Meditation and mindfulness exercises
When we’re looking to level up our sports skills or striving to beat our last race times, there are physical training exercises to increase stamina and improve our strength and speed. Practicing them regularly will make us better at our sports, our pastimes — and at enjoying life. Similarly, there are many benefits to adding meditation and mindfulness exercises into our daily or weekly routine.
Meditation is, after all, simply an exercise to cultivate mindfulness. The more time we spend sitting with the mind, the more at ease we feel within ourselves. And, as we do weightlifting exercises to develop our biceps or quads, there are meditation exercises we can do throughout the day to strengthen our “mindfulness muscle.” The more awareness we can bring to our day, the greater calm, clarity, and contentment we’ll feel. For beginners or anyone fairly new to meditating, guided mindfulness exercises are a good option as they provide instruction, encouragement, and support.Try for free
Many studies have proven that meditation has numerous physiological benefits, including a study done at Harvard University.
In the 8-week study, researchers determined that a simple practice like meditation could rebuild the grey matter of the brain in as little as eight weeks.
The brain’s gray matter is responsible for the primary thinking, perceiving, and cognitive functions of the brain, helping us process information.
Meditation can do much more than boosting the brain, and it may even help you reduce your blood pressure, fight anxiety, and help you fight pain.
In this article, we will look at some of the many activities and exercises you can do so you can take advantage of this wonderful state of mind.
What are Meditation Exercises and Activities?
There are many types of meditation practices and activities you can do on your own. There are also activities you can do as part of a group.
A meditation exercise can be as simple as doing some deep breathing, or as complex as repeating a mantra or doing Transcendental meditation. Any activity that helps to quiet the mind could be considered a meditative activity, even sitting outside and quietly watching the world go by.
There are many types of meditations, including but not limited to:
- Deep breathing exercises
- Relaxation exercises
- Guided Imagery and Visualization
- Focused Attention Meditation
- Loving-kindness Meditation
- Progressive Relaxation Meditation
- Body Scan Meditation
- Mindfulness Meditation
- Awareness of the Breath Meditation
- Transcendental Meditation
- Zen Meditation
- Yoga Meditation
3 Meditation Breathing Exercises
There are many types of breathing exercises. Dr. Andrew Weil, an Integrative Medicine pioneer and professor of Medicine and Public Health, recommends three kinds of breathing exercises:
- The Stimulating Breath or Bellow Breath.
- Relaxing Breathing Exercise (4-7-8 Breathing).
- Counting the Breath.
According to Dr. Weil, practicing regular mindful breathing can help you feel calm and energized, and it may even help you manage stress-related health problems.
Breathing is something we can regulate and control, and it is an excellent tool for helping to clear the mind and achieve a state of relaxation.
These simple breathing techniques can help you relax and help you reduce stress.
1. The Stimulating Breath (Bellows Breath)
The stimulating breath or bellows breath is a great way to boost your energy. This type of breathing practice is often done in yoga to help increase Prana, or life force energy.
The stimulating breath can help you increase your energy and help you be more alert. The bellows breath is a safe practice, but it could make you dizzy initially until your body gets used to the increased energy.
Strive for no more than 15 seconds or so on your first try, working up to a minute. Each time you practice this breath, you can increase your time little by little.
- Sit up tall with your back straight and relax your shoulders.
- Begin inhaling and exhaling rapidly through your nose. Keep your mouth closed but relaxed. The in and out breaths should be equal in duration, but as short and quick as possible. The bellows breath is a noisy breathing exercise.
- Try for three complete breath cycles per second. As you breathe, you will notice a quick movement of the diaphragm, like a bellows.
This technique should leave you feeling invigorated and alert.
2. Relaxing Breathing (4-7-8) Exercise
The 4-7-8 breathing exercise is a straightforward technique, as well. It involves breathing in while counting to four, holding the breath to the count of seven, and exhaling to the count of eight.
This technique is a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system. However, you should not do more than four breaths at one time initially because it may leave you feeling lightheaded.
- Sit with a straight back and relax your shoulders.
- Place your tongue tip against the tissue behind your upper front teeth and try and keep your tongue in place as you breathe.
- Inhale through your nose to a count of four.
- Hold your breath for seven seconds.
- Exhale through your mouth for approximately eight seconds.
This is considered one cycle of breath. You may repeat this three or four more times.
The most important thing about this exercise is the 4-7-8 ratio. If you have trouble holding your breath for seven seconds, you can speed the practice up.
Once you learn this technique, you can use it to combat stress when you feel it coming on.
6 Mindfulness Exercises You Can Try Today
This exercise can be done standing up or sitting down, and pretty much anywhere at any time. If you can sit down in the meditation (lotus) position, that’s great, if not, no worries.
Either way, all you have to do is be still and focus on your breath for just one minute.
- Start by breathing in and out slowly. One breath cycle should last for approximately 6 seconds.
- Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth, letting your breath flow effortlessly in and out of your body.
- Let go of your thoughts. Let go of things you have to do later today or pending projects that need your attention. Simply let thoughts rise and fall of their own accord and be at one with your breath.
- Purposefully watch your breath, focusing your sense of awareness on its pathway as it enters your body and fills you with life.
- Then watch with your awareness as it works work its way up and out of your mouth and its energy dissipates into the world.
If you are someone who thought they’d never be able to meditate, guess what? You are half way there already!
If you enjoyed one minute of this mind-calming exercise, why not try two or three?