energy, calm you down, lower your stress, and even help you feel less pain. Often called “belly breathing,” yoga’s three-part breath is one of the easiest ways to reap several different health benefits. This exercise will be most effective if you are lying on your back, either on the floor or on your bed.

Place your hands on your lower abdomen. Relax and take a couple of breaths. Just observe what happens in your body while breathing as you normally do. Now, think of taking a deep breath and expanding the area beneath your hands; it should feel as though you’re inflating a balloon deep in your belly. On the exhale, think of bringing your navel back toward your spine to empty your lungs. Feel your hands rise and fall as you inhale and exhale. Next, place one of your hands on your chest while keeping the other on your belly. Take another deep inhale and let some of that expansion reach your chest. You should feel both hands move — one on your belly, one on your chest. Exhale from your chest first, and then your belly. Repeat a couple of times and observe what happens with the movement of your body. Lastly, move the hand on your chest up above your heart. Inhale once again, this time expanding into the belly, the chest and then the upper chest. You should notice your breathing has slowed considerably, and you might even feel a bit light-headed. On the final exhale, empty your breath from the upper chest first, proceeding all the way down to your lower abdomen.

Because we don’t get air into the deepest part of our lungs, we have to breathe faster and more frequently in order to get enough. This shallow, fast breathing activates your fight-or-flight nervous system response, which can make you feel more anxious and stressed. Consciously slowing and deepening the breath turns off that stress response and leaves your mind and body feeling refreshed, calm and focused. — From Judi Bar, yoga program manager at the Cleveland Clinic, and Sally Sherwin, certified yoga instructor.

source:cleveland clinic

 

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