I just want to preface this article by explaining that I am not a hippie, I don’t regularly inhale wacky backy and i’ve never used the words flower power in a sentence without laughing.
Meditation and Breathing Exercises
Yes grasshopper its time to let you know the virtues and benefits of this quite simple exercise.
I am by no means an expert in the field of meditation, nor do I practice enough to preach about the full benefits of it. I am just going to let you know what I’ve found to be the case through the little experience I have had and the research I have done.
The main purpose of meditation is to quiet down the internal dialogue that goes on in everybody’s head. To take a break from the constant noise. If you don’t believe me go to a silent room, no tv, radio, laptop etc. Be internally and externally quiet for 20 mins and I don’t mean go to sleep. Hard isn’t it. You can also try this. Whilst on a bus or train coming home from work, just sit in silence and count how many breaths you take during the journey. You will probably find that you never get a number because you’re unable to stay focused and end up thinking about something else. Meditation provides a break for the brain.
Personally I have found if I am getting stressed or the world and my mind seems to be going to fast I just shut the hell up, be still, be quiet and it just starts to make sense again. Usually I discover that there was nothing really to get stressed about. When I was really practicing my breathing and meditation exercises only a year ago, the world seemed to slow down and I was able to observe things that others seemed to miss and my perception of others emotional state improved, as well as my awareness of my own emotional state, my focus and attention also went up.
If your working real hard, long hours, sleep deprived, have found fat hard to shift, premature signs of ageing and or find it hard to stabilise your emotions then meditation not medication may help you.
Meditation has been used for thousands of years across Asia. Scientists have found monks who practice meditation to have higher than normal activation of the parts of the brain that are associated with calmness and happiness. I don’t know about you but that sounds good to me. In fact scientists have asked monks to meditate whilst having a brain scan then have tried to shock the monks out of the meditative state but to no avail. They found the monks where able to control there survival reflexes. They are able to control there minds so as to not react to external stimuli. Imagine having that kind of control.
“if I control myself, I control my destiny”~ Hatebreed
We are a set of conditioned responses so how we interpret situations, interact, respond, move, think etc is simply reflex actions. That is why the same situations keep happening to the same people and most keep doing the same things over and over again and then complain and ask why me? Why does nothing ever change? Doing the same thing and expecting something different to happen is a sign of stupidity. I believe meditation gives us the opportunity or the avenue to make changes in our neurological make up, especially if combined with chanting, visualisation, positive thought and right action. Negative thoughts cloud our mind and we constantly repeat the same chants of I can’t, I’m too tired, there is not enough time etc. The thing is, it is accepted as normal and goes unnoticed. But if we change the mantra to something positive and it is repeated enough times that becomes normal and sub sequentially our neurological connections in our brain change and now we have new insights, perceptions and habits.
“we are what we repeatedly do, excellence then is not an act but a habit” ~ Aristotle Health benefits:
Meditation and breathing exercises help in the attainment of so many health benefits. Here is a list of ones I have found, all I proven by scientific studies.
1. Lowered risk of overtraining
2. Reduced stress hormone concentrations like cortisol and aldosterone
3. Higher DHEA-Sulfate as well as increased Testosterone and growth hormone response to stress
4. Improved kidney function, lower sodium-potassium ratio and reduced urinary loss of calcium and zinc
5. Remarkable success getting off drugs, even after being dependent
6. Enhanced immune function
7. A shift toward fat oxidation (“fat burning”)
8. Improved focus and sports performance
9. Enhanced reaction time
10. Improved carbohydrate metabolism
11. Reduced evening-time overeating and better chance for long term weight loss
12. Slowed biological aging (according to biomarkers) up to 5-12 years
13. Improved antioxidant effects indicated by 15% lower lipid peroxides
14. Improved hormone secretions through stimulation of the pneumogastric nerve
15. Improves digestion, metabolism and excretion
16. Reduces time required for a complete recovery
17. Improved brain function including memory
18. Massages the organs thus improving blood flow
19. Slows down normal breathing rate, heart rate and lowers blood pressure
20. Has been shown to increase T-cell levels which are linked to immunity
(Meditation for muscle, Dr. Lonnie Lowery, www.t-nation.com )
(The Tao of Health, Sex and Longevity, Daniel Reid, Book)
(Optimum Nutrition Bible, Patrick Holford, Book)
(The physical and Psychological Effects of Meditation, www.noetic.org )
It has been shown to help with numerous medical conditions such as:
- Stress, tension, anxiety and panic
- High blood pressure
- Chronic pain
- Respiratory problems such as emphysema and asthma
- Sleep disturbances
- Gastrointestinal distress
- Skin disorders
- Mild depression
- Premenstrual syndrome
- Irritable bowel syndrome
(Meditation, real effects on health, Dr. Joseph Mercola, Rachael Droege, www.mercola.com)
For something so simple it seems to do a hella of a lot. Now you may ask yourself why the medical profession does not promote the virtues of meditation and deep breathing. Well the answer is simple; you can not sell air yet. When you can, I bet you that meditation will be the new Prozac.
There are many methods to meditation and to breathing exercises. But here are few basic examples.
Find a quiet place to be still and quiet. You can lay, sit in a chair or stand, whatever feels most comfortable. Close your eyes. Start breathing how you no you should. As you breathe in your diaphragm expands (Elvis) and as you breathe out your TVA contracts and belly button goes in (Cameron Diaz). Slowly and controlled. To have your mind totally blank is quite difficult it’s best to just try and watch your thoughts as they unfold like a movie screen. Do not interrupt your thoughts, try to relinquish all conscious control and just sit and observe. This is harder than it sounds. Whilst observing keep peripheral focus on your breathing. Do this for 10-20 minutes. If you say you have not got 20 mins in the week you need to slap your self in the face and come to the harsh but true realization that Prozac world is coming your way. The people who are adverse to the idea of taking time out to practice meditation or a breathing exercise are usually the ones who would benefit the most from the practice of it.
If you suffer from depression or have a somewhat negative outlook on the world, then I would not practice this one. You may observe things you do not want to see or you may simply perceive your thoughts in the wrong way. Put your mind to the four corners of the room and simply observe the room in your minds eye. The likelihood is if you have or have had depression you spend to much time in your own thoughts and may have received the comment from family and friends that you think to much. B1 and 2 may be of more benefit.
BASIC 2 For the competitive Meditator
Start a stop watch. Sit quietly, eyes closed, relaxed, breathe deeply and be very aware of your breathing (hear, feel, visualize). Simply count your breaths until you reach 100. Then note how long it took. The better you get the longer it should take to reach 100.
This is my favorite one. This is performed lying down and preferably in a place that is not completely silent. Eyes closed, work from your toes up and become conscious of each muscle then simply relax that muscle. Take your time in doing this. Become very aware of your slow controlled breathing, and then start to observe the sounds around you. From the loudest to the quietest. Do not have any intellectual deliberations or make judgments, just observe. After a while (5-10mins at least) start again being consciously aware of your muscles but this time work from your head down and slightly contract the muscle. When you have done this imagine a blank screen, say and write in very small font the number 1. Then proceed consecutively until you reach 10 making the font bigger and the mental audio louder with each successive number. The number 10 should be big, bright and loud. The colours of the font and the screen should be contrasting. When you have done this start to open your eyes slowly. With eyes fully opened observe for a small time the shapes, colours and contours of the sights of your surroundings.
Some of you will have to start with just 2 minutes as 20 may be a daunting prospect.
Meditation is a very useful tool that should be utilized by everyone. If you look through the benefits, you will see it’s the answer to a lot of people cries. Increases fat loss, slows down ageing, improves confidence, lowers anxiety and the list goes on, the cost of which is just 20mins of your time 2-3 times per week to start with. It’s cheaper and more time efficient than any medical treatment I know.
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Want to read other articles by this author? Check out Michael Hannon's articles and Bio.
Michael Hannon shares his many years of experience as a personal trainer in this thought provoking and witty article on exercise and weight. Is Exercise Making You Fat? He has also contributed several other articles where you will find the same insight, thought and humor.You can read his bio here.
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