How Yoga and Meditation Can Help You Relax
Author: Susan Bowerman
Gentle Yoga Stretch
Sometimes after a long day, I like to unwind with a gentle yoga routine. This is also a great way to start the day—it clears your mind and sets a positive tone for the day with a few simple yoga moves.
In my opinion meditation is simply a term for spending some time disconnecting from the chaos of life, and attempting to quiet your mind and be in a calm state of awareness. A recent conversation that I had with a friend made me realize that meditation is often misunderstood.
These common misunderstandings get in the way and stop people from giving it a try. He told me, “I’ve tried meditation in the past because my job is so highly stressful with incredibly long hours, but I quit meditating because I thought I was a terrible meditator. I could never totally clear my mind, so I would get frustrated and quit. But now I understand that having thoughts is simply a part of the process.” What he said is exactly how I used to feel about trying to meditate.
As with all things relating to health and fitness, there are many schools of thought and many methods. Today I will share with you my practical tips for calming your mind and reflecting on your day with simple and practical meditation advice.
Simple meditation dos and don’ts
Don’t think that you need a completely silent and secluded place to practice. In the real world, and especially in a home with kids or at the office, finding complete silence is almost an impossible task.
Do try to remove yourself from all major distractions, such as phones, computer screens and incredibly loud spaces. Simply turn your office chair away from the screen. If you’re at home, close your bedroom door.
Don’t convince yourself that you need any special equipment, such as a yoga mat, bells or blankets, because you can meditate anywhere. The less stuff you rely on, the easier it will be to take a quick moment to practice.
Do try to sit or lie down in a comfortable place where you feel relaxed. You can keep your eyes open or close them, just do what feels right for you.
Don’t force yourself to start breathing with a specific style, like belly breathing or nose breathing. It can initially put you off or even make you feel light-headed. You can work on breathing technique once you start to feel comfortable with meditation.
Do focus on your breath. Feel the air coming in and leaving your body. Simply be aware of your breath and how it feels.
Don’t start thinking negative thoughts when your grocery list or to-do list starts to creep into your mind.
Do redirect your focus away from your grocery list and back to your breathing.
Don’t have a long list of affirmations or goals that you think about or chant out loud.
Do have one or two key words that help you to relax or guide you towards positive sense of well-being.
Aim to find 20 minutes of quiet time for yourself once or twice a day. Remember that meditation is considered a practice, just like yoga. So yes, that means it may actually take practice to feel the full calming effects.
Enjoy your escape from a chaotic lifestyle.
Susan Bowerman is Director of Nutrition Training at Herbalife. Susan is a Registered Dietitian and a Board-Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics.