How Yoga and Meditation Can Help You Relax
Don’t let your fitness plan be part of what’s stressing you out! Instead, focus on calming techniques and a gentle yoga stretch.
Life is stressful, and stress can cause both weight gain and anxiety. If you need some tips on how to calm your mind and temporarily escape the chaos that life often brings, then my meditation tips and gentle yoga routine will be perfect for you!
Many people consume foods that are high in sugars, fats and salt to help them feel good during times of stress. Junk foods stimulate the pleasure center in the brain, especially during times of stress. I can personally confess to reaching for the cookie jar during several chaotic moments when my triplets were babies. Imagine three babies learning to walk at the same time! In fact, just thinking about it makes my blood pressure rise and that was six years ago. I discovered that exercise made me feel good and provided me with a longer lasting calming effect, compared with the temporary satisfaction I received from my cookie escape.
The harsh reality is that the feel-good factor we get from consuming these sugary and fatty treats is short lived. In addition, consuming these foods can lead to poor overall health and weight gain. Finding other ways to manage stress is very important. During times of stress, I turn to yoga and meditation to help me relax.
It’s not always practical to jump into an exercise routine in moments of stress. Exercising your mind is just as important as exercising your body. Today, I want to share with you a great way to regain your focus, calm your mind and at the same time avoid the pitfalls that come with reaching for the cookie jar in times of stress. Yoga and meditation are not new concepts. Rather, they are ancient practices that are associated with some wonderful health benefits.
Gentle Yoga Stretch
Sometimes after a long day, I like to unwind with a gentle yoga routine. This is also a great way to start the day—it clears your mind and sets a positive tone for the day with a few simple yoga moves. Take a look at my gentle yoga routine in the video below, and then follow it with some meditation to help calm your mind.
In my opinion meditation is simply a term for spending some time disconnecting from the chaos of life, and attempting to quiet your mind and be in a calm state of awareness. A recent conversation that I had with a friend made me realize that meditation is often misunderstood. These common misunderstandings get in the way and stop people from giving it a try. He told me, “I’ve tried meditation in the past because my job is so highly stressful with incredibly long hours, but I quit meditating because I thought I was a terrible meditator. I could never totally clear my mind, so I would get frustrated and quit. But now I understand that having thoughts is simply a part of the process.” What he said is exactly how I used to feel about trying to meditate!
As with all things relating to health and fitness, there are many schools of thought and many methods. Today I will share with you my practical tips for calming your mind and reflecting on your day with simple and practical meditation advice.
Simple meditation do’s and don’ts
Don’t think that you need a completely silent and secluded place to practice. In the real world and especially in a home with kids or at the office, finding complete silence is almost an impossible task.
Do try to remove yourself from all major distractions such as phones, computer screens and incredibly loud spaces. Simply turn your office chair away from the screen. If you’re at home, close your bedroom door.
Don’t convince yourself that you need any special equipment such as a yoga mat, bells, or blankets, because I want you to understand you can meditate anywhere. The less stuff you rely on, the easier it will be to take a quick moment to practice.
Do try to sit or lie down in a comfortable place where you feel relaxed. You can keep your eyes open or close them, just do what feels right for you.
Don’t force yourself to start breathing with a specific style, like belly breathing or nose breathing. It can initially put you off or even make you feel light-headed. You can work on breathing technique once you start to feel comfortable with meditation.
Do focus on your breath. Feel the air coming in and leaving your body. Simply be aware of your breath and how it feels.
Don’t start thinking negative thoughts when your grocery list or to-do list starts to creep into your mind.
Do redirect your focus away from your grocery list and back to your breathing.
Don’t have a long list of affirmations or goals that you think about or chant out loud.
Do have one or two key words that help you to relax or guide you towards positive sense of well-being.
Enjoy your escape from a chaotic lifestyle.
Aim to find 20 minutes of quiet time for yourself once or twice a day. Remember that meditation is considered a practice, just like yoga. So yes, that means it may actually take practice to feel the full calming effects.
If sitting still is not for you, you can meditate in motion while walking or running.
My Sunday run is what I call my ‘mommy escape.’ I relax and clear my mind by focusing on my breathing, and if I have trouble relaxing I simply rhythmically count my strides 1-2, 1-2. I then focus on my breathing and do some yoga stretches. Before I know it, one beautiful hour of calm has passed me by and I am ready to go full steam ahead with keeping my kids safe while they play. They may have mastered the art of walking, but now it’s all about climbing trees and riding skateboards! It helps me to take my 20 minutes every day for my sanity.
I hope my relaxation techniques help you find a balance between staying fit and calm.
Written by Samantha Clayton. AFAA, ISSA – Senior Director, Worldwide Fitness Education at Herbalife.