learn to meditate

You’ve heard that meditation can benefit your health and wellbeing, so you’ve decided to give it a try. But you’re not sure where to begin … how do you “quiet the mind?”

The key to developing a successful meditation practice is finding the right fit for you. In order to figure out what kind of meditation works best for you, you’ll have to put a few types of meditation to the test and try several tools so you can choose the practice that feels the most comfortable. Follow these six simple steps to begin one type of meditation technique called mantra meditation.

Mantra Meditation Technique
1. Choose your mantra. A mantra is a word or phrase that you silently repeat to yourself during meditation. The purpose of the mantra is to give you something to put your attention on other than your thoughts. You may use any phrase you like. Some people like to use words like “Peace” or “Love”. You may wish to use the So Hum mantra. This is a commonly used Sanskrit mantra, which literally translates to “I am.” It is often referred to as the mantra of manifestation. I like using the So Hum mantra because it is not in my native English language and does not trigger any additional thoughts.

2. Find a comfortable place to sit
It’s best to find a quiet location where you won’t be disturbed. There is no need to sit cross-legged on the floor unless that is comfortable for you. You can sit on a chair or sofa or on the floor with your back against a wall. You may support yourself with cushions, pillows, or blankets. The goal is to sit as upright as possible while still remaining comfortable. We all have different anatomies and you want your meditation experience to be enjoyable, so make your comfort a priority. Lying on your back is usually not recommended because most people fall asleep in this position, but you can try it if sitting is uncomfortable for you. The most important rule is that meditation can be practiced anywhere, as long as you’re comfortable.

3. Gently close your eyes and begin by taking some deep breaths
Try taking a few “cleansing breaths” by inhaling slowly through your nose and then exhaling out your mouth. After a few cleansing breaths, continue to breathe at a normal relaxed pace through your nose with your lips gently closed.

4. Begin repeating your mantra silently to yourself without moving your tongue or lips.
The repetition of your mantra is soft, gentle, and relaxed. There is no need to force it. The mantra does not need to correlate with the breath, though some people prefer to do so. For example, if using So Hum as your mantra, you could silently repeat So on your inhalation and Hum on your exhalation. If you choose to correlate your mantra with your breath, do not become overly fixated on this. As your meditation continues, allow the breath to fall away into its own rhythm. The repetition of your mantra should be almost effortless. Sometimes it is helpful to imagine that rather than repeating the mantra to yourself, you are actually listening to it being whispered in your ear.

5. Do not try and stop your thoughts or empty your mind
As you continue with this process, you will inevitably find that you drift away from the mantra. It is human nature for the mind to wander. Do not try and stop your thoughts or “empty your mind.” Whenever you become aware that your attention has drifted away from your mantra to thoughts or any other distractions, simply return to silently repeating the mantra.

6. Stop repeating the mantra 
After approximately 20 to 30 minutes, you may stop repeating your mantra and continue sitting with your eyes closed. Be sure to spend a few minutes relaxing with your eyes closed before resuming activity. You may use a timer with a very gentle, low-volume sound. Many people use their cell phones as meditation timers. You can download a meditation timer app on your smart phone or choose a soothing sound on your phone’s built-in timer. Be sure to turn the volume down very low as you don’t want to be startled out of your meditation.

If you find that 20 to 30 minutes is too long for you, start with whatever amount of time you can, and slowly build your way to 20 to 30 minutes. Even a few minutes of daily meditation is beneficial.

The benefits of meditation are greatest when practiced daily. Ideally, meditation can be done first thing in the morning upon rising and then again at the end of the day, preferably prior to dinner. I like to start my day feeling centered and balanced after my morning meditation. And I often think of my evening meditation as a “release valve,” allowing any stress or tension from my day to simply drift away.


author credit: Wendy Koreyva, The Chopra Centre
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the summer palace

The Summer Palace (Norbulingka) is the home of the exiled Dalai Lama in Lhasa City. While is it his official residence, he has not stepped foot in it since 1959.

On March 10, 1959 His Holiness received an invitation to attend a Chinese dance troupe show with conditions no Tibetan soldiers were to attend and his bodyguards were to be unarmed. The population of Lhasa became anxious and thousands gathered around the Summer Palace determined to thwart any threat to their young leader.

On March 17 the Nechung Oracle gave His Holiness explicit instruction to leave the country. This instruction was further confirmed by His Holiness when a divinity was performed. Even though the odds of a successful escape were terrifyingly high, several minutes before 10pm His Holiness, disguised as a solider, slipped past the massive crowd with a small escort. Meeting up with the rest of the entourage he escaped Lhasa and on March 20 safely reached the Indian border. The Indian government had already agreed to provide asylum to His Holiness and his followers in India. To this day, he remains in exile.

 

photo location: Summer Palace, Lhasa, Tibet
copyright, Kate McKenna. All Rights Reserved.

12 reasons men should do yoga every day

The misconception is that yoga is a lighter form of fitness training, better suited to women, may cause some men to miss out on the health benefits. One reason for this misconception is that yoga has become associated with flexibility rather than strength. However, evidence shows that the mind-body practice can also be very effective in increasing overall strength and building muscle, making it a valuable part of any man’s fitness routine.

If yoga is not part of your exercise routine, consider this:

1. Yoga builds muscles evenly
Men tend to work at building muscles on specific parts of their body, focusing, for example, on biceps, quads, and shoulders, whereas yoga builds muscles evenly over the whole body and increases flexibility. Regular attempts at bodybuilding might ignore some muscle groups while yoga is effective for overall general conditioning.

2. Yoga increases deadlift strength
A 2013 study showed that men who followed 12 weeks of a yoga program exhibited increased deadlift strength as well as substantially increasing lower back/hamstring flexibility and shoulder flexibility.

3. More flexibility means fewer injuries
The controlled moves of yoga offer opportunities to safely and efficiently exercise parts of the body that men don’t normally use and strengthen those parts they do. As a result, muscles learn to cooperate more harmoniously.

4. Improved stamina means better workouts all around
Another recent study found that yoga practice improves respiratory and cardiovascular function, as well as building muscle strength. The combined stamina with improved flexibility provided by yoga leads to potentially better workouts in other physical disciplines, such as running, tennis, and bicycling.

5. Yoga counters the negative effects of other physical activities favored by men
For example, when playing racquetball and golf, the spine tends to consistently turn in one direction. Yoga helps balance this disparity, using postures that keep the spine supple. It also counters the effects of gravity experienced by runners.

6. Yoga promotes weight loss and tones up muscles
In a study by the Journal of Alternative Medicine, overweight men who practiced yoga lost four pounds in 10 days. Yoga lowers levels of cortisol, the stress hormone that prompts your body to collect belly fat. By using natural body weight and resistance, the discipline also helps build lean muscle and creates definition.

7. Yoga can alleviate chronic low-back pain
If you work at a desk job, sitting all day can have a negative effect on your back. Underutilized muscles may be causing the problem. For example, when hip muscles or hamstrings are tight, lower back muscles may try to compensate, leading to pain. Several studies found yoga not only alleviates lower back pain but also helps with fibromyalgia, osteoporosis, and other kinds of chronic pain.

8. Better posture provides a boost of confidence
Yoga can help men look more confident, especially as they age. Better overall muscle tone and increased flexibility help improve posture, and better posture means looking more confident. Yoga includes many twists and bends to keep your spinal disks supple and improve your balance.

9. Yoga reduces stress and anxiety
The mind-body technique uses a combination of physical poses, controlled breathing, and relaxation techniques that has been shown to lower blood pressure and heart rate, both of which help modulate the stress response. It’s been proven that yoga can also help with anxiety and depression.

10. Yoga leads to better sex
Both increased libido and improved sexual performance have been linked to regular yoga practice. In a 2010 study of men ages 24 to 60, yoga was shown to improve all domains of sexual function in men. The breathing techniques and concentration taught in yoga can help men better channel their sexual energy. Better stamina leads to increased sexual endurance.

Flexibility can also improve sex. Combining these benefits with increased awareness of breath and mindfulness not only improves performance and endurance, but the control achieved through yoga can be used to make the experience more intense.

11. Yoga can help men become more mindful of what they eat
According to a 2014 study, a steady yoga practice has been tied to healthier eating habits.

12. People who practice yoga have lower medical bills
People who practice yoga could reduce their need for health care services by 43 percent. That’s almost half as many doctor visits and fewer doctor bills. While this is true for both men and women, men tend to have more cardiovascular problems as they age. More than one in three adult men have cardiovascular disease.

Since yoga improves cardiovascular health, a regular yoga practice can cut down on those doctor visits, not to mention the dangerous results of being in poor cardiovascular health.

What are you waiting for, guys? Get out there and do some yoga.

Author credit: by Patrick Banks, on MindBody Green
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