6 Tips for How to Relax with Meditation and Yoga

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Long working hours, horrendous traffic, looming deadlines, emails on our smartphones. We are all familiar with the daily grind of the fast-paced city life that often leaves us feeling run down and a little worse for wear. The good news is that there is a phenomenon going around helping to alleviate the stress-related difficulties in our lives. It’s called… relaxing.

More commonly known as meditation, studies have suggested that a mere 10-15 minutes a day of quiet reflection and deep breathing can add years to your life, not to mention a bounce to your step. From a stress standpoint, it helps you to clear the mind and gives opportunities to increase oxygen intake – always handy in any situation.


It has been said that meditation – even in small doses – can profoundly impact the health experiences of most. Meditation has been known to increase blood flow to major muscles, improve concentration, reduce anger and boost confidence. A clear mind also increases productivity, especially in creative disciplines like writing. Better health is definitely in the cards as meditation has been proven to reduce stress levels, as well as ease anxiety.

Steps to meditate:

  1. Make time to meditate. Set aside enough time in your daily routine for meditating. Early mornings and in the evenings are often most preferable.
  2. Find or create a quiet, relaxing environment. It is especially important to avoid any obstacles to focusing. If you choose to play music, pick calm and gentle tunes.
  3. Sit on level ground. Sit on a cushion if the ground is uncomfortable. The important thing is to keep your back straight, as it helps with breathing later on.
  4. Relax everything. Keep searching for parts of your body that are not relaxed. When you find them (and you will), consciously relax them.
  5. Let your attention rest on the flow of your breath. The goal is to allow the focusing on a single point as described in the previous step, you can either cast it away, “chattering” in your mind to gradually fade away. The trick is to find an “anchor” to settle your mind, such as a repetitive mantra or the visualising of a peaceful place.
  6. Silence your mind. The next step is focus on nothing at all, essentially “clearing” your mind. After or observe it impartially and let it go. Use the same approach with any thoughts that return to your mind until silence perseveres.

Not That far Of A Stretch

Yoga is the yin to meditation’s yang, so it is not surprising the two go hand in hand. An ancient Indian practice, the word “yoga” itself means “union” – of the individual consciousness or soul with the universal spirit of the world. With its roots in ancient India, it was brought to the West in the late 19th century and gained popularity in the 1990s due to celebrity endorsements from supermodels and moguls alike. Known for its health benefits and its ability to transform couch potatoes into supple, athletic nymphs, one can choose from different versions of the practice ranging from traditional Hatha yoga and physical Jivamukti yoga to the cardio-based Ashtanga yoga and more meditative Yin yoga. It has also inspired new forms of exercise and is seen as the base to popular workouts such as Bikram Hot yoga and Prenatal yoga.

Whichever pose you choose, here’s why you should get stretching:

  1. Happy high. Doing one hour of asanas—a sequence of standing, sitting and balancing poses – have been proven to help raise levels of the brain chemical GABA (short for gamma-aminobutyric acid), low levels of which are linked with depression.
  2. Adios to lower back pain. Posing improves posture and strengthens back muscles to keep aches at bay – great news for those hunched behind a desk all day.
  3. Hitting the hay. There is speculation that a regular yoga practice helps relaxation, making it easier to switch off. Doing three weekly sessions at any time of the day may also help you sleep more soundly.
  4. Tone it up. Yoga uses your body weight to move from posture to posture, and that builds strength. Muscle-building asanas like Crow, Crescent, Warrior III and plank ensure you give the dumbbell-lifting gym crowd a run for their money.
  5. Namaste the stress away. Yoga has been shown to release less cytokine (a tension-triggered type of protein) that can result in fatigue and moodiness. With its quiet, precise movements, yoga draws your focus towards serenity as you move your body through poses that require balance and concentration.
  6. Healthy you. Yoga helps with a variety of health conditions, such as depression, pain, anxiety, insomnia and fatigue. It has also been known to reduce heart disease and high blood pressure.

If you find yourself dangerously close to falling off the ‘get healthy’ New Year’s Resolution bandwagon, nip out to a park or quiet space for a quick spot of yoga and meditation. Who knew slowing down could speed up the path to rejuvenation?


Source: The Expat February 2013

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