Meditation and breathwork are methods of training the mind, but you don’t need to be a Yogi to make them a practice. There are many meditation techniques, including concentration, mindfulness, transcendental meditation (TM), and yoga. It is worth exploring each of them to see which approach fits. As a Los Angeles health coach, I tell my clients that when you make meditation part of your daily routine, you can experience many benefits:
Lower blood pressure
A 2008 study at the University of Kentucky found the practice of transcendental meditation was associated with approximate reductions of 4.7 mm systolic blood pressure and 3.2 mm diastolic blood pressure.
Improved blood circulation
One 2014 study at Dalian University of Technology, Dalian, China found that one form of meditation, Integrative Mind Body Training (IMBT), significantly enhanced cerebral blood flow.
Lower heart rate and less anxiety –
A 2018 student-led study at Michigan Technological University found that 60 minutes after meditating the 14 study participants showed lower resting heart rates and reduction in aortic pulsatile load. Additionally, shortly after meditating, and even one week later, the group reported anxiety levels were lower than pre-meditation levels.
As well as these, you can achieve
- Slower respiration rate
- Lower blood cortisol levels
- More feelings of well-being
- Less stress
- Better sleep
Practicing meditation trains the mind in a similar way that practicing fitness trains the body. You practice meditation to become mentally clear and emotionally calm. Having a meditation practice enables you to observe thoughts or feelings without judging them. Integrative health coaching in LA, I advise clients that getting comfortable with meditation requires a consistent practice – like developing any other skill. But among a myriad of meditation techniques — how do you learn how to meditate? Here are four popular types of meditation that you may wish to explore further:
This meditation requires that you put your focus on a single point. This could be repeating a word or mantra, following your breath, looking deeply into a candle flame, counting prayer beads, or putting your attention on a repetitive gong. Because keeping the mind focused can be daunting for a beginner, you should limit your meditation to just a few minutes and work your way up to a longer duration.
Every time you notice your mind wander, refocus your perception on your object of attention. Simply let your thoughts go as they randomly arise. You will be able to improve your concentration through this process.
Get into a comfortable seated or lying position and close your eyes. Focus on your breath as you slowly breathe in and out. Distracting thoughts may enter your mind. Don’t judge these. Instead, simply notice that you have become distracted and resume focusing on your breath. Bring awareness to your thoughts. Being mindful is crucial to overcome suffering and understand natural wisdom. You acknowledge your reality when you observe the wandering mind and accept any thoughts that come up to help you understand the present.
Under the supervision of an instructor, you are given a particular mantra or sound that you repeat effortlessly at a comfortable pace. In essence, you are striving to enter a deep state of emptiness. Again, it is normal for thoughts to distract you. Stop to acknowledge these and then return to repeating the mantra.
This is practiced during ‘Shavasana,’ literally, ‘corpse pose,’ which is complete relaxation. Following the yoga session, lie on your back with your legs straight out and hands comfortably at your sides. Shut your eyes and breathe long and deep. The goal of Shavasana is to relax the body and mind while remaining aware of the present moment. Frequently, your yoga instructor will guide you through a visualization process.
Breathwork Exercises to Meditate More Deeply:
Although meditation and breathwork can be used together, there are notable differences. During meditation, you usually just observe your breath without changing its natural rhythm. With breathwork, you intentionally change and manipulate the breath during an extended period. Help to still your restless mind before meditation by practicing these breathwork exercises:
1.Bhastrika (Bellows breath):
- This breathwork technique involves forcefully and quickly inhaling and exhaling. Your body will increase oxygen levels and your mind will become sharper, which makes the practice perfect to engage in prior to meditating. This breath is energizing, however, so don’t perform it right before bed.How it’s done: Sit up straight, relax your shoulders, and breathe in deeply through your nose a few times. Let your belly fill up with air as you take in a breath.
- Make fists, folding your arms, then place them close to your shoulders.
- Take a deep inhale, then raise your hands above your head and open your fists.
- Breathe out with slight force, return your arms to your shoulders, and close your fists.
- Repeat until you have completed 20 breaths.
- Put your palms on your thighs and relax.
- Breathe normally a few times.
- Continue for two more rounds.
As you perform this exercise, your sympathetic nervous system will slow down, your blood pressure will lower, and you will decrease your heartrate, making you feel less anxious and stressed. Belly breathing stills the mind, producing a perfect environment to meditate deeply.
How it’s done: Sit up or lie down on your back. Place your right hand on your tummy and your left hand on your chest.
Inhale deeply through your nose as you count to four, filling up your tummy like a balloon. Watch as your right hand rises, while your left hand stays still on your chest.
Pause slightly at the top of your inhale, and then let out the air from your tummy, counting to four again and feeling your right hand return to its original position on your tummy. Again, your left hand should remain in place on your chest.
Continue for three to five minutes, inhaling deeply into the abdomen.
During this breath pattern, you inhale for four seconds, hold the breath for seven, ad then exhale over eight seconds. Practitioners often call this a relaxing breath because the exhale lasts longer than the inhale, which calms the body down. You can meditate powerfully following this breathing exercise, which can also help you sleep deeper and more restfully.
How it’s done: Sit up with a straight back, relaxing your body and releasing any tension in your muscles. Breathe in deeply through the nose and out through the mouth.
- Next, inhale through the nose. Fill your tummy up with air as you count to four.
- As you reach the top of the inhale, pause, and hold the breath as you count to seven.
- Make a whooshing sound as you breathe out slowly through your mouth, counting to eight.
- Repeat four more times.
4.Nadi Shodhana (Alternate nostril breathing):
- As you alternate breaths between the left and right nostrils, you will clarify and purify your body’s energy channels. Alternate nostril breathing corrects your body’s imbalances and clears your head to meditate deeply.How it’s done: Sit comfortably with a straight back and relax your shoulders. With your right hand, put your middle and index fingers directly between your eyebrows. During the exercise, you will plug your right nostril with your thumb and your left nostril with your ring finger.
- Use your thumb to plug the right nostril.
- Breathe deeply through the left nostril as you count to four.
- Pause as you reach the top of the inhale, take your thumb off your right nostril, and use your ring finger to close off the left nostril.
- Breathe out through the right nostril slowly as you count to four.
- Switch sides as you begin the flow again with the right nostril.
- Repeat five to ten times.
Your body can react unusually to breathwork. In the beginning, it’s possible to get lightheaded or dizzy, feel a headache coming on or have your extremities tingle. Don’t worry. This is normal. If you begin to feel discomfort, simply resume regular breathing and these sensations will dissipate. Your shoulders or solar plexus may feel tight. But as you keep breathing, this tension will also dissipate.
You can choose to sit, stand, or lie down to complete breathwork exercises, but if you plan to breathe for more than 10 minutes, don’t choose standing as you may become dizzy. It is powerful to merely become aware of the breath, so if you forget a breathwork pattern go easy on yourself. Just noticing your breath can help calm you emotionally. Always remember that you are in control.
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