Hi! It’s me! Sorry, I know… long time not heard from! The last three months have seemed to fly by and unfortunately, I let everything get in the way and didn’t take the time to write a blog. Do you ever feel like you are on a treadmill of sorts? Kind of like a revolving door of constant meetings, working more than one job to make ends meet, running the kids here and there, keeping the house running, etc., etc., etc.? Me too sometimes!
That is why it is important for all of us to take the time to unwind and renew. For most of us that means taking a well-deserved vacation. I would LOVE to be in my camper in the wilderness away from everyone and technology every day! But alas, what if you do not have the time or money for that dream escape?
A healthy body is one that encompasses the mind as well as body and spirit. We can all join a gym, get a trainer, nutritionist, massage therapist, whatever is necessary to keep the body in a healthy state physiologically. But all of these modalities can cost extreme amounts of money to accomplish or goals! There are ways to gain bodily health without a lot of funding!
I would like to focus today’s blog on how the mind can help you achieve physical health. I am not about to tell you or guide you to your spiritual health, but we all have resources available to us if that is something that you feel you need. I am also not going to try to persuade you that I am some type of psychology professional! If you need suggestions or resources in a spiritual or psychological way, please do not hesitate to contact me and I can lead you to professionals that may help you in this matter. And I am a professional body worker, so I can definitely help with that, but today is different…
I want to talk to you about the benefits of mindfulness and/or meditation and how it can help you achieve your goals of relaxation and therefore, physiological health.
*Side bar…. If you have an ache or malady that suggests medical attention, PLEASE SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION, I am pretty sure you can’t meditate a heart attack away! (Although, that would be pretty nifty.)
The mindfulness and meditative states that I am talking about can be accomplished in as little as 5 minutes or can last up to an hour. It is perfectly fine for you to decide how much time you think you can give up in a day! I can almost guarantee that after a month of setting time away for daily meditation you will see it as a ‘want to’ as opposed to a ‘have to’ situation! After all, think of how much time you spend on the computer each day looking up so called stupid things on the video blogging channel or that friend liking website or even what strange thing was said on the day telling app?!
So how do you get started? Simple, find a quiet dark space, preferably that you can lay down on the ground with arms and legs spread out. I always tell people that this type of meditation should probably be done at the end of the day. A person would benefit the most from mediation right before you dose off to sleep. So maybe the quiet dark space can be your bed? The meditation technique I am going to tell you about was taught to me very many years ago and it still works for me to this day!
Lay on your back with arms and legs spread out so as to not touch the rest of your body and palms in a supine or sky facing position.
- Start by tensing up the muscles in your feet and lower legs (careful not to contract too much and get a muscle cramp; they are the worst!) pumping your feet toward your head then pointing as far away from you as possible.
- Next contract your thighs, the tops of your legs first, like you are going to kick someone in front of you then contracting the backs of your legs and glutes like you are pushing them into the floor. You are not actually doing any of these actions, just contracting like you are but not actually moving them. The rate of all these contraction and relaxation cadences should be the same amount of time it takes you to take a deep breath in on one contraction and out as you relax to start the next contraction (ideally breath in for 30 seconds and then out for 30 seconds).
- We move up to the abdomen and low back next. These muscle contractions should feel like you are about to start a sit-up, for the abdomen, then contracting your back like you are about to drive your spine deep into the ground. Again, remember slow breathing.
- The neck is next. Contract your muscles like you are going to lift your head up and push backward, then like you are going to touch your ear to your shoulder (each side!).
- Let us now move up to the face, move your lips together as if you have no lips (like you are pursing them) as you breathe in, next you exhale forcefully, relaxing your mouth and making your lips big and filled with air as you blow out.
- Eyes and temples will work together in the next movement. Squint and close your eyes as tightly as possible then relax them and pull your eyebrows up as far as possible.
Ideally you would repeat each contraction/relaxation one to five times (depend on how much time you have set aside). Your eyes should also be closed during this whole time. Taking away the sense of sight will heighten the sense of touch; this aides in the relaxation and mindful meditation.
The next wonderful technique I take (if I have the time) is to do some guided visualization! I stay in this same palm up legs and arms out position and visualize that I am looking down upon myself just as I am but surrounded by blackness, so I can only see my body. I imagine that a huge eraser is slowly erasing my body starting with the feet then eventually up the body to my head. You should have a sense of ‘no feeling’ in these body parts as it disappears from the visual you have imagined of yourself. If you do start to feel a body part, then imagine that it reappears on your body image and erase it again.
Eventually, you should feel as if you are floating. At this state your body is in such as relaxed state that you may even get that whole-body twitch; this is perfectly normal! Would you believe that is actually how your brain makes your body relax? It will send a message to your body to contract very quickly and that is where the jump comes from. It is also where our feeling of falling when sleeping comes from and the sudden twitch that usually wakes you up before you hit the ground. Weird how the mind works huh?!
So, what do you do if you don’t have time to do this or if you fall asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow? (This is a sign of sleep deprivation, by the way, and you should see someone about that!) There are other simple meditation techniques you can do throughout the day. Find a quiet place, maybe a closet at work (also a great way to freak people out and make them wonder what the heck your doing), tighten all your muscles up as you take a deep breath in then relax as you exhale. This closet relaxation also happens to be a great way to keep away from lawsuits because you finally couldn’t take it and hit a coworker, or possible child abuse (I’m kidding, I know you would never hit your child). Sorry, got off topic there! Again, find a closet or quiet space so you can concentrate on relaxing your muscles and breathing techniques and emerge Superman/Woman; ready to take on more stress!!!!
***full disclosure! I have NOT been certified in any sort of professional meditation techniques or guided visualization! I am only schooled in massage and exercise sciences. I am simply passing along my working experiential knowledge on the subject. It works for me! When my anxiety levels or stressed out feeling get to be too much, this is what I do! Well, that and camping, being alone in the woods with my camper, a fire, deer and the squirrels makes me happy!
I hope this blog helped to get you thinking about free alternatives to achieving optimal physical health. I have been told that I am also pretty good at relieving stress (if the free alternative isn’t working)! Give me a call, I’d be glad to help!!!
Oh, and if you want to read about factual biological findings in regard to meditation? A patient (well, you know you are all like friends to me) emailed me this website after I was talking to him about this blog I was thinking of writing. It is a pretty cool website for us biology geeks!!! Check it out: