A year ago, I came across an article on a Harvard medical study highlighting the biological benefits of meditation. Of course we all know the positive effects including reduced stress, anxiety, and overall clarity of the mind, but I was surprised to find that meditating can actually alter the brain. The study states, “it’s well-documented that the cortex shrinks as we get older — it’s harder to figure out and remember things. But in this one region of the prefrontal cortex, 50-year-old meditators had the same amount of grey matter as 25-year-olds.” During a second study, researchers found that the amygdala, “the fight or flight part of the brain which is important for anxiety, fear, and stress” is reduced in size. Here are three easy ways I incorporate meditation in my day to day.
- Surya Namaskars. During my stint working as an Anchor/Producer for CNN in India, I hired a private yoga teacher who was incredibly authentic and knowledgeable. He taught me how to do surya namaskars (sun salutations), which are a combination of 12 asanas (postures) including back bends, forward bends, and controlled breathing to help the body in a variety of ways. Surya namaskars can help you lose weight, strengthen your muscles and joints, promote better digestion, combat insomnia, keep anxiety levels at bay, and can even yield glowing, youthful skin. I start my day with 10-20 surya namaskars. Watch this video to learn how to maintain an ideal pace and good form.
- Guided meditations. Guided meditations are great when you feel like shutting off and simply following along. Headspace has an excellent UX and UI and features various meditations based on your mood, duration, and challenges you’d like to overcome. There are other such apps on iOS and Android and tons of YouTube videos out there. Give it a try!
- Breathing exercises. I do a series of my own breathing exercises when I pump. Since I’m free for 20 – 40 minutes, I feel this is a good use of my time. Celebrity physician Dr. Andrew Weil advocates the 4-7-8 rule where you breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7 seconds, and breathe out with a long exhale for 8 seconds. Sigh.
Meditation is exercise for the mind, and just like our physical health, we need our mental state to be in tip-top shape to truly feel healthy and happy.