April 18, 2017
By: Stacy Leung, RDN, CDN, CLC
Interest in mind-body practices like meditation, yoga, and acupuncture is on the rise. These practices have been around for centuries, but researchers have only recently started to study the tangible health benefits. This post focuses on the positive health benefits of meditation, various types of meditation and how to get started.
Meditation cultivates mindfulness through sitting and observing oneself. Mindfulness brings attention to the present, including your thoughts, actions, and emotions, and helps you accept them without judgment. With the constant stimulation of modern life, sitting quietly and acknowledging our feelings is becoming harder. Practicing meditation regularly has many health benefits.
These benefits include:
- Stress reduction
- Improvement in concentration and memory
- Increased self-esteem and happiness
- Increased awareness of yourself and others
Meditation can also help with weight management in the following ways:
- Helping to reduce binge eating and emotional eating by increasing your awareness of emotional and physical hunger cues.
- Helping with weight maintenance and possibly weight loss when combined with nutrition and lifestyle change.
- Assisting with lowering blood pressure for those at risk of hypertension by facilitating a calmer and more balanced mind. Meditation also helps our body limit the “flight or fight” response in times of emotional distress.
Types of Meditation
All forms of meditation will evoke similar results. Some popular methods are:
- Zazen means “seated meditation.” Derived from Buddhism, this seated meditation focuses on posture while observing your breathing and mind, like lying on the grass while watching clouds.
- Kundalini Yoga incorporates a variety of movements, breathing practices, and chants to stimulate the dormant energy held at the base of the spine. As the energy is channeled, it will move upwards and out of the crown of the head and increase consciousness.
- Yoga nidra also known as “yogic sleep” is a guided relaxation. Although “nidra” means “sleep,” you’re not actually snoozing. Rather, you are in a state between being awake and asleep. During this time, the teacher will lead you through a series of exercises to help discover and make peace with your true intentions and desires.
- Mindfulness based Stress Reduction was created by John Kabat-Zinn. This technique is led by trained providers where the focus is primarily on the body and breathing. Practitioners will participate in body scans and focus on inhaling and exhaling, reducing stress and tension.
Getting Started with Meditation
As a novice, these methods can be intimidating. Luckily, there are apps to help you get started:
- Headscape has a free 10-day introductory course for beginners. Each daily meditation lasts 10 minutes and includes a fun video illustrating the ins and outs of meditation.
- Inscape offers “Today’s Inscapes” for users to meditate a few times throughout the day. It changes daily and practices vary. This app is great for meditators of all levels. As an added bonus, Inscape also has a physical space you can visit in New York City.
- Yoga Nidra - Deep Relaxation Practice offers 10-, 20-, and 30-minute sessions so that you can pick the session that best suits your time. These sessions can be reused to help bring you deeper into consciousness.