Want to avoid getting sick this winter? The answer might lie in meditation. Researchers have found that people with an active meditation practice have been found to have higher amounts of antibodies in their bodies, leading to improved immune response and giving them the edge when it comes to fighting off seasonal colds and flu. Along with ramping up the immune system, meditation has been found to balance mood, lose weight, increase the ability to handle pain, and even protect the brain against ageing. Here is a quick introduction to different kinds of meditation:
Zen Meditation: Also known as Zazen, or sitting meditation, is perhaps the most well known of all meditations and is practiced by Zen monks. It involves sitting in a cross–legged position with the hands in a mudra, or prayer gesture and a very straight spine. You breathe deeply from the belly and focus on the the breathing. When thoughts arise you acknowledge them but don’t fixate on them. Let them go and return to the breath. If you wander off into your thoughts come back to the breath. Sometimes it is helpful to have a mantra or special word to repeat or count numbers to keep from thinking. This is one of the simplest kinds of meditation and can be done anywhere.
Walking Meditation: Easier for many people than sitting meditation, walking meditation is just as simple and has the added benefit of exercise. It can be done outdoors or inside. It can involve walking in a pattern–a square or circle, walking a labrynth shape (which is found in many churches and meditation centers), or just free walking outside. It involves keeping the eyes open, focusing on the breath and the body, feeling the ground beneath your feet, and releasing thoughts instead of grabbing them.
Kundalini Yoga: Kundalini Yoga is a physical and meditative discipline, comprising a set of techniques that use the mind, senses and body to create a communication between “mind” and “body”. Kundalini yoga focuses on psycho-spiritual growth and the body’s potential for maturation, giving special consideration to the role of the spine and the endocrine system.Â It consists of kriyas, which are sets of exercises that help to balance the body and the mind, and different meditations that involve music, mantras, mudras, and visualization. These meditations range from ‘Meditation for Prosperity’ to ‘Meditations for Peace’. They can last anywhere from between 5 minutes to several hours and some have even been adopted by psychotherapists, after rigorous clinical trials, into the treatments of obsessive-compulsive disorder and chemical addictions. Here is a list of popular kriyas and meditations, though finding kundalini classes in your community is highly recommended.
Although these are tried and true ways of engaging in a healthy meditation program, don’t overlook other forms of meditation–running, singing, dancing, driving, even chopping vegetables–almost anything can be turned into a meditation practice if it involves attention, mindfullness, and paying attention to the breath and to disengaging our selves from our thoughts.