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For A Healthier Lifestyle, Dive Into Meditation 101
What are the main pillars of health? You’ve heard all about diet and exercise, but what keeps the mind healthy? The best diet in the world and exercising are great, of course, but they aren’t enough on their own to keep your stress levels down. The American Psychological Association reports that stress is one of the biggest causes of all types of chronic illnesses, especially in America. Now we all know how elevated stress levels specifically lead to heart attacks. Therefore, it’s no surprise that the number-one disease in the United States that’s fatal is heart disease, according to the Center for Disease Control.
The question is: What can you do to keep your stress levels down in the middle of everything else?
When it comes to allowing your body to free itself from those excessive stress hormones faster, meditation really works. Even WebMD.com talks about the many studies showing how meditation practices have helped people reduce chronic pain, relieve anxiety, bring down their stress-hormone levels, prevent heart problems, stabilize their moods and even boost the body’s overall immunity to all diseases.
Meditation is one of the easiest things to add to your “get-healthy” lifestyle plan. Plus, you don’t even need to be religious to meditate either. Let’s look at some basic types of meditation to start with:
Focus on candlelight
It’s a well-known Ayurvedic fact that gazing at the still flame of a candle can help improve eyesight and brings clarity to the mind. Keeping it away from all things flammable, light your candle and place it so that the still flame is right at your eye level. Sit about one to two feet away from the flame.
Now all you have to do is stare at the flame. Don’t cross your eyes or anything. Just enjoy the beauty of that bright magic we call “fire.” Slowly trace around the top to the bottom of the flame with your eyes. Follow all of its edges. When your eyes feel tired, close them. You should be able to see an imprint of the flame in your mind even with your eyes closed. Next, imagine that flame is sitting in your heart, filling you with joy, peace and love that gradually expands to fill your whole body and flow out to the whole world. Repeat as you like.
Those of you familiar with yoga probably know how teachers in your classes talk about the deep connections between your breathing, your mind and your body. The key point here to remember is that when your breath slows down, then your mind will too. Then naturally, your body will relax at the same time.
Trying to control your mind often backfires. Trying to force your body into difficult postures takes a lot of effort. However, watching your breath is as easy as eating pie, and you can tame both your mind and body simultaneously just by observing your breath. This method is the closest thing to a shortcut you can get for bringing your mind into a meditative state.
Sit comfortably in a quiet spot while keeping your back as straight as you can. Close your eyes. Take a deep breath and then let it out slowly. Now watch your breath without judging it. Simply thinking while inhaling, “I’m just breathing in.” Then while exhaling think, “Now I’m breathing out.” Don’t force your breath to do anything. Just watch it like this for at least 10 rounds.
After that, start counting as you breathe in to measure the length of your breath. Then count the length of your exhalation also. Don’t breathe forcefully; just notice what your body does. Gradually, try to make your inhalations last just as long as your exhalations. Increase the length of your breaths by imagining that air comes into your belly first when you breathe in. Naturally, you’ll start to feel an inner harmony when both the inhalations and exhalations become the same length. Then you can eventually take deeper breaths too, but only after you’ve balanced the inhalations and exhalations first.
Do not hold your breath at any time during this practice. Try it for five minutes and start increasing it as you get more comfortable with it.
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