By now its safe to assume that every person reading this post has heard about the many benefits of meditation. Not only is meditation an optimal way to reduce stress, but it can actually dramatically affect your health. We’ve all heard it a million times, but have you ever wondered why it’s true? Also, if you’re anything like me, you may have a really hard time sitting still for any length of time. But as they say, the harder it is for you to meditate, the more you likely need it.
Let’s break it down. I’m going to get a little scientific with you but bear with me, because it will all be worth it.
Our nervous system is made up of the Central Nervous System (CNS) and the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS.) The first is governed by the conscious thinking mind, while the latter is not. Our heart beats, our lungs fill with air, and this is done by the Autonomic Nervous System, which is comprised of two parts, the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) and the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS.) Don’t worry, you don’t need to remember all of that, but this is where it gets REALLY good. The SNS, which I will refer to as the “red zone” is where your fight or flight instincts kick in. You know, when you’re at the store in your sweats looking really rough and your ex walks in? You’re getting the hell outta there! Adrenaline starts pumping, your heart starts racing and you RUN! More accurately, this is what enabled our ancestors to run away from looming, hungry tigers. Our bodies are designed to kick back into the Parasympathetic Nervous System, aka the “green zone,” but due to on going stress, most people LIVE in the red zone. The problem is that your body can’t tell the difference between a tiger or work related anxiety! How do you know if you’re living in the red zone? Do you:
- have trouble sleeping, and when you do sleep it is not restorative, ie. you wake up feeling just as tired as when you went to sleep?
- have trouble controlling your mood?
- get sick a lot?
- experience acid reflux, nausea, and stomach cramps?
- have a lowered libido?
- experience aches and pains in your joints?
- have trouble losing weight?
Yeah, I thought that last one might pique your interest. When we are stressed it is very difficult to burn fat, because our bodies can only burn fat or glucose for fuel, and when in the red zone, the body fuels you with glucose because its quick and readily available! This is why you may know runners who carry more weight than people who practice yoga and tai chi! Also, when you eat while in the red zone your food wont digest properly, because blood is diverted away from the digestive system. This causes indigestion, gas, and bloating. No thanks!
So, how do we bring ourselves back into the green zone? The answer is so beautifully simple it will astound you. BREATHE. Thats right, breathe yourself back into balance. I am, of course, referring to a very specific type of breathing, and ladies and gentlemen, this is where I would like to introduce you to The Belly Breath. The Belly Breath, aka diaphragmatic breathing, communicates to every cell via the nervous system that you are safe. When you breathe through the belly the diaphragm expands and actually massages the heart.
To do the belly breath you can either lay down with your knees bent, or you can sit straight with your feet on the floor. Place your hands in an upside down triangle with your thumbs resting across your belly button. Inhale through your nostrils, and your belly should expand. When you exhale through your nostrils. your belly should come back in. Breathe long, slow breaths for the same amount of time on the inhale and exhale. This is the belly breath, and it should be practiced every single day! Meditating like this for 5-10 minutes every day is a lot better than meditating 3 times a week for 45 minutes! A great time to do it is first thing in the morning, and you will feel calm and centered for the remainder of your day. Next time you’re at a red light, try belly breathing instead of checking your phone. This one is a game changer!
Let me know how this works for you!
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