You may be a meditating pro or perhaps you’re still not sure what meditation is and why people do it. No worries, we’re sharing an overview of the practice of meditation and the physical health benefits it offers so you can determine if it’s right for you.
Because meditation has been around for thousands of years, its meaning and purpose have altered over time and can vary from person to person. While some people practice meditation for spiritual reasons, the breathing exercises associated with meditation can help provide a number of physical benefits.
At its core, meditation is a form of relaxation. This relaxation method is used to focus and center your mind by dismissing the many stressful thoughts that bubble up during our overwhelmingly busy days.
As a society, it’s apparent that we are experiencing the physical, emotional and mental repercussions of sustained stress. Multitasking has become the pace, yet the impact of stress and elevated cortisol on one’s health are undeniable, leading to anxiety, depression, gastrointestinal disorders, insomnia, anger and decreased work productivity.
Who, Where, and How
As long as you’re willing to learn, anyone who is interested can practice meditation. In fact, practice makes perfect. Once you get the hang of it, the physical benefits of meditation can benefit people of all ages. From small children to older adults and those in between, meditative breathing exercises require little to no additional tools or equipment other than your own body.
Incorporating breaks into the day is scientifically proven to create a more focused and creative mind and improve mood. It used to be that meditation was some esoteric practice involving a monk sitting atop a hill. Now, large corporations such as Google and Aetna are implementing meditation practice and individuals are downloading meditation apps on their phone. People are craving time to reset, become more focused and deepen their connections.
One of the most attractive things about meditation is that it can be practiced almost anywhere – at home, at work, and even 51,000 feet in the air when you’re flying in a plane. As long as you have a comfortable place to sit or lay and a few minutes to solely dedicate to the exercise, meditation is a practice that can be taken with you anywhere.
Before getting started, it’s important to understand the basics of how to practice meditation. One way you may position yourself to meditate is shared below:
- Get comfortably seated
- Plant your feet flat on the ground
- Straighten your back
- Place your palms gently on your knees facing up or down
Another option is to lay flat on your back with your arms and hands rested at your sides and your legs extended. These aren’t the only arrangements for meditation, but they serve as easy postures for beginners.
This Forbes article states that once you’ve found yourself in a rested spot, close your eyes and begin practicing deep breathing patterns. In your everyday state, your breath can be short and quick, to keep pace with your hectic lifestyle. When practicing meditation, you’ll work to slow down your breathing in an effort to relax the mind and alleviate any stressful thoughts. For example, one breathing exercise would be to inhale for four seconds, hold for seven seconds, and exhale for a count of eight seconds. When doing this exercise, your goal is to focus all of your attention to your breathing – avoiding any distractions from the mind.
The Physical Benefits of Meditation
Mediation has many positive health benefits. It may help those who suffer from stress and anxiety, and its practice can help relieve tension headaches and reduce symptoms of insomnia.
Meditation serves to put the mind at peace by practicing the dismissal of negative, distracting, or unwarranted thoughts which often are at the root of stress and anxiety. By repeating this type of thought redirection, your mind will be more capable of focusing, relaxing, and resting when necessary.
A tension headache may feel like added pressure or tenderness to the forehead and scalp. Tension headaches are commonly caused by stress due to the demands of life, like overloading work schedules or new-born babies in the household. They can also be caused by a poor diet. And while over at the mayoclinic.org website they state that though it is not medically proven that tension headaches can be cured with meditation, the practice can help provide some symptomatic relief for some.
When you feel a headache coming on, try finding your meditative posture and begin focusing on your breathing. However, if your headaches are severe, consistent, and causing vision impairment or any other physical symptoms, it’s recommended you consult a healthcare professional.
Have you ever experienced insomnia? Nothing is worse than that frustrating force keeping you from restfully dozing off. Sometimes we lay down for bed and somehow all of the world’s worries fill our head. It’s true that insomnia can be caused by many different things, including food choices, overall health, arthritis, and much more. However, anxiety, stress, and overworked minds are frequent reasons why some of us toss and turn at night losing the sleep we greatly need. The next time you encounter insomnia like this, try a deep breathing exercise to help streamline your thought process and lower your blood pressure in preparation for a solid night’s sleep.
While meditation certainly isn’t the only answer for the health symptoms mentioned, the practice poses no proven risks thus far. So what’s stopping you? Inhale, exhale, and try breathing your way to a better you.