For some, meditation is as easy as setting a timer for 30 minutes and taking a seat in a pretzel-like position on the hard floor with eyes closed; while for others. the thought of sitting still for even 30 seconds seems like sheer agony and torture. With the amount of information and hours of studies that tout the benefits of a calm mind and peaceful heart through meditation, the fact remains that most humans are at a loss as to how to tap into this powerful modality and sit still long enough to reap the benefits.
There really is no “wrong” or “right” when it comes to meditation – even just staring off into space for a moment at your desk can be considered a start towards finding some form of inner sanctity for our minds and bodies through stillness. There are a myriad of apps, websites, meditation centers and retreats that offer just as many different ways to relax, unwind, meditate and find peace.
Our bodies are supermachines that perform a host of complex tasks, most of which are beyond our comprehension. Yet, supermachines are still machines and as such are prone to breakdowns in the absence of routine maintenance & software upgrades. This is where wellness and other health sciences come in, helping our bodies maximize their potential. Meditation is a perfect place to help us let go and release anxiety, become present, and relax the body and mind.
One way to harness the power of meditation is through breathing. Not just your everyday inhale/exhale, but a focused effort to produce various outcomes is necessary.
The Power of the Breath
While breathing is automatic for most people, technique and various ways of breathing can enhance relaxation and prompt alertness when focused. A great way to start with meditation is by starting with focused breathing. In Yoga and Meditation, the breath is referred to as Pranayama. The following are several methods that help to calm the mind and body and set the stage for a healthy and productive meditation practice.
- Lion’s Breath: Helps to relax the muscles of the face and disarm the ego. Breathe a full deep inhale through the nose, then force the air out with an open mouth and stick your tongue out as far as it will go (trying to touch your chin). Repeat 5 to 10 times and then just sit and let the body relax as you begin to breathe as you normally would. Other benefits of this type of breathing as: alleviating stress, eliminate toxins, and stimulate your throat and upper chest.
- Shamatha (Breathing as is): This technique is centered around awareness of your breathing as it is. It’s a common practice in mindful meditation and is often referred to as the reset breath or the breath that brings you back to the present. This can be done in seated or standing by softening the gaze and try to gently fixate on a point on the ground in front of your belly. When the mind wanders, gently bring your attention back to your breathing and continue.
- Kundalini (Diaphragm breathing): In this method the breath centers around moving the energy within the body with the diaphragm with each breath. The diaphragm is the most active of the muscles that facilitate breathing and the most efficient one. This type of breathing can be particularly useful for helping people with chronic shortness of breath and other breathing diseases as it helps air to exit the lungs so that you can take in more air and more efficiently. In a seated or lying down on your back position, place one hand on your upper chest and the other on your stomach below the ribcage. Breathe in slowly through the nose and feel your stomach protrude out from under your hand. The goal is to keep the hand on the chest as still as possible. Continue for 5 to 10 mins several times a day.
- Nadi Shodhana (Alternate nostril breathing): Helps to purify the balance internally. This technique of blocking one nostril as you breathe in and out of the other and then switching helps to clear both sides of the nose and passages for fuller, deeper, more focused breathing on a regular basis. This type of breathing has also been shown to dramatically lower systolic blood pressure (the pressure in the blood vessels when the heart beats). To do this type of breathing, take a seat and place the right hand on your knee while using the left thumb to gently close your left nostil. Inhal slowly through the right, then close it with your ring finger. Take a moment and then exhale through the left nostril. Repeat this same procedure on each nostril 5 to 10 times.
- 4 2 4 Breathing: Take a slow breath in through the nose, breathing into your lower belly (for about 4 seconds), then hold the breath for 2 seconds and breath out for 4 seconds through the mouth. This type of breathing helps to calm the nervous system and relieve anxiety and tension throughout the body.
These are only a few of the many types of breathing available to help you focus and relax and spend time in a relaxed state - mediation. While they are considered methods of breathing, they are also useful to start and stay with for short periods to be used as a meditation. The next time you think about starting a mediation practice, consider starting with one of the above methods of breathing to bring you fully present into the current place and space that you are occupying. This will help you remain still and silent and be able to extend the time you set aside for mediation a bit longer each time.
Rejuv at Work offers several options for Mind-Body classes and/or workshops such as: Meditation, Stretch at Your Desk, Deskercise, Yoga, Tai Chi and Pilates. These are all ways to help reduce and manage stress and anxiety; as well as promote a healthier and happier outlook and work environment. We also offer other fitness classes such as Zumba, HIIT, Bootcamp, and classes of all kinds that help with cardiovascular and strength training to balance out the more mindful classes.