Tag Archives: meditation tips

Better Breathing for a Better Life (VIDEO)

Screen Shot 2013-07-05 at 1.33.10 PMWhen you find yourself in a situation where you get stressed, frightened or caught off guard, what’s the best thing to do?

Scream? Sometimes. : )

But seriously, what did mom or grandma or your loved one tell you to do?

Breathe.

Yes, it’s as simple as that.

But time and time again, while walking around the streets of San Francisco (and while being in the car with certain eh hem, friends with road rage) I witness screaming and feel their blood boiling. What good does that do?

I try to make it a practice to breathe deeply every morning.

Here’s how:

I love filling up my lungs and expunging all the air and imagining my lungs deflating like a balloon. I do this almost every morning with a 20-30 minute yoga routine.

I’m an early riser, so I like to take in the stillness of the morning silence with a meditation practice. People may get freaked out and discouraged about “not knowing how to meditate.” The truth is, there isn’t a “right way” to meditate. Simple focus on your breath, deep breath in…deep breath out.

Other times when I’m running and gunning, I just take three quick deep breaths. If you’re over-programmed like me and have a busy schedule, set a reminder on your phone to go off three times a day to remind you to breathe.

Here’s a video I made for you that will help you focus on your breathing. This is what I usually see on my morning run at Aquatic Park in San Francisco. Breathe in when the waves come toward the shore. Breathe all the way out when the waves recede. It’s only a minute long, but the effects are long lasting.

Enjoy!

Feel better?

According to Men’s Journal, here are some stats about how deep breathing can be aaah-so-good for your health:

Relax: Breathing is an “accurate and honest barometer” of a person’s emotional state. Train your breathing to maintain your calm and lower stress levels.

Maximize Potential: The average person uses just 50 to 60 percent of his lung capacity. Breath training expands the lungs, and better oxygen intake means higher athletic performance.

Improve Health: Research suggests that developing proper breathing habits can play a role in treating conditions like asthma, acute bronchitis, ADHD and sleep apnea.

Don’t we all feel better after taking a few deep breaths? The next time you feel your panties or boxer briefs getting in a bunch, smile and relax (those butt cheeks). Namaste!

What other breathing exercises help you get through your day? If you follow our @goinspirego Instagram feed, you’ll notice that I often post pictures of beautiful cityscapes and snapshots of nature. Surprisingly, many people tell me the pictures remind them to slow down, be present and breathe. I’d love to hear/see what inspires you to breathe. Please share in the comments below.

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8 Myths About Meditation

Recently I taught a unit on Eastern philosophy and spirituality to a group of high school seniors none of whom had previously meditated. In order for them to fully understand and appreciate what we were reading and discussing we began a multi-week series of meditation sessions. I have taught meditation practice for many years to all ages and was heartened, even thrilled, by the responses of these eighteen year olds, future leaders of our world.

 
Myth #1: Meditation is not a way to relax
Relaxation is one of the benefits of developing a regular meditation practice. Guided by a skilful teacher, you learn to relax tension in head muscles, particularly the jaw, and neck and shoulder muscles. A correct posture, achieved by imagining a piece of string kept taut and coming from above and moving down the back of the top of the head and spinal column, helps to hold the head and shoulders back allowing for the chest cavity to open, more air to circulate in the lungs, and for the great solar plexus muscle between the lungs and the abdomen to act as a bellows. It is important to sit with a straight back either on the floor or ground or in a chair with your hands loosely resting on your knees. As more oxygen enters the blood stream, every cell is fully energized. Fingers and toes tingle. Breath deepens and slows. You relax.
 
Myth #2: Meditation does not sync the mind and body
One of my students wrote that by focusing on the breath our mind and body synchronize, increasing our blood flow, oxygen intake, and even mental capacity. Meditation is about simplicity. Every person has reasons to be happy, reasons to be thankful, and finding them is as easy as focusing on the one common gift everyone can be thankful for: the breath.
 
Myth #3: Meditation practices do not sharpen the mind
Concentration practices are among the most intense mental exercises you will undertake. As you are able to concentrate more and more and like a laser beam shine a thin intense ray of concentration onto your breath, yoking your mind with the breath, you become more aware of the frantic nature of your roiling thoughts. Do not tense the mind to reject the thoughts, rather practice what one of my meditation teachers called “Teflon” mind; do not let anything stick. Relaxed body and concentrated mind is what we are practicing.
 
Myth #4: Meditation is not a focusing activity
      Another student wrote that our class meditation was deeply relaxing but also a focusing activity. He describes how in deep meditation all perception of space melted away, even the perception of where parts of his body were. By stripping away concentration to the outside world, he was left with only feeling the simplest and most elegant form of existence.
 
Myth #5: Meditation does not heighten awareness of the present moment
      In a deep, relaxed but concentrated state it is easier to accept the idea that all we have to experience is each precious individual moment. We can let go of the past and not worry about the future. We begin to realize that every prior moment was necessary to bring us to this present one, and this chain of continuity can be relied on until the last nana-second that we are breathing.
 
      Myth #6: Meditation does not allow for a sense of inter-connection with the world
      Meditation allows us to have a penetrating connection with the world through the realization that we all exist in the same ocean of breath—we breathe the same air and are interconnected through this simple act. Through just one simple breath you embrace the wholeness of the earth and all of its creatures, becoming part of something greater than just self.
 
Myth #7: Meditation does not encourage a sense of well-being
One student eloquently describes this sense of well-being. He writes, when I end a session on meditation, I can already feel the effect that a mode of deep contemplation and reflection has on me. For one, with my body relaxed and at ease, I am naturally happier; I am more prone to laugh, to smile, and to interact with others. Thus meditation influences others and me.
  
      Myth #8: Meditation does not bring the freeing power of meditative perception
      This student offers a powerful summation of her experience, (possibly all our experiences). It is essential that we realize the power of our perception, because I have learned that ultimately, it is in my power alone to control and make peace with everything I face, because what I choose to believe in can be all that exists.
 
 
An accomplished author, teacher and presenter, Janet Levine is an expert on applying spiritual practices to practical purposes for everyday life such as coping with stress, achieving balance and happiness, and parenting. Some of these ideas are given fictional form in her latest book, “Leela’s Gift.” Learn more about her work at www.janetlevine.com.

 

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