Over the past few years, meditation has been gaining major popularity due, in large part, to the growing fascination with yoga and those wanting to discover a way eliminate the stress that today’s fast paced life puts upon us.
It brings me great joy that many people today are learning the benefits that this ancient exercise has been giving for hundreds of years. While I am certainly no expert, I have been practicing meditation for a few years now, and I continue to be astounded at how much better I feel, how much my life has changed, and how my positive reflections affect change in those around me.
Meditation benefits for brain and body are truly endless, but I want to focus the article today on just a few, and I would like to give you a few tips on how you can get started in your own home with no equipment or gimmick items needed.
What is meditation
Many pre-conceived notions come to mind when most people picture meditation. Due to popular media, television, and online discussions most people will picture an image of Buddhist or Tibetan monks sitting in a deep dark chamber, surrounded by candles while sitting on the floor with their legs crossed and their hands palm faced up on their knees.
You know what? This would be an accurate picture! Meditation in this form is practiced by thousands of people every day, but what you might not imagine is the hard-working construction foreman coming home after a day of labor, taking a shower, and then retreating to a quiet bedroom to sit in a relaxing chair and practice deep-breathing exercises to quiet his mind.
Meditation isn’t a fancy ritual or a religious practice (although it can be if you want), it is simply an exercise to quiet your brain from the day’s inner turmoil to find peace and relaxation. Through this relaxation your mind and body can melt away stress and focus on the natural healing powers each of us have within ourselves.
How is meditation good for me
There have been numerous studies on the health benefits of meditation, and I will list a few of them below, but I wanted to return to something I said in an earlier paragraph first. The ability of the human body to heal itself is amazing.
This healing takes place when you get a cut or a burn, when you break a bone, and works to restore your body each and every night while you sleep. There is a catch to this, however. For our body to efficiently heal, we need to be at rest. This is why all doctors will tell you that getting enough sleep at night is so important.
Our body’s natural healing is at its highest rate when we are relaxed and resting. Considering this important factor, you can see how meditating to create additional periods of rest and relaxation throughout your day can greatly increase the amount of time your body has to utilize its healing power. Please read below for just a few of the scientifically proven meditation benefits for brain and body.
Relaxation appears to boost immunity in recovering cancer patients. A study at the Ohio State University found that progressive muscular relaxation, when practiced daily, reduced the risk of breast cancer recurrence. In another study at Ohio State, a month of relaxation exercises boosted natural killer cells in the elderly, giving them a greater resistance to tumors and to viruses.
A study at the University of Western Australia found that women are more likely to conceive during periods when they are relaxed rather than stressed. A study at Trakya University, in Turkey, also found that stress reduces sperm count and motility, suggesting relaxation may also boost male fertility.
Irritable bowel syndrome
When patients suffering from irritable bowel syndrome began practicing a relaxation meditation twice daily, their symptoms of bloating, diarrhea and constipation improved significantly. The meditation was so effective the researchers at the State University of New York recommended it as an effective treatment.
A study at Harvard Medical School found that meditation lowered blood pressure by making the body less responsive to stress hormones, in a similar way to blood pressure-lowering medication. Meanwhile a British Medical Journal report found that patients trained how to relax had significantly lower blood pressure.
Stress leads to inflammation, a state linked to heart disease, arthritis, asthma and skin conditions such as psoriasis, say researchers at Emory University in the US. Relaxation can help prevent and treat such symptoms by switching off the stress response. In this way, one study at McGill University in Canada found that meditation clinically improved the symptoms of psoriasis.
Switch off stress
How can you use relaxation’s healing powers? Harvard researchers found that yoga, meditation and even repetitive prayer and mantras all induced the relaxation effect. ”The more regularly these techniques are practiced, the more deeply rooted the benefits will be,” Jake Toby says. Try one or more of these techniques for 15 minutes once or twice a day.
How You Can Meditate at Home
Mediation can easily be done at home with no need for special equipment. All you need is a quiet, comfortable place, a little spare time, and a few instructions on what to actually do.
This is one of the most important things you will need. You need to find a quiet room in your house where you can get away from any distractions (phone, television, other people, or even your pets). I can’t stress this enough, because in the beginning you will be working very hard to learn how to turn off all thoughts in your brain and any noise or distraction will make it much harder. I recommend a bedroom away from the main area of your house or even a closet if that is your only option.
As I said previously, you do not need to make a big deal out of how you actually sit or what position your legs or arms are in. THE ONLY things you should focus on are being comfortable and keeping your back straight as this will be important for the deep breathing exercises. You can sit in the floor, on a chair, on the edge of the bed, or anywhere that you feel you can sit and remain to be comfortable for about 30 minutes.
Ok, so by now you are in a quiet room and sitting comfortably. It is time to begin and practice meditation. Understand that this is NOT something that you should expect to do successfully the first few times you practice. It is very hard for 99% of people to effectively clear all thoughts from their brains without practice. I would prepare yourself to spend a few weeks learning how to do this before your first successful attempt. Let’s begin.
Close your eyes and begin breathing slowly and deeply in through your nose and out through your mouth. This does not need to be forced! Just breath naturally and spend a few minutes focusing and thinking about the air going in through your nostrils and out through your mouth. Focusing your entire thought process on the in and out motion of your breathing is one of the easiest methods of learning how to clear your thoughts, so you should really try to focus here. If you feel your mind start to drift, do not get frustrated. Simply bring your focus back to the in and out of your breath, and keep doing this as many times as you need to for the 30 minute period. The more you practice, you will notice you will have to re-focus fewer times.
There you have it! You have just gone through your very first meditation exercise. As you spend more time doing this you will find it easier, and you may even begin to pick up advanced techniques that will allow you to focus your entire brain on topics of interest.
As I said above, try not to get frustrated if you are having problems focusing. Most people who attempt meditation cannot successfully turn the daily thought of the brain off for the first few weeks. If you are interested in learning advanced ways such as guided meditation CD or mp3’s you might want to check out The Guided Meditation Site. They offer many different tools that can help you on your way to a successful meditation.
Now that you have learned how you can meditate at home you can begin to develop a routine to get the full benefits of this amazing exercise. I would recommend you spend at least 30 minutes for each session and try to get in at least 3 sessions per week. One thing I should note is that our bodies respond more favorably to meditation in the morning or in the evening. I personally prefer the morning as I do not have to battle random thoughts of my day’s events when trying to clear my mind in the evening. If you can’t find time in the morning or evening, that’s fine. The best thing about meditation is that you don’t have to maintain a schedule to reap the benefits. As long as you can find a few minutes to go somewhere quiet and relax, you can meditate wherever you are.
I hope that you have enjoyed the article, and I would love to hear your comments below.
Cheers to your health!