Practicing meditation regularly has legitimate health advantages, especially for the brain. Studies suggest meditation can do it all: reduce anxiety and sensitivity to pain, make us smarter, ward off sickness, and prevent stress to name just a few . . .
If sitting on a cushion for an hour hurts more than just your rear-end, there are other ways to meditate. With any form of meditation, begin with a short period of time—like five minutes – to try which work best for you:
1. Standing Meditation: Standing to meditate can relieve lower back pain and promote a greater sense of internal stability. Stand in a comfortable, straight posture with the feet pointing straight forward, about shoulder width apart. After settling into the position, do a quick full-body “scan,” releasing tension and bringing awareness to every part of the body.
2. Walking Meditation: Move slowly and continuously while staying aware of the body and mind. Have good posture, take deep breaths, and experience the motions of the body. The walking movement should be continuous, so pick a safe place with space to roam around, like a large park or field. I like to combine this with walking Freddie who doesn’t need a reminder for good posture.
3. Sinking Meditation: Lay on the floor, close your eyes and imagine you are SINKING into the floor. Be aware of what parts of your body sink more easily. One of my favorites to do when I’m in bed and ready to fall sleep.
4. Dance Meditation: Get ready to boogie! If you, at one time or another, have put on some tunes and cut the rug do it with abandon. Let go of your ego, forget how you look and surrender to the rhythm. Some classes encourage yelling, jumping, and even hooting. Not only can this be a great way to release tension but get in touch with your inner exhibitionist.
Meditate anywhere, anytime: while washing dishes, taking a shower, walking down the subway steps…
5. Daily Life Practice Meditation: Bring meditation to a more reasonable pace with daily life practice meditation, which is also called Samu work meditation in the Buddhist Zen tradition. In this style of meditation, practitioners slow down daily activities to half-speed and use the extra time to be mindful and focus on thoughts.
6. Hand Movement Meditation: For many people, the toughest part of meditation is sitting without moving for an extended period of time. It’s hard to resist the urge to scratch (scratching activates areas of the brain that control pain and compulsive behavior). So a good solution is to try hand movement meditation. Focus on moving your hands slowly and mindfully.
7. Gazing Meditation: Try Trataka or fixed-gazing meditation. Focus inward by staring at a fixed object while sitting or standing. Outdoors – fix your gaze on a natural object like a stone, tree, or even the moon. Indoors – try looking at the center of a lit candle or a moving computer screen saver. Trataka can be intense, so start very slowly—stare for just 15 to 20 seconds, with lots of rest time. Then work up to 10 or 15 minutes.
8. Breathing Meditation: Also called yogic breathing or Pranayama, this meditation style is all about controlling the inhales and exhales. Dr. Jeffrey Rubin explains, “Longer exhales tend to be calming, while longer inhales are energizing. For meditative purposes either the ratio of exhale to inhale is even or the exhale is longer than the inhale for a calming effect.” Breathing meditation can be done anywhere, anytime (except underwater).