The practice of meditation has been around for thousands of years. In fact, it dates all the way back to ancient times. But what is it exactly about its practice that lures monks and even Silicon Valley CEO’s to sit still and clear out their thoughts? On top of the spiritual and emotional benefits that arise from the practice of meditation, there are a number of physical benefits your body will surely thank you for.
Understanding the practice of meditation
Meditation is an umbrella term for the mind and body to get into a relaxed state of being, which means that there is no one right way to meditate. One can meditate by sitting still, repeating a mantra or performing a self-paced series of slow postures. The end goal is to achieve inner peace and an enhanced physical and emotional well-being.
Benefits of meditation
Meditation invites a sense of calmness and peace that benefits both a person’s emotional wellbeing and overall health. Listed below are the benefits of a regular meditation practice:
Meditation helps reduce the levels of the stress hormone known as cortisol. It helps clear away the information overload that makes a lot of people anxious, contributing to a sharper memory and better sleeping patterns. Additionally, deep, controlled breathing that arises from the practice of meditation also allows the body to produce increased levels of nitric oxide. This compound helps open up constricted blood vessels and ultimately causes a reduction in blood pressure.
While there exists no substantial proof today that proves the benefit of meditation in curing health conditions, meditation certainly has a positive impact in helping people manage the symptoms of health conditions such as allergies, anxiety disorders, eating problems, sleep disorders, and substance abuse. Meditation also helps decrease any tension-related pain and increase antibody levels, helping the body fight off illnesses and infections.
Improved Heart Health
A recent study published by the American Heart Association found that participants who meditated throughout the duration of the experiment experienced a decrease in the thickness of their arterial walls. This significant decrease in arterial wall thickness translates into a lower risk of heart attack and stroke. Additionally, meditation also lowers blood pressure and slows down your heart rate, improving your cardiovascular function overall.
Decreased Muscle Tension
Meditation does not only help calm the mind, it also helps the muscles relax. There’s, in fact, a specific technique called Progressive Muscle Relaxation, that can be used complementarily with meditation to systematically tense and then relax muscles throughout your body. When both practices are used together, it significantly creates a relaxation response that is almost tantamount to getting a massage.
Meditation also has a positive effect on the immune system, as it increases electrical activity in all parts of the brain that is responsible for emotion, awareness and anxiety. Coincidentally, these areas of the brain also act as the command center for your immune system, which when stimulated, make the immune system of your body function much more effectively.
Aside from these well-researched physical benefits, meditation also brings the brainwave pattern into an Alpha state, therefore improving emotional stability. In fact, people who meditate regularly are found to have increased creativity, stronger intuition, and peace of mind. They also are able to handle situations that trigger tension, anger and frustration a lot better.
Meditation In Your Daily Life
It is important to incorporate meditation into your daily routine, in order to reap its full benefits. Don’t get caught up on meditating the “right” way, as there is none. Instead, shape your own practice by finding a spot in a quiet setting that you consider your sacred place of zen. Reality is, it doesn’t really matter how you want your meditation practice to look like, as long as you’re honest to the essence of letting all your judgment and negativity go.
4 Simple Tips to Help you Establish a Daily Meditation Practice
Meditate at least 10 minutes each day
Make sure to practice meditation every single day. Even if you’re constantly traveling and not always at home, find a cozy spot in your hotel room where you can sit quietly alone with your thoughts. To help make your meditation practice a habit, practice at the same time each day. You don’t need to sacrifice sleep or mealtime for meditation, as it can be as quick as a ten-minute session or as long as you want it to be.
Create your place of zen
Dedicate a quiet spot in your home for your meditation practice. It is best to place a chair in a corner near your favorite window or surround a cushion with your favorite candles. The key is to make your space as comfortable as possible, so you’ll always look forward to meditating.
Always sit comfortably with your spine straight
Wherever you decide your sacred space to be, it should be comfortable enough for you to stay there with your spine straight for long periods of time. The danger of being uncomfortable is that it will likely get you distracted and make you fidget
Focus on your breathing
If you have done a yoga class before, you may have probably heard your instructor say, “If your mind wanders, all you have to do is breathe.” It’s no different in your meditation practice. If you start getting distracted, observe your breath and focus on getting the same amount of time for your inhale and exhale.
While you can certainly feel good after just one meditation session, you have to make it a habit in order to reap its full benefits for your mind and body. Meditation is a practice, and therefore a process, so you have to fully commit to it and make it a part of your routine. Just remember that there is no right way or wrong way to meditate. At the end of the day, what matters is that your own meditation practice is helping you feel good.