All it Takes is the First Breath

Meditation: what does this word mean to you? Is it a way to relieve stress, find peace, reach enlightenment? For some, it may sound like something only for yogi masters or monks in the Himalayas. For me, meditation is about finding a quiet place and resting there a while, not asleep, just silent.

I have heard time and time again from patients that they try to meditate but find it too difficult. They can’t relax enough, their minds wander, they just can’t do it right! I say that meditation doesn’t have to be this way. It can be easy, and enjoyable, and you don’t have to kayak to Peru to do it. It starts with something each and every one of us do all day, everyday: Breathing, but maybe not quite the way that you’re used to.

What many of us don’t realize is that our breathing may actually be contributing to our stress, anxiety and even muscle tension. We first need to learn how to breathe properly in order to begin our journey of health and meditation.

Exercise:

  • Sit up straight with your feet flat on the floor and your eyes closed.
  • Relax your shoulders and place your hands on your lap.
  • Inhale slowly through your nose for a count of 5, drawing your breath into your abdomen to fill and expand it.
  • Hold for a count of 2.
  • Exhale slowly through your nose for a count of 5.
  • Hold for 3 counts.
  • Repeat for one minute or about 8 breathes.

Make sure that your shoulders remain relaxed throughout the exercise. If your mind wanders, bring your focus back to your counting.

Practice this every day. Do it in the morning when you first wake up to get an energetic boost that will help you start your day, at work to help you de-stress before a meeting with your boss, or before bedtime to help you wind down and forget about the day.

As you start to become more comfortable with the exercise, add another minute or two. Try to work your way up to at least five minutes daily. Sound like a lot? That’s just slightly longer than the average commercial break and less than the time it takes to boil water.

Before long you may find yourself wanting to sit longer, or maybe adding a mental image or mantra to your breathing.  However you do it, remember that there is no right or wrong way. Don’t be hard on yourself if you find your mind wandering. This time is for you and for whatever you want it to be. Whether you’re striving to find your own inner nirvana or wish simply to have a minute to yourself each day, this exercise can help meditation become an easy and enjoyable part of your every day.

Laura

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