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Inner Fitness

Meditation

If you're like most people, just the thought of meditation probably stresses you out. When can you sit and think about nothing? The shopping has to get done, the kids need to be picked up and the work deadline has to be met. It's not only impossible—it's an indulgence you can't afford, right?

Consider this: A study at the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta found that participants who meditate for 20 minutes twice a day experienced the same drop in blood pressure as those taking hypertension medication. But the even better news is that just 10 minutes a day can have even the healthiest of us breathing easier.

"In addition to our careers, we have families and a number of outside interests. It's no wonder we become overwhelmed," says Kate Marchesiello, director of Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Lenox, Massachusetts, who's been hired by top corporations to bring calm to the executive mind.

"But you'll find that if you begin to practice meditation even 5 to 10 minutes a day, a lot of that hecticness begins to settle. The body uses oxygen more efficiency, the blood pressure drops and at the end of the day, you have a more calm and still mind," says Marchesiello.

She explains that people who practice meditation are more likely to take a step back during the day. "Practicing formally, maybe just a few minutes in the morning, sets us up for a more successful day. When you start feeling overwhelmed and tense, just centering yourself with a deep breath is a form of meditation."

So in other words, if you can breathe, you can meditate. Here are a few pointers:

Know that mediation is work. As a beginner, your mind is going to wander. "The first 30 seconds or so, you're doing well but then you start going through your to-do list. When that happens, gently bring your mind back to the breath—your anchor," says Marchesiello, who admits that even her mind strays.

Do it anywhere. You can meditate on a train, on a plane, on a bus. You don't have to don a leotard and assume the classic lotus position. Just sit in a comfortable position, with your eyes closed (if possible) and notice the sensation of the air as it comes in through your nose and goes out again.

Make up a mantra. As you breathe in, mentally repeat the word "relax" and as you exhale, hear the words "let go." Marchesiello explains that doing so immediately sends a message throughout the body. "You'll notice a release of tension in the belly, the jaw and the forehead."

Start slowly. Marchesiello recommends that even the most eager beginner only set aside 5 to 10 minutes a day for the first few weeks. "That way you can build on your success. If you say that you are going meditate for 20 to 30 minutes, that's usually too much. Once you do it for a few minutes and enjoy it, you'll notice that you are calmer and you're more apt to increase the time."

Hit snooze on yourself. In the morning donít leap out of bed. Take a few moments to feel the mattress beneath you, stretch, and with your eyes closed, practice feeling your breath.

Take a hike—literally. Go for a walk and notice the grass and the trees; take in the air; feel the rhythm of your stride and breath. Come back to the beauty of nature.

— Cristin Marandino

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