#10) Practice Relaxation with Meditation

Yaakov Levine, NTP

The information provided in this article is intended to give a general overview of the topic and is not intended as medical advice. For information specific to your situation, or health concerns, please consult with your medical doctor.  

Nutritionally Speaking: Article #10, Practice Relaxation with Meditation

 As part of my role as Nutritional Health Coach at Natural Grocers in Eugene, I am often asked for the “magic pill” for various health challenges. While most people are seeking a better overall healthy lifestyle, some are just seeking simpler solutions. Some are seeking that special weight loss formula, so they can be the weight they want without making other changes…folks, that really does not exist. There are no “magic bullets, wonder pills, or magic wands”!

There are some “lifestyle” changes we can make that often do seem magical in their positive effect on our health. One of these is Vipassana or mindfulness meditation. I had a young customer in the store a while ago that expressed a need for a dietary supplement she could take to ameliorate the stress in her life. She complained of regular stomach pains and indigestion and astutely connected her symptoms to her stress level. I asked her if she had ever tried meditation as a “stress reliever”, and she said no, but that she was curious where she could learn how to do this. I invited her to take a seat in our store’s study space and gave her a short mindfulness meditation lesson….very simply to sit and focus on her breath, and just “notice” any fleeting thoughts or sounds but not dwell on them..focusing on her breath. She shared that she felt more relaxed and asked for book suggestions so she could learn more.

Here is a mindfulness or Vipassana mediation practice gleaned from from Jack Kornfield’s book, “The Path With Heart”. This is simple, and gets easier and more beneficial with regular practice. A regular meditation practice is a great way to relax, support healthier levels of blood pressure, and a great way to reduce your time with your electronic “gadgets”. By the way, these modes of self care are referred to as a practice, because we do not always get it perfect, and (it’s not about that anyway) but get more benefit as we repeat the process.

To start, find a posture on a chair or cushion which you can easily sit erect without being rigid. Let your body feel planted firmly on the earth, your hands resting easily, let your heart soften, and keep your eyes closed gently.

At first feel your body and allow the  softening of any tension. Let go of any habitual plans or thoughts, and bring your attention to your breathing. Take a few deep breaths to sense where in your body you can feel your breaths most easily.

You may feel your breaths as coolness or tingling in your nostrils or throat, or as movement in your chest, or as a rise or fall of your belly. Then let your breath be natural, and feel the sensations of your regular breathing. Relax into each breath as you as you feel it, noticing how the sensations of breathing come and go with each breath.

After a few breaths you will notice your mind wandering, when you notice this, just return to noticing the sensation of your breathing. You can acknowledge where your mind was with a word such as thinking, wandering, hearing.

 After gently and silently noticing  where your attention has been, return back to your breathing. As you sit, let your breath change rhythms naturally, allowing them to be short, long , fast, slow , rough and easy.  Calm yourself by relaxing with each breath. When your breath softens, let your attention be gentle and careful, as soft as the breath itself.

This practice is similar to training a puppy, you gently return your focus repeatedly back to your breath, each time naming and noticing the thought or sound…only as such. As you do this listen deeply and you will find your breath helping you connect and quiet your body and your mind. Many regular practitioners of mediation have found that awareness of the breath, can support relaxation and awareness or mindfulness in all they do.

This practice may not be a magic or wonder pill for all that ails us, but it can contribute toward a great sense of calm and wellbeing. This is simple, and gets easier and more beneficial with regular practice. We, including myself spend much to many hours with our electronic devices, and meditation is a way to spend time on self care…no gadgets needed. Do try this at home! (or at the coast, park, forest….).

At Natural Grocers in Eugene, where I am the stores’ Nutritional Health Coach, we offer free classes that include plenty of information about healthy fat choices, and free one-on-one health coaching sessions (541) 345-3300. Please “like” our Natural Grocers-Eugene Facebook page.  Here is the link to our store’s website and (free!) class schedule: https://www.naturalgrocers.com/store-location/eugene/ .We now offer at least three opportunities most weeks to catch a (free) class at the store, Sunday’s at 1pm, Monday’s at 1pm, and Wednesdays @ 6pm. See you then!

Yaakov Levine, NTP