At the recent IDEA World Fitness Convention, I had the privilege of attending a session “Heavily Meditated and Highly Motivated” with long time fitness pro and award winning presenter, Petra Kolber. Petra offered compelling reasons to start meditating. Even if you are like me – energetic, wiggly, and on the move, mentally and physically — you can reap the benefits of meditation.When your mind is full, try being mindful #activeaging #meditation Click To Tweet
Join me in a brief summary of highlights and quotes from Petra’s presentation. You may be inspired to start with just 3 minutes a day to gain happiness, reduce stress, and create more loving kindness in your life. (Great phone apps to begin with are listed in our post, Live Better with Meditation, Menopause, and Memory).
At its simplest, most accessible level, meditation is about paying attention to your breath. As Petra proffered, “the longest distance we’ll ever travel is from our head to our heart.” And “breathing” she says, “is the best, fastest way to connect the brain and body.” For a methodology on mindful breathing, try our suggestions in Breathe Life Into Yourself.Mindful breathing is the best, fastest way to connect the brain and body #activeaging #meditation Click To Tweet
People crave two things, according to Petra:
1) to be seen and heard
2) to connect. (She may be onto something. I know I often tell my husband to “please just listen. You don’t have to DO anything else. You can even pretend to listen and I’ll feel loved.”)
Two of the benefits of meditation include connecting more compassionately to others AND to yourself. Mindfulness, which is another definition for meditation is about making friends with our body, mind, and self. “Mindfulness is also about human beings, not human doings,” Petra reminds us. Being in the present is key to meditating. Being mindful puts the attention on the senses – how does our breath feel? Sound? The senses can happen only in the present moment. Therefore any time spent focusing on the senses will bring us to a meditative moment.
When under stress, we can shift from the Fight or Flight syndrome to “Tend and Befriend” just by paying attention to our breathing and calming it. When your mind is full, try being mindful. (Saaay, that’s a quote I made up just now!) Whether sitting calmly with eyes closed or walking at a comfortable pace (need I say, eyes open), put attention to your breathing. Feel your breath enter and exit your body. Note the rhythm and temperature of your breath. Create space within yourself as you inhale. Scan your body with each in- and exhalation. Send your exhalations into places of stress and tension to release.
We may not be meditating experts. But we are all professional, lifelong breathers. Therefore even without attending Petra’s session, we can reap the benefits of loving kindness meditation when we use our breath to become more present. And loving. And kind. Except towards that one guy who really acted jerky and ….. Inhale Exhale Inhale Exhale.
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Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Kymberly: Those who know what a high energy,
chatty, loquacious, interactive mover and groover I am will be surprised to hear the answer coming from me. (Or not, as you already saw this post’s title. Menopause might make us forgetful, but not stoopid.)
Anyone else find menopause a little stressful? In the award winning category of “Stating the Obvious,” menopause stress can contribute to memory loss and weight gain. As in, “I sure don’t remember gaining those 30 pounds.”
Anyway… turns out Meditation can turn back the hands of time and pounds. Additionally meditation has even been proven to make us nicer, kinder, more compassionate people. (Hear that hubster? I’m not menopot moody. I’m meditation deprived). If you want to breathe more life into yourself, read our post on meditation lite). Also check out my Tip #3 in our post “10 Ways to Get Healthier in Under 10 Minutes.”
Just a few daily minutes of meditation can calm us, reduce stress, and slow our heart rate. Sounds a lot like the benefits of exercise, right? But without moving! Meditation may also reverse the effects of aging on the brain. It thickens the prefrontal cortex, the area of brain that helps with planning and attention. For people with memory loss, meditation helps increase memory via more blood flow to brain. But wait, there’s more! Meditation also decreases our body’s stress hormones, heals our wounds faster, and lowers our blood pressure.Meditation may reverse the effects of aging on the brain Click To Tweet
Factor in recent studies that show meditation increases telomere length, and you have your longevity, happier life bonus plan! In the DNA world, telomeres are the little plastic pieces on the end of our chromosome shoelaces. The longer your telomeres, the longer your life span. Short telomeres accelerate aging and correlate to a shorter life. People who meditate daily for at least four years have longer telomeres than those who do not meditate. For ten added quality years of life, be the first to enter the word in the comments for that plastic shoelace piece without having to google it. Hint: It starts with an “a.”
I’ll take an order to go please of a young, long-living brain garnished with my years of experience. Since I have big plans to be around four years from now, I might as well get on that telomere lengthening program.
On when of my guest teaching trips to Rancho la Puerta Fitness Resort, I decided to attend three meditation classes. Loved them! Not only did I stay still and quiet for record time (ok, half an hour for each), but also I have stuck with meditation since coming home. More on that later in this post. Remember to keep reading!
The sessions were totally different from each other: one was a guided visualization that the instructor talked us through from start to finish. Another was a silent meditation with the instructor giving directions and suggestions at the start, then setting a timer that lulled us back at the end. The third had verbal guidance that segued into soft music and nature sounds. All three meditations left me revved, calmed, and focused enough to learn more. One thing the Ranch teachers stressed — perhaps better to say “emphasized” — is that meditation comes in many forms and styles. Pick one or a few approaches that resonate with you, as there is no right or wrong way. We reap the active aging benefits regardless, in as short as seven hours in some cases.
Since I am a meditation novice I asked one teacher whether having phone apps would help. Cha Ching – Ohmmm! That got a resounding thumbs up, heart rates down as a good idea! As soon as I crossed the border back into the U.S. (also known as “covered rate plan for my cell phone”), I downloaded “Relax and Rest,” “Take a Break,” “Calm,” and “Meditate Now.” All are free. So far my favorite is “Calm” as it offers verbal guidance and a 7 day progressive program. My mind wanders less when I have a voice calling me back from my mental to-do lists, thoughts of the past and future, and sleep’s siren call. Try them if you have a smart phone and are wanting to reap meditation benefits. Heck, you may end up with a youthful, sleek, brainy phone once you download these apps!
I am on Day 6 of meditation, with some sessions lasting 5 minutes, others hitting an ambitious 13! So far I have noticed a bit more ability to focus and my creativity has been on the upswing. I thought of this post title after meditating, for one thing! Now to be nice to my sister. Might need those four years of meditative practice first. snarfle snark
Alexandra: I was going to meditate, but I forgot. Maybe next time.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
HURRY! Just one more week to get our FREE booklet, 34 Guilt Free Strategies to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain. Subscribe to our blog now.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Incorporate the following 3 “activities” into your life to enter 2015 with less — less weight, less stress, less mental clutter. Each supports and interacts with the others.
Use meditation to better understand your relationship to food, exercise, and stress. For example, meditation can assist weight loss efforts by reducing emotional eating, binge eating — basically any kind of eating that is not mindful. Meditators generally have higher consciousness of their thoughts and actions. They therefore make better decisions regarding health choices.
Guided Meditation Apps
If you are eager to get started with meditation, try the free meditation apps listed in our post: Meditation, Menopause, and Memory.
2. Sleep Sufficiently
Several studies link lack of enough sleep with obesity. For one, if you are getting only 5 or 6 hours of sleep each night, instead of the recommended 7 to 9 you are awake more hours slugging down extra snicky snacks.
For another, sleep deprived brains tend to make poor decisions. “Yes, I neeeed that high calorie, sugary late night treat. I deserve it. The calories disappear after midnight just like Cinderella’s coach and horses.” Uh huh. Let me also ask — do you feel like working out when you are tired?
Too little sleep also affects the hormones that regulate appetite and fat storage. The little gremlin, ghrelin whispers a naughty message more to the sleep deprived — “you are hungry. Eat, my pretty, eat.” Simultaneously, leptin the lambkin that usually cues you to back away from the fork, goes to sleep on the undernapped.
Still awake? Then read our post on how insufficient sleep causes weight gain.
3. Breathe “Actively and Energetically”
Breathe Your Way to Less: Less Food, Less Weight, Less Stress
Active breathing simply means paying attention to your in- and exhalations. No judgment, no expectations. Just be aware of your breaths. Energetic breathing is short and fast. Inhalations are forceful and through the nose. Expand your belly as you inhale. Exhale with equal force, contracting your belly.
Use energetic breaths as a natural, zero calorie picker upper instead of food, caffeine, or other quick fixes to gain energy. Breathing energetically stimulates your central nervous system the way exercise does — first by elevating, then calming you.
With both kinds of breaths, you are building self-awareness and interrupting unconscious patterns that may not be serving you. Become a better breather by inhaling the info in our post, Breathe Life Into Yourself.
True — meditating, sleeping more, and breathing with intent alone will not directly cause calories to burn faster than holiday buns baked too long and hot. However, combined with everything else you are doing to keep weight at bay, these 3 tools can be part of your powerful arsenal as you wrap up the holiday season, the year .. and maybe a few gifts too.
Give a gift to yourself. Join us at the Tenaya Wellness Spa Retreat coming up faster than energetic breaths. Jan 16-19 in Yosemite. Click to see the sessions, treatments, meals, and more that you will get as their guest. BONUS – we’ll meet each other as we are presenting workouts and wellness sessions. Wonder whether you are doing common exercises correctly … or um, well, stoopidly? Eager to take a cutting edge ABC: Abs, Butt, Core workout? You get it all at the Tenaya wellness weekend.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Maybe leaping and frolicking are not on your “to do, ta dum!” list, However, do pay attention to your breath, as you will reap a ton of benefits from “active breathing.” Soooo easy, we baby boomers can do it in our sleep. Oh, and you will sleep better too, once you breathe more actively. (A biggie for those “enjoying” menopause!)
Active breathing simply means paying attention to your in- and exhalations. Notice your breathing patterns when you are sitting still, focusing on an activity, or moving rhythmically. (An example of moving rhythmically is syncing your breath with every 4th or so leg stride when walking. Inhale, walk walk walk walk; Exhale walk walk walk walk. Call this a “breathwalk”). The attention alone to your breath will elicit the relaxation response. Think of this attention as “meditation lite” — and you have to spell it that way to really get the lite effect.
While I totally value and accept the benefits of meditation, the reality is that less than 10% of US adults meditate. But I am pretty sure that 100% of us breathe. Hmm, I need to fact check my sources on this stat. What with the zombie apocalypse and all, one can never be too sure.
Let’s do a quick flow chart: breathing actively induces the relaxation response. Becoming calmer minimizes inflammation that is stress-induced. So QUIT STRESSING OUT, I TELL YOU!! Reducing inflammation decreases your odds of cardiovascular disease and improves your health overall. Lowering stress levels helps trigger your immune cell genes. Did you just sigh with relief or gasp with excitement? Way to breathe!
Another benefit: Active breathing may aid you almost as much as meditation when it comes to reducing depression and pain. If you saw my post on the high incidence of chronic pain and trends in the fitness world, you’ll know that pain reduction is on a lot of people’s minds… and bodies. If you did not see this post, click the link and get on over there! Worth it, I tell you!
So breathe for your betterment. Free, convenient, portable, available in shallow, middling, and deep sizes. And oh so healthy!
Does your event need education, motivation, and fit-elation? Call us and breathe heavily on the phone when you book us to speak: (805) 403-4338 or email email@example.com.
Comfortably move your way to our YouTube channel for short videos that will improve your active aging adventure! Have you subscribed yet to our blog? Please follow us on google+Alexandra and +Kymberly, on Twitter: AlexandraFunFit and KymberlyFunFit and Instagram: KymberlyFunFit and AlexandraFunFit.