Mind body and soul is a key element in health. When working out and exercising, we usually just think about the physical benefits but there are multiple benefits, especially if we incorporate meditation into working out. Meditation can enhance a work out and make it more focused as well.
The article, “How Meditating Can Transform Your Workout, According To Experts” by Jay Polish looks at how meditation can help with exercising. He states,
“Right before and even during your workout, you can use other meditation techniques like visualization to focus on bodily sensations. How will the kettlebell feel in my fingers? What will my feet feel like hitting the pavement up that last hill toward the end of my run? What will the weights clanking all around the gym sound like? What will the air smell like as I’m finally reaching my finish line? Imagining all of that isn’t quite the “clear your mind of all thoughts and emotions” type of meditating, but it is a powerful type of mindfulness that can get you in the zone. ”
Meditation can hence play a key role in exercise and should be used in coordination.
Please also review AIHCP’s Meditation Instructor Program and see if it meets your academic and professional goals. The program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification.
Yoga has an ability to help calm the mind and body. In calming the body it can help the body relax and be free of various aches and pain. Certain yoga poses are designed for even more headache and migraine relief. Learning to utilize them can be very helpful.
The article, “9 Yoga Poses That Just Might Cure Your Headaches” by Sarah Yang looks at a multiple yoga positions specifically designed to help with headaches. She states,
“Yoga movement can help you mindfully release and become aware of patterns of muscular tension, Leonard explains. Conscious breathing can help ease the stress and contribute to detoxification. And a regular meditation practice can contribute to overall lower stress, anxiety, and depression, which can lead to fewer headaches that are associated with these conditions, she adds.”
Please also review AIHCP’s Stress Management and Meditation Instructor Programs and see if they meet your academic and professional goals. The programs are online and independent study and are open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification as a Stress Management Consultant or Meditation Instructor.
Improving meditation is key to successful results. Many meditate without many of its benefits due to poor technique. Poor technique may be due to posture, breathing or focus. It may also be due to when and where one meditates or how one successfully navigates distractions. It is important for successful meditation results to properly follow meditative instructions as taught. Many learn from meditation instructors or are continually guided in their progress until they are able to meditate without aid.
Meditation should not be a chore or difficult but should be something that one finds relaxing and looks forward to. If one is forcing meditation or not as passive as one needs to be, then one is not experiencing the true peace and calm meditation can provide.
The article, “4 ways to improve focus through meditation” from Koelsh Communities of the Seattle Times looks at ways to improve focus and meditation. The article states,
“Meditation can help improve your focus by reducing stress, improving mental agility, and helping you feel calmly in control of your thoughts. Rather than struggling and getting agitated when your focus seems off, through meditation, you’ll learn to calmly redirect your mind and find peace within your body.”
If you are experiencing difficulties with focus, please review our blog. Also if you are looking to learn more about becoming a Meditation Instructor, then please review AIHCP’s Meditation Instructor Program. The program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification as a Meditation Instructor.
Meditation is a key component of religious faiths. It leads to a closer union with God and overall better mental and spiritual health. It differs in aim from East to West but shares striking similarities as well as subtle differences to those not familiar with world religions.
In the West it is more prayerlike and focuses on a closer union. These stages of contemplation are to become closer to God and allow the creature to hear the Creator. It is the highest form of mental prayer. As prayer it looks to adore, thank, ask, and offer reparation. It however is a deeper longing to be in union with God. It occurs after many of these intents have been expressed. It occurs when the mind becomes more quiet and focus on deeper spiritual truths found in Scripture emerge. Its central focus is on the Word of God and that serves as the entry into meditation. It is never forced but is a knocking on the door to be open to God’s word and His presence. It looks for union but a union that identifies a distinction between divine and creation.
In the East, the spirituality is to become one with the ground of all being which is quite different than the idea of a personal deity as found in the West. It looks for a union that helps the individual find the collective nature of the divine that is found all being. It is a reunification with the divine and a reabsorption into it.
Yet emerging out of the East’s goal to become re-immersed into the divine, greater care and time was taken into physical preparation. Ideals on concentration, centering and mindfulness are emphasized to retain focus, passiveness and mindfulness of moment. Various postures, mantras and breathing techniques are essential to relax the body and allow it to be freed from physical distractions. Eastern Meditation within its various techniques to promote silence and peace are unique and have value well beyond the religious.
Medically, these relaxation techniques reduce stress and counter the sympathetic response within the body. These practices lower blood pressure and help the body find a better balance with the mind and soul. Balance is key to a healthy body and the balance that is spiritually reached in Eastern meditation is essential to good health.
Many practice these Eastern techniques for stress and anger management and can do so successfully. The relaxed states are not contrary to any Western faiths if the spiritual end is not sought. It was due to this that some Christians have incorporated many of the physical strategies of the East into Western and Christian meditation. Thomas Merton was one who travelled to the East to learn of these techniques in hope of finding ways to utilize within Christianity. Thomas Keating also followed in these steps and developed Centering Prayer which looked to prepare a Christian to enter into a state of prayer and meditation with God.
The similarities of meeting with God in meditation in East and West were hence combined but with different outcomes. Instead of becoming part of one being, the Western school looked to become more in union with God and all His creation but not in a pantheistic form. Creator was still distinguished. An “I” existence was still preserved although union with everything was still sought through God’s presence in everything. Hence God’s presence in everything, an accepted Christian idea, replaced the idea of God is everything and one is part of God.
Mantras in Centering prayer were utilized to meet the spiritual desire of the individual. Dr Benson in his Relaxation Response taught that spirituality is not necessary for healthy meditation but those who find something spiritual or something to connect to can utilize religious mantras of a particular faith to elicit the same mental and physical effects. Hence a Jewish individual could use the word Shalom, or a Christian could say Jesus, or a Muslim could say Allah, as a focusing word. Utilizing other religious texts are also helpful.
Hence, the utilization of Eastern techniques was incorporated into Western Meditation.
With that said, many contend that if taken too far, one can easily fall into Eastern spiritualities so intimately connected with Eastern Meditation. Those of an Eastern spirituality naturally have no issue with this, but those who do not see God as a ground of all being and everything in essence divine, would find this contrary to their faith. Both traditions contend a passive attitude to hear the Divine but in regards to what the divine is and how one interacts is essentially different. In Western culture, caution in intention and exposing the body to more out of body experiences should be avoided. Some in the West in fact refuse to use any Eastern techniques in religious meditation. This is perfectly fine because Western Meditation and its own spiritual look for the quiet is well documented especially in The Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius. However, visualization, concentration and peace and quiet are still essential in these exercises as one focuses on the Word of God or life of Christ. Various similar ideals of visualizing are utilized as found in the East. There are always similarities to find God in the quiet.
Regardless of the spiritual direction, incorporating Eastern meditation on a physical level only can be beneficial. Businesses look to Eastern meditation to help employees not only be less stressed but also more focused and mindful towards success. Furthermore, the studies from Dr Benson show clearly how meditative states reverse stressful sympathetic responses of fight or flight. Fight or flight responses are good for true danger but with the everyday stressors of modern life, they can be detrimental to health. Chronic stress kills. Meditation is a possible solution to reducing chronic stress.
One who is religious can use Eastern meditation secularly only, or if religious, utilize it for its Eastern roots of spirituality. Those of the East can apply it equally while those in the West can apply it spiritually but with caution, utilizing only partial aspects of it and converting it to a Theist formula with a Theist end. That is the amazing reality of Eastern Meditation. Its techniques void of Eastern spiritual ends can be utilized in other religious traditions as well as purely secular ends for health-and for those who are practice Eastern spirituality, then it is fits every aspect of life without editing.
The programs are online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking how to better meditate but also help others learn the secrets and techniques of meditation. The program is also beneficial to mental and healthcare professionals looking to incorporate meditation into their practices.,
Meditation and breathing can help the body relax and also help one fall asleep. If one is struggling with falling asleep, breathing techniques can help the body better prepare for the sleep state. Many individuals never learn to utilize natural breath work and meditation to help insomnia but through simple breath steps, a good night’s sleep can become a reality.
The article, “The Beginner’s Guide to Using Breathwork for Better Sleep” by Ruby Thompson from Healthline takes a closer look at breath work and meditation to help sleep. The article states,
“If you’ve tried and failed using meditation as a tool for sleep, breathwork (aka deep or diaphragmatic breathing) might be the perfect solve for reducing stress, controlling pain, and getting better sleep. Try incorporating the tips above into your nightly (and daily) routines – and remember: practice makes perfect. In time, you’ll be sleeping like a baby.”
Please also review AIHCP’s Meditation Instructor Certification and see if it meets your academic and professional goals. The program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification as a Meditation Instructor.
Human beings worry everyday. They worry about global politics, national concerns, sports, domestic concerns at home, finances, family, health, weather, relationships, or the most simplistic interactions. Some worries are deeper and more critical to survival while others are very trivial in nature but if we let worries dominate life, then they can cause unneeded damage to the body.
The Serenity Prayer teaches one to let go and to control what can be controlled and to release what cannot be controlled. In understanding this basic ideal, one can releases oneself from the conscious reality of worry and focuses instead on productive reactions to legitimate concerns. Worry itself is the direct mental process of dealing with problems. It is essential because without it, important aspects of life would go untended to. Hence worry is a thinking process that is essential to life but like any function, it is when it misused or overused that issues arise.
Anxiety, an emotional response to worry, can cause immense physiological damage to the body. Anxiety is a dread of what may or may not happen. It is unfounded and based on numerous misconceptions or unreal expectations. 85 percent of bad things the mind can conjure, usually never happen. This worry that leads to unnatural state of anxiety is something that negatively affects the sympathetic nervous system. In addition to anxiety, the worries that surround one become stressors. Stress itself is a physical response to something and again activates the sympathetic nervous system, which in turn, activates such hormones as adrenaline that increases blood pressure and heart rate, as well as tightening muscles and closing down the digestive system to more fight or flight responses. These responses are good if truly in physical danger, but the mental stressors and worries of life usually do not require such an extreme reaction. If in a constant state of anxiety and stress, the body will begin to hurt itself through these responses.
This is why it is so important to worry over what truly matters most and when worrying, to worry well. Worrying over things that cannot be changed do not help to the situation. Worrying late at night, losing sleep, and becoming ill, do not help situations either, but individuals due to a variety of bad worrying habits, or mental ticks are unable to turn off bad worrying. In effect, they become sick from worrying. They do not possess the ability to shut down the sympathetic nervous system to find relaxation.
The Parasympathetic nervous system is the opposite of the Sympathetic. It lowers the heartrate, blood pressure, and relaxes the body’s muscles and permits better digestion. It is imperative to return to this type of operation and find new balance. Individuals with panic and anxiety disorders that explode with worry do not have the abilities to find that balance. Many times they turn to a variety of medications which only blanket the symptoms but once untaken, do nothing for the body to learn to balance
This is why it is so important to learn to worry well. In the MED300/SM550 course, the text and CD of Dr. Weil is utilized to teach individuals how to use meditation and visualization as a way to combat and cope with worry. Dr. Weil emphasizes that one needs to place worries in three different columns. Situations that can be changed, may be changed, and cannot be changed.
Worry should be proportionately applied to things that can be changed. Through identification of what one wishes to accomplish, one can then follow a plan of action, choosing the best options and how those options will be carried out. Affirmation of success is key as a follow through. Dr Weil encourages visualization as a technique in meditation to find a quiet and peaceful place where one can find an inner wisdom guide, which in actuality is one’s unbiased subconscious. Some individuals make this spiritual by prayer and speak with Christ or Mohammed or Buddha, while others relate to deceased parents. This inner wisdom can sometimes supply fresh insight into an issue that seemed difficult prior.
In reaching these states of meditation, Dr Weil believes in the importance of breathing as a source of helping the body again find balance with the Parasympathetic system. Focused, deep, longer breaths can help the body find balance and reduce the tension in the body. The focus on breath also can closely follow Dr. Benson’s Relaxation Response, which follows the same ideals of breath, focus words and muscle relaxation. While these steps follow religious guidelines, they also coincidentally open the body up to more tranquil states associated with the Parasympathetic system. This can reduce the effects of stress, anxiety and unneeded worry.
Good breath work and meditation can be used to free the body from unchangeable worries and also be used to guide the mind to find resolutions for things that can be changed. It can also help the mind find ways to transform oneself to things that cannot be changed. Some worries cannot be altered but they can be accepted and the situation can be adjusted to. The worries that cannot find solutions should generate transformation. In doing so, worrying is then used the natural way it was intended through evolution as a way to help the body deal with problems.
Through analyzation of worry, proper breath work, meditation, visualization and affirmation, one is better equipped to free the body from the stress and anxiety of the Sympathetic Nervous System and allow it to rest but also to be better able to dismiss unneeded worry and focus on real solutions to real life issues.
If you worry too much, it may be time to try to utilize these techniques to minimize unnecessary problems and focus on real problems but in a productive way by retraining how you approach worrying itself.
Quigong meditation deals with ways for the body to find self healing by removing negative energy through the meridians. It incorporates the basic elements of meditation with breathing and self visualization. Many find comfort in this type of self healing as it promotes over general health within the body by balancing good energy.
From a more Western perspective, the process of overall health from this type of meditation probably ties to its calming effect on the sympathetic nervous system.
The article, “Qigong Meditation Techniques: Benefits and How to Do It” from Healthline looks closer at this ancient Chinese Meditation technique. The article state,
“Qigong meditation is an ancient Chinese healing practice that combines controlled breathing, gentle movement, and meditation to promote good mental, physical, and spiritual health. Similar to tai chi, qigong meditation is believed to treat a variety of health conditions, including high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, chronic fatigue, insomnia, and leg and back pain, among others. Yet, research backing these claims is limited.”
Please also review AIHCP’s Meditation Instructor Certification and see if it matches your academic and professional goals. The program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification in Meditation Instruction.
The Relaxation Response reverses the negative effects of the sympathetic nervous system which prepares the body for the flight or fight response. The body during stress infuses the body with an increase of adrenaline and other hormones which raise blood pressure, increase heart rate, increase breathing and tighten muscles for reaction. These effects are not good long term, nor are they needed for modern day stress at home or in the office or on the work floor. The Relaxation Response reverses these issues. Meditation Instructors can also help one learn how to elicit this response.
Studies have also shown, when combined with the Faith Factor, the response can also help with a myriad of health and mental issues. The Faith Factor, or belief in anything, is key to eliciting greater benefit from the Relaxation Response. Again, understand, that any attempt to improve health without discussion with a primary physician is not safe. The Relaxation Response can help, but it should never completely replace medications without physician approval. Many of the natural reactions within the body from the Relaxation Response and Meditation follow many of the same principles of medications used to decrease anxiety but without the side effects. So in time, with physician approval, many medications may possibly be reduced.
One problem many have is insomnia and this is the primary focus of this short blog in regards to how the Relaxation Response and a trained Meditation Instructor can help with the inability to sleep.
The anxiety cycle plays havoc on the mind and hence also the body. Only until the anxiety cycle is broken can the mind find peace. This is one of the biggest problems with the inability to sleep. Individuals are bombarded with intrusive thoughts or worries from the day. They prevent the body from calming and instead create a cycle of anxiety which induces stress and the stress response upon the body. The reality is many intrusive thoughts or problems cannot be resolved late at night nor does the body have the capability without rest to properly deal with these issues. Many of these issues seem less important upon waking and the worry of the previous night merely clouds the mind the next day.
Individuals turn to medication to try to overcome the anxiety cycle. They look for over the counter medications that relax the body. The Relaxation Response, however, elicits the same mechanisms within the body. It breaks the anxiety cycle and ushers in the soothing effects of peace and relaxation without the side effects. When using the Relaxation Response to illicit sleep the aim is quite different than using this meditation during the day. Its aim is not so much to produce a meditative response but a sleeping response. In this reality, the brain waves will not be the same as if meditating during the day, but will in fact, merely fade into sleep into meditative trance. This is fine but is a different end.
The Faith Factor is also important in delivering the ultimate responses one may be seeking. If one merely routinely utilizes this response in a mundane and insincere way, then the results will be not as beneficial. It will become mechanical in nature and more of a chore. Instead, be utilizing one’s faith, the response becomes stronger. Due to this, Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, or even atheist can utilize this faith factor by choosing the repetitive word to focus on one’s tradition. All traditions universally tap into the Relaxation Response via the power of faith. For an atheist or non religious, that word may be about family, country or self. It still can elicit the response if the word and motive means something to the person. Likewise, if the word chosen is too Eastern, then a Christian may feel stressed using that term and be counter productive. Instead, it is important to turn the meditation into a prayer as well to enhance the natural response of the body.
In regards to insomnia, or any other ailment, a passive mind is required during meditation. While your focus, desire and goal is sleep, your passive mind remains open to merely the meditation. Some may consider this counter productive, but the moment one starts to think about ” Why am I not asleep” or “How long will this take”, then one creates a new anxiety cycle which reduces the ability of the body to relax and internally heal. So with illness, or insomnia, to curtail the maximum results of desired results, we must in some way not desire it but allow the flow of peace to do its thing. The moment, one focuses more on performance outcome over the process itself, then the ability to fall asleep becomes harder to achieve.
In utilizing the Relaxation Response, one should follow the basic guidelines. First, find a quiet place. In regards to insomnia, this is your bed. Sound makers, or any natural sounds that are not distracting can help one find a natural pace. Second, close one’s eyes and began to reduce muscle tension. Focus on parts of your body and work your way systematically, such as starting from a toe to the next toe and up the foot to up the leg. Stretch and allow the body to naturally relax. Third, start to breath in and out. This step actually can be used while your reducing muscle tension. Fourth, focus on your word, usually a word associated with religious or personal conviction. The word or phrase should be short enough to match the rhythm of your breathing. If Jewish, the word could be Shalom, if Islamic, the word could be Allah, or if non religious, one could utilize word that motivates oneself. Christian usually choose the name of Jesus, or a short phrase from Scripture. This word is meant to keep focus.
When distracting thoughts enter the mind, do not deliberately toss them out but slowly, dismiss them. It is natural to lose focus. While trying to sleep, the distractions and problems will attempt to re-enter. When they do, merely return to your focus word while keeping track of your breathing. Do not worry if you are doing something wrong. This leads to the important fourth part, the passive attitude. One cannot actively beyond the focus word, try to control the process. Instead one must remain passive and allow the body’s response to take over. If meditating during the day, this is meant to recharge the body and sleep is not intended, but when utilizing it to find sleep, one should merely allow the peace to lead to sleep. One can fall asleep in this regard in prayer. This is not the ideal intention, and is why religious traditions have imposed postures for prayer that are relaxing but not sleep inducing, but realize, we are utilizing the Relaxation Response and meditative prayer to fall asleep. We have turned something natural into prayer itself which is beautiful.
In following these steps and practicing them, one may be better able to relax the body, elicit relaxation, and if spiritual praise God, while also gently falling asleep without the need of medication. If you would like to learn more about the Relaxation Response, please review Herbert Benson’s two classic works on the Relaxation Response. Also if you would like to help others, please then review AIHCP’s Meditation Instructor Training Program and see if it meets your academic and professional goals. The program is online and independent study and open to qualified professionals seeking a four year certification as Meditation Instructor.
Meditation is key way to spiritually and emotionally rewind. Mindfulness is also an application some use. Mindfulness and meditation both help individuals but they differ in their approach.
The article, “How mindfulness, meditation can benefit both spiritual and physical health” by Eliza Smith-Driggs looks at mindfulness and meditation as way to find health. She also explains how they differ. She states,
“Dr. Annie Budhathoki, doctor of acupuncture and oriental medicine and licensed acupuncturist at the Huntsman Cancer Institute, teaches her cancer patients both mindfulness and meditation practices. She distinguished the two this way: “Mindfulness focuses the mind on one thought or object. … Meditation is about emptying the mind.” She said emptying the mind is harder for people in pain, whereas focusing the mind on something positive can be more effective.”
Please also review AIHCP’s Meditation Instructor Certification and see if it matches your academic and professional goals. The program is online and independent study. The certification is four years and open for qualified professionals.
Meditation can open one to a much healthier world in all aspects of existence. Physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health all benefit from consistent practice of meditation. Meditation can be based in any spiritual or faith based tradition. While spiritual aims differ from faith to faith, most can enjoy the physical and emotional balance that comes from meditation. If one does not practice meditation, one should consider learning the basics and incorporating this practice into one’s life. Others who are certified in Meditation Instruction can help others begin this exciting path.
The article, “How to Start Meditating” by Amelia Nierenberg looks at ways you can start the process of learning and starting meditation. She states,
“When you think of what meditating looks like, what comes to mind? A lotus position, a yoga mat, a beautiful wood-lined room? If that’s how you feel most comfortable practicing, that’s great. But some people prefer to lie flat on their back, while others choose to sit on a chair. The key is to find a position where your body can feel strong yet neutral.”