Guest Author - Karen Huber
Use meditation to get rid of stress, clear away worries, build concentration and focus, and banish negativity. You will feel relaxed and empowered. A few yogic breathing exercises, or Pranayama, can help; they can be done with yoga poses, or by themselves while sitting or lying down.
Lion's Breath relieves tension in the face by stretching the jaw and tongue. Inhale through the nose, then exhale through the mouth. Make a "ha" sound, opening your mouth wide and sticking out your tongue. Inhale and return to a natural face. Repeat 3-5 times.
Kapalabhati, or cleaning breath, is performed by taking two normal breaths, inhaling, then exhaling while pulling in your abdomen. Repeat twenty times, exhaling strongly each time. Next, inhale and exhale completely. Inhale fully and hold your breath for as long as you comfortably can. Exhale slowly.
Sitkari, or teeth hissing, is done by pressing the sides of the tongue against your teeth. Hiss your breath when you inhale, then exhale through both nostrils. Sip the air and cool your body in addition to relaxing it.
Simple meditation can be done anywhere, but is best done in a quiet place, in a comfortable position. Close your eyes and choose a mantra, a word, phrase, or image on which to focus. Breathe normally and repeat your mantra each time you exhale. Bring a wandering mind back to focus in your mantra. You can work up to twenty minutes for a more focused mind.
Progressive muscle relaxation is a healthy, natural way to relax tense muscles and unwind at the end of each stressful day. It is a great way to end an exercise session or to relax before going to bed. If you have an injury or other muscle conditions, consult with a physician first. Take off your shoes and get into your favorite, comfortable position. Breathe slowly and begin by relaxing your feet. Tense the muscles in one of your feet and hold for a count of 10. Then, relax your foot and focus on the tension dropping away from it. Repeat with the other foot and repeat with the calves, back and front thigh muscles, buttocks, back, abdomen, hands, lower arms, upper arms, neck, and facial muscles. Tense each muscle, then focus on losing the tension in each.
Guided imagery is another way to relax and focus the mind. Find a quiet place where you can play soothing music if you want, close your eyes, and relax. Imagine your favorite quiet, tranquil place. Notice the details like a deep, blue sky, rippling water or grass, gentle breezes, cool sand, or warm sun rays. Do this for as long as it takes you to relax and let go of your worries. This is also a good exercise before going to sleep.
Body scanning can be a part of progressive muscle relaxation or breathing exercise. Focusing on your body's sensations and imaging healing or relaxation can help relieve pain and stress. You can repeat a mantra while concentrating on specific muscles or body parts. Body scanning and chanting a mantra verbally or in your mind can be done while walking, running, or with any rhythmic exercise.
Reflection can also be a form of concentration and meditation. After reading passages, poems or inspiring writings, some people think about their meaning and keep a journal of their reflections. Background music or audio tapes of chanting can help you achieve your spiritual journey and sharpen your reflective capacity. Focusing your emotions can also be a form of meditation. You can focus attention on a sacred object or being as in religion or focus on music or chanting. Mental focus can be done with your eyes shut or open.
There is no right or formal way to meditate; whatever suits your lifestyle and time will benefit you. A few minutes will focus and relax your body and mind and build your concentration. Focusing on your goals can also help clarify them and enable you to make plans to achieve them. Meditation should be a pleasant activity and enhance your life; so, do not stress over form. Just find an activity that relaxes you and complements your life. You will reap the benefits.
ABC-OF-Yoga.com. “Pranayama - Breathing Techniques for Beginners.” ABC of Yoga, part of MaxLifestyle International Inc. 2003-2008. http://www.abc-of-yoga.com/pranayama/basic.asp
Leonard Holmes. “A Simple Form of Meditation.” About.com. November 02, 2005. http://mentalhealth.about.com/od/selfhelp/ss/relaxresponse.htm
Mayo Clinic staff. "Meditation: A simple, fast way to reduce stress.” Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. 1998-2011. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/meditation/HQ01070
Robinson, Lawrence, Segal, Robert, M.A., Segal, Jeanne, Ph.D., and Smith, Melinda, M.A. How to Practice Relaxation Techniques.” Helpguide.org. July 2011. http://www.helpguide.org/mental/relaxation_techniques_supplement.htm