When many people think of meditation, they think of some bald guy sitting in a candle-lit temple with his legs crossed in a way that no average mortal could ever twist or bend (and possibly hovering while doing all of the above). Well, the truth is, there are many forms of meditation — all the way from the flying zen master technique above to a much simpler and more practical way to release stress without worrying about floating away.
The key to meditation is simply slowing your heart rate and allowing your mind to focus on your breathing and nothing else. Here is a simple meditation method you can practice anywhere at anytime throughout your day. Try using this at least once a day while sitting at your desk or while in bed before sleeping and/or after waking.
5 Simple and Effective Steps to Relax Your Body and Calm Your Nerves
1. Close your eyes, and sit up straight in your chair (office) or lie flat on your back (bed)
2. Place one or both hands on your stomach right above your belly button
3. Breath in through your nose slowly and deeply so you can feel your stomach rising with your hand
4. Hold for a split second, then slowly exhale through your nose and feel your stomach go back down
5. Repeat for about 3-5 minutes or as much time as you can spare
The reason for putting your hand on your stomach is to ensure that you are breathing deeply. As babies, we were all much more efficient breathers, because we started out breathing deeply through our diaphragms. If you ever see a baby sleeping, watch their stomach, and you will see it rise and fall as they inhale and exhale. Somewhere along the way, many of us develop the bad habit of taking more shallow breaths that only fill our lungs and don’t reach deep down to our diaphragms. By focusing on your breathing and stomach during this exercise, you will ensure that you are taking deep, full breaths that you can feel throughout your entire body.
Also, while breathing through your nose, it helps if you count on each inhale and exhale. This helps you focus entirely on your breathing, keeping your racing mind and wandering thoughts at bay for a few minutes. Personally, I do a 7 second count on the inhale, then a two second pause, and a 14 second count on the exhale. That’s 23 seconds for one breath, which comes out to only about 3 per minute. The reason my exhale is twice as long as my inhale is to make sure I let out as much oxygen as possible to make room for the new oxygen coming in on the next inhale. You want to feel like you are squeezing the last few drops out of a sponge on the exhale, but don’t use too much force.
You may start out with smaller or larger second counts depending on your current breathing habits. Just make sure your exhale is slightly longer than your inhale, and you can experiment with different techniques that you feel work best for your body. If you stop and take a few minutes to incorporate this exercise into your daily routine, you will feel a big difference right away. Your mind will be clearer, your body will be more efficient and alert, and you will have more patience with your demanding boss who’s asking, “Why are you sitting at your desk with your eyes closed?!”.