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A Deep Breath

Stop, relax your muscles, and take a deep breath through your nose. That's how you start a simple meditation, and the benefits are many and proven. People who meditate have less anxiety, greater creativity, lower blood pressure, and higher blood oxygen levels - this is what the scientific research shows. But there are less-measurable effects too, such as greater peace of mind, clarity of thought, and self awareness.

You may have a hard time releasing that stress from your muscles, especially those around your face, shoulders and neck. Training your relaxation response can help with this. Tense up all your muscles, one group at a time, and then release that tension consciously. It is usually best to start with your feet and work your way up your body, or vice versa (just make it in some order, so no part is overlooked).

This simple exercise can teach you what it feels like to relax. With practice you'll soon be able to let loose and relax without the need to tense up first. Essentially you train yourself to release tension from your muscles at will.

Let out a deep breath each time you relax those muscles, and your mind will come to associate the relaxation response with your deep exhalation. After a while you'll notice that when you take a deep breath and let it all flow out, your muscles will relax automatically, having been trained in this way.

When you've established this response, you can make it a point to stop several times throughout your day for a deep breath or two. You may find that you think more clearly after doing this, but in any case, you'll probably have less anxiety and fewer physical manifestations of stress, such as headaches, tiredness, and back pain.

If you develop a deeper meditative practice, the peaceful state of mind that goes along with it will also be associated with deep breathing. That can make the occasional deep breath during the day even more meaningful and effective. Soon you may be able to not only relax your body, but also allow your mind to quiet a bit whenever it gets too full of negativity or worried thoughts.

If the usual methods used for meditation are too difficult, a great alternative is to use brainwave entrainment. Available on meditation CDs and MP3 recordings, all you have to do is put on the headphones and listen while you sit. Meditation is easy using these, but you should still learn to consciously relax and breath deeply through your nose, so you can relax your mind and body at will.

With meditation CDs or traditional methods, try to stick with a routine for several weeks at a minimum. For many people mornings work well. Get up fifteen minutes early to meditate if time is an issue. Losing a bit of sleep may not be so bad, since with regular meditation you're likely to sleep better. When you've established a regular routine, you'll likely want to continue. But even if you decide not to, you'll have trained yourself to take a deep breath and relax, something you can use throughout your busy days.

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