Relaxing Body and Mind: Regular Meditation Can Improve Outlook and Health
Once considered unconventional or partly “New Age,” meditation is becoming more and more mainstream as neuroscience determines its beneficial effects on our minds and bodies
Research on the brain activity of people who meditate on a regular basis has shown that meditation can have many positive impacts, from reducing stress and depression to pain management and even reducing our chance of getting sick.
The Mayo Clinic weighs in by saying that some research “suggests that meditation may help people manage symptoms of conditions such as: anxiety, asthma, cancer, chronic pain, depression, heart disease, high blood pressure, irritable bowel syndrome, sleep problems or tension headaches.”
Those new to meditation shouldn’t worry if they are choosing the right style or whether you’re meditating the right way. And in the beginning, it’s natural for the mind to wander. In essence, all meditation includes focusing and breathing in a comfortable, quiet setting with an open attitude.
A simple way to start is with a calming, mindful meditation technique like breathing. Sit or lie comfortably away from distractions and close your eyes. Don’t try to alter your breath, just focus your attention on how the body moves with inhalations and exhalations. When your mind starts to wander, simply bring it back to your focus. Start with two to three minutes, then increase time from there.
You can also combine breathing with a body scan. This involves focusing on sensations of tension, pain, relaxation, etc. in specific body parts and envisioning breathing heat or relaxation into these areas.
If you’re looking to add movement, there are also traditional Chinese meditation techniques like Qi gong (CHEE-gung) that combine exercise with meditation, relaxation and physical movement, and Tai chi, which blends gentle martial arts forms with deep breathing.
Newcomers can get started through the many online videos as well as apps, workshops, and retreats. The American Meditation Society (americanmeditationsociety.org) offers online classes, video meeting sessions and in-person events.
- Joe Yogerst