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Meditation Beginner, Techniques and Benefits

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Meditation is an approach to training the mind, similar to the way that fitness is an approach to training the body. But many meditation techniques exist — so how do you learn how to meditate?

“In Buddhist tradition, the word ‘meditation’ is equivalent to a word like ‘sports’ in the U.S. It’s a family of activities, not a single thing,” University of Wisconsin neuroscience lab director Richard J. Davidson, Ph.D., told The New York Times. And different meditation practices require different mental skills.It’s extremely difficult for a beginner to sit for hours and think of nothing or have an “empty mind.” 

Meditation Beginner, Techniques and Benefits

CONCENTRATION MEDITATION

Concentration meditation involves focusing on a single point. This could entail following the breath, repeating a single word or mantra, staring at a candle flame, listening to a repetitive gong, or counting beads on a mala. Since focusing the mind is challenging, a beginner might meditate for only a few minutes and then work up to longer durations.

In this form of meditation, you simply refocus your awareness on the chosen object of attention each time you notice your mind wandering. Rather than pursuing random thoughts, you simply let them go. Through this process, your ability to concentrate improves.

MINDFULNESS MEDITATION

Mindfulness meditation encourages the practitioner to observe wandering thoughts as they drift through the mind. The intention is not to get involved with the thoughts or to judge them, but simply to be aware of each mental note as it arises.

Through mindfulness meditation, you can see how your thoughts and feelings tend to move in particular patterns. Over time, you can become more aware of the human tendency to quickly judge an experience as good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant. With practice, an inner balance develops.

In some schools of meditation, students practice a combination of concentration and mindfulness. Many disciplines call for stillness — to a greater or lesser degree, depending on the teacher.

OTHER MEDITATION TECHNIQUES

There are various other meditation techniques. For example, a daily meditation practice among Buddhist monks focuses directly on the cultivation of compassion. This involves envisioning negative events and recasting them in a positive light by transforming them through compassion. There are also moving meditation techniques, such as tai chi, qigong, and walking meditation.

BENEFITS OF MEDITATION

If relaxation is not the goal of meditation, it is often a result. In the 1970s, Herbert Benson, MD, a researcher at Harvard University Medical School, coined the term “relaxation response" after conducting research on people who practiced transcendental meditation. The relaxation response, in Benson’s words, is “an opposite, involuntary response that causes a reduction in the activity of the sympathetic nervous system.”

Since then, studies on the relaxation response have documented the following short-term benefits to the nervous system:

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Improved blood circulation
  • Lower heart rate
  • Less perspiration
  • Slower respiratory rate
  • Less anxiety
  • Lower blood cortisol levels
  • More feelings of well-being
  • Less stress
  • Deeper relaxation

Contemporary researchers are now exploring whether a consistent meditation practice yields long-term benefits, and noting positive effects on brain and immune function among meditators. Yet it’s worth repeating that the purpose of meditation is not to achieve benefits. To put it as an Eastern philosopher may say, the goal of meditation is no goal. It’s simply to be present.

In Buddhist philosophy, the ultimate benefit of meditation is liberation of the mind from attachment to things it cannot control, such as external circumstances or strong internal emotions. The liberated or “enlightened” practitioner no longer needlessly follows desires or clings to experiences, but instead maintains a calm mind and sense of inner harmony.

HOW TO MEDITATE: SIMPLE MEDITATION FOR BEGINNERS

This meditation exercise is an excellent introduction to meditation techniques.

  1. Sit or lie comfortably. You may even want to invest in a meditation chair or cushion.
  2. Close your eyes. We recommend using one of our Cooling Eye Masks or Restorative Eye Pillows if lying down. 
  3. Make no effort to control the breath; simply breathe naturally.
  4. Focus your attention on the breath and on how the body moves with each inhalation and exhalation. Notice the movement of your body as you breathe. Observe your chest, shoulders, rib cage, and belly. Simply focus your attention on your breath without controlling its pace or intensity. If your mind wanders, return your focus back to your breath
posted Oct 1, 2018 by Nikitha S Prasad

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Yoga and meditation typically go hand-in-hand and have been around for thousands of years. They have been used as an alternative form of exercise to keep the mind and body healthy and happy. Practicing yoga improves balance, endurance, flexibility, and strength, while meditation helps keep the mind sharp, relieves stress and anxiety, and can strengthen your immune system.

Following a few simple poses, breathing techniques, and positive coping skills can help retirees manage stress, improve mental clarity, manage chronic conditions, and promote a healthier lifestyle. With so many health benefits linked to these traditional practices, many Baby Boomers are taking notice and incorporating these techniques into their lifestyle. Check out these ten surprising benefits of yoga and meditation

Treats Back Pain

Believe it or not, doing a few yoga poses throughout the week can help with chronic back pain. Studies have shown that stretching exercises and poses have improved spinal flexibility and helped ease lower back pain problems in people after just one week of yoga.

Helps with Rheumatoid Arthritis

Iyengar yoga, which is a type of yoga that uses blocks, belts, and other positioning props, has been shown to help people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Hot yoga, like Bikram and gentle yoga, has also been shown to help because of its slow, easy-paced poses and movements that benefit the joints, bones, and muscles.

Hangover Cure

While you may not want to move or get out of bed when nursing a hangover, experts say that doing yoga can detox your system and get you feeling fresh much faster. Certain yoga poses like “plow”, “bow”, or “shoulder stand” work on the thyroid gland, which improves the metabolism to kick those toxins out of your system. By reversing the blood flow and bringing more circulation to the brain, your body will create balance and spring back to life. Not only are you getting rid of your hangover faster, but also blasting fat and cellulite.

Improves Heart Health

When it comes to heart health, Baby Boomers need to be wary and maintain a healthy lifestyle as much as possible. Thanks to yoga and meditation, keeping your heart healthy is easy. Studies have shown that yoga is linked to a reduced risk of heart disease because of its cardiovascular benefits that eliminate arterial plaque. Meditation also helps lower heart rate and improve blood circulation. Meditating one time a day for ten minutes can help you relax, reduce stress hormones, lower your blood pressure, and allow for better blood flow.

Helps with Asthma

If you suffer from asthma then you might want to take up yoga. Research has shown that adults with mild to moderate asthma who did an eight-week session of yoga combined with their regular meds saw a marked improvement. Pranayama is a type of yoga that focuses on breathing techniques that have shown to be especially effective against asthma.

Improves Digestion

If you have trouble with your daily fiber intake and can’t get things moving easily then practicing yoga can be a tremendous help. There are many yoga poses, twists, and moves that massage internal organs that help food move along in your digestive system. Yoga also stimulates the lymphatic system that helps flush out toxins, making your body cleaner. Meditation can also help with symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD) by reducing the frequency of stress-related flare-ups.

Sleep Better

In order to live a healthy, balanced lifestyle you need to get enough rest so you can function the next day. If you have trouble sleeping or suffer from insomnia, yoga can greatly improve your sleep quality. Doing yoga twice a week helped people sleep better, reduce stress, and lower anxiety. Meditation and breathing techniques also help clear your mind so you can relax and slow down your thoughts, allowing you the peace of mind to get a good night’s sleep.

Mood Booster

Yoga and meditation have been linked with emotional health boosts. Studies have shown that yoga and meditation help improve cognitive-behavioral performance as well as aid with mood swings, menopause, schizophrenia, insomnia, depression, and anxiety. Practicing yoga in a group setting also stimulates the production of oxytocin, which is the love hormone, and it also produces higher serotonin levels, which is the happy hormone. Combined, these hormones dramatically improve someone’s mood.

Combat Migraines

No one likes to endure the pain of a migraine. That’s why it’s beneficial to practice yoga to fight them off. One of the recommended moves that alleviate migraines is the “bridge pose.” You lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet hip-width apart on the floor. With your hands on the floor, press down into your legs and draw your hips up. The trick is to relax the tension in your muscles from your neck and shoulders, which can be misaligned or stressed from hunching over a computer or phone all day long.

Mental Clarity

A healthy dose of yoga and meditation will keep your brain sharp and clear. Simple yoga practices and breathing techniques allow you to free your mind from “clutter” that trickles down to your physical well-being. Slow breathing and yoga poses will help your memory and keep your thoughts more organized once you get rid of stress, anxiety, and negative thinking. Reaching a place of quiet peacefulness is the key to healthy memory function.

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It often feels like there are just not enough hours in a day and not enough days in a week to get things done. The forty-hour work week is a distant memory. We barely find the time for all our chores and errands, let alone to unwind with our family and friends. The absence of space for self-care can add to the stress, and stress, if not checked early enough, can develop into depression.

With so much to do and so little time, you naturally may wonder if it’s worth the effort to make space for meditation. Especially in the beginning, when your mind tends to jump from to-do lists to unfinished business and back again, simply sitting can feel painfully unproductive. This might be a good time to learn a little bit about what happens when you’ve been meditating for a long time.

Long term effects of meditation

Long Term Benefits of Meditation
  1. Better sleep

Studies have shown that people who practice meditation report improved sleep. It’s one of the most wholesome and best-appreciated long-term benefits that meditation provides. Medical professionals are now encouraging patients who suffer from insomnia and similar sleep disorders to try different techniques, especially certain forms of guided meditation, to help manage their symptoms. The American Journal of Medicine once reported on a study that aimed to determine the effects of meditation on insomniacs. The results were incredible – all of the patients involved in the study reported improved sleep quality, and 91% reduced their sleeping pill intake or stopped using them altogether.

  1. Enhanced memory, concentration and perception

If you’re curious about what happens when you meditate for a long time, consider the scientific studies involving Buddhist monks and possibly borrow a leaf from them. A good number of Buddhist monks and lay practitioners have perfected the art of meditation over many years. Studies conducted on some of the monks highlight the long-term effects of meditation on the brain. They showed signs of elevated brain activity within the cerebral regions associated with relaxation, happiness, concentration, self-awareness, and other positive emotions and qualities. Conversely, the brain areas responsible for stress and anxiety were less developed.

  1. Increased levels of happiness and compassion

Increased levels of contentment and compassion are among the most desirable long-term benefits of meditation. According to Rachel Parrish, a seasoned meditation instructor, your ability to exhibit true compassion isn’t based on your situation but rather on your complete openness. Compassion is a remarkable trait that’s hard-wired into all of us. Meditation will give you the tools you need to dig deep and access the happiness and compassion that await discovery within. Looking to external sources for comfort and well-being is a deeply ingrained habit, but if you meditate regularly, you’ll surely come to agree that true happiness comes from within.

  1. A healthier immune system

Just as they calm the mind, long-term effects of meditation also benefit the entire body. Some studies have indicated that people who practice meditation produce a higher number of antibodies more rapidly than those who don’t. More antibodies mean you’ll fight diseases more effectively – pathogens will be detected and eliminated with much more efficiency. So meditation not only improves your state of mind, but it also strengthens your body’s disease-fighting mechanisms. A healthy body is one reflection of a peaceful mind.

  1. Improved alertness and ability to focus

We all need to be able to focus in order to carry out our different responsibilities. Any activity that is performed without the proper focus and attention is bound to produce lacklustre results. It’s hard to do a good job when you’re stressed and exhausted, and even more so when you can’t concentrate on the task at hand. At work, factors like stress and exhaustion can lead to a lack of discernment and mistakes. Happily, studies have shown that one of the long-term effects of meditation is improved concentration. Experts now recommend mindfulness meditation to help pacify the mind and increase our ability to remain alert. Luckily, many of our everyday activities at home or at work are fertile ground for the practice of mindfulness. Instead of multitasking, try picking one job or activity and apply yourself to it. With practice, this will improve your productivity and give your intelligence and creativity plenty of space to express themselves.

If you aspire to a better quality of life, meditation is the way to go. Don’t worry, your meditation practice won’t monopolize all of your free time – even sitting for 5 minutes a day can improve your cognition and reduce anxiety and depression. 

 

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