Meditation and Fitness

IMG_1866What are the tools that come to mind when you think of having the body you’ve always dreamed of?  Clean eating and exercise are the usual suspects, but  rarely does meditation come to mind. It can however be the one thing that unlocks the path to effortless fitness, younger looking skin and feeling  years younger in as little as  12 minutes a day.

To begin, what is the biggest contributor to abdominal fat? Stress. When you’re stressed you produce the stress hormone, cortisol, which tells your body to store more fat.  What is a well known reducer of this? Meditation.  What is it that’s creating this internal stress?  Your thoughts, or stories you tell yourself about external situations in life.  These thoughts lead to emotions, which if negative, create many of your health problems including excess weight gain especially in the gut.   One of the ways meditation reduces this , is by disconnecting you from these negative thoughts, which in turn slowly reduces the effects of worry and anxiety. More and more studies are being published that link stress to a large majority of health issues including heart disease, obesity and cancer to just name a few.  Now I say link, but remember there are many other contributing factors as well.  With each day of consecutive meditation, the benefits begin adding up.  Your body receives a break from the health harming thoughts and in turn experiences positive healing energy that meditation provides by increasing: serotonin, GABA, endorphins, and human growth hormone. Each day it becomes increasingly easier to take your practice into your daily life, which is the ultimate goal.

Next, Food Cravings.  What is the basis for your food cravings? One its your body’s way of communicating to you what it desires.  Two its your body’s way of communicating what it needs in the form of health and healing.  For example, you may all of a sudden desire  salty foods, but may have an underlying mineral deficiency and the salt craving is your body’s way of communicating this to you.  Women may find they crave red meats during the time of their menstrual cycle because they’re iron deficient and red meat is one of the best ways to increase this.   When you start dieting and depriving your body of carbs you may salivate at the thought of bread because your body wants it.  So what does this have to do with meditation?  Well it’s simple.  The more you meditate the more in tune with your body and thus more likely to know what your craving (salty, sweet, butter, bread, etc.) and in turn, more likely to find a healthy food to satisfy these cravings. So much of your day is spent in your head completely involved in thought, that you’re totally disconnected with your body’s wants and desires.  The more you separate from thought, the more a communication channel between you and your body opens up .  The want and desire for good tasting food is NOT unhealthy.  It’s human and personally life is to short to not savor every bit of it, but when I practice meditation daily, healthy food becomes much more satisfying.  I find I desire to care for my body, rather than hating it for is desires.

The next reason meditation helps with fitness is through consciousness.    When I meditate regularly  I’m more conscious and less in my head.   So for instance, on days I am more involved in thought, worry and anxiety the following can easily occur.  Some external experience that has triggered me into a slight worry or concern in the back of my mind is set, maybe its an uncomfortable conversation with someone, or being reminded of an upcoming future event I stress about.  Now I am getting on with my day, but half of me is stuck in this thought and the other half is operating the doing aspect of my day, like driving.  I may drive home with a play of thoughts I keep running over and over in the back of my mind,  filled with slight stress or concern, but not enough stress to really upset me, it’s just in the back of my head creating an unconscious (unaware) uncomfort.  I may also have a slight knot in my stomach, but I’m not really in tune with that because I am so up in my head allowing the constant chatter of worry to take control.  Now I’m home and maybe addressing kids and home issues and still the thoughts about earlier are coming and going.  I may walk into the kitchen and see some cupcakes I had made and without thinking put one in my mouth and feel it start to soothe the knot in my stomach that I wasn’t even aware I’d had, but it seems to be  filling some sort of void.  What void would the cupcake be filling.  Probably peace.  My cupcake is replacing peace.  If I were more conscious and less in my head I would have been experiencing more of this “peace” and walking into my kitchen and seeing a fluffy pink cupcake would not have been an issue.  I would have had peace and the inhaling of one or two, okay I’ll be honest it was 4, warm soft cupcakes would not have been a temptation.  For you it may not be peace the food replaces, it may be comfort, self-worth, self-love, happiness, contentment, confidence, trust etc.  For me in that moment I needed peace to alleviate the stress that was generated from the story I had playing over and over in my head.  With meditation comes consciousness and with that comes many of the internal tools that automatically keep you on track with eating to nourish your body and not to fill a void or to distract you from pain, which could be in the form of a stressful thought.  You might be wondering how meditation in the morning, provide you with peace when confronted with a stressful situation.  IT JUST DOES!!  I can go into another long drawn out example of how it does, but I will simplify with this.  Higher consciousness created from daily mediation connects you with more of  your positive emotions and disconnects you from your negative.  With each day of meditation this becomes easier and easier.  By practicing meditation(practicing disconnecting from thought) you are likely to take this practice into your day where the psychotic chatter of the mind has less of an effect on your emotions and thus less of an effect on your behavior (inhaling of cupcakes in times of stress).  The majority of clients I work with struggle with unconscious eating.  They are so involved in the negative thought patterns in their head, that they are completely detached from the things they are putting in their mouth.   A quiet mind equals a peaceful heart.  With this internal peace you are less likely to use food as emotional medication, because you no longer need it.  You are no longer sick.  You are healed.

Motivation.  Meditation can dramatically increase your motivation to achieve your goals by simply quieting that voice that always has excuses.  It separates you from all of the limiting beliefs you have that create obstacles in your life.  All of your beliefs reside in your unconscious, whether they are desired or not.  When you meditate you become more conscious and thus separated from the unconscious.  When you are more conscious you are more connected with your spirit, higher self, divine, or however you would like to term it.  In this state there are no limits just possibilities.  The energy you need to accomplish all that you desire resides here, but the difference is that this energy is a clear effortless energy.  There is no trying, just effortless doing.  Basically things that where hard and exhausting for you to do before you meditated can become effortless now and you may find you don’t need motivation, so I will replace motivation with ease.  How would it feel to no longer have to give yourself a pep talk to get to the gym or make it through a workout.

Judgment. I used to think that the more I meditated the less I would workout because the less I care what anyone thinks and have more self acceptance of how I am exactly in that moment, but actually if I’m really meditating regularly I start to not judge myself for wanting to take care of my body.  It stops being about just looks and more about health.  I also let go of judging that looking good physically is “bad”.  More meditation equals less judgement of all. And it’s perfectly fine to look physically fit.    My workouts become so much more effective because I’m caring for my body and health and in the end I have always looked and felt so much better when I’m meditating regularly.  Even others have noticed the change.

Health. Now lets address the physiological benefits to meditation in regards to fitness.  Let me share a personal story.  During one of the most stressful times of my life (Divorce) I gained nearly 30 pounds overnight and developed a slight rash on my face.  I also developed an ulcer where I began to triple my recommended dosage of medication and appeared to be retaining 10 pounds of water weight on top of that, probably because I was. What a hot mess I was. Well many can relate to the effects of stress and how it has destroyed their health.  Me personally it was the worst I had felt AND looked in my whole life.  Mind you I have been pregnant three times.  My health crises all stemmed from the severe anxiety I created.  I was still working out just as much and eating the same as I was before.  My stress was so severe that it snowballed into many different symptoms.  Number one the ulcer was created from stress and my gut became less efficient at not only digesting food but absorbing nutrients.  My metabolism became stressed as well for the simple fact that when one part of your body is out of whack it spills over into the rest of your body, so my gut crises led to a metabolism halt.  Then the increase in the over the counter medication I was taking in order to sooth the severe pain I felt began to stress my liver to the point my body could no longer flush toxins.  The rash and water retention I believe where a direct cause from my ulcer medication that I was clearly abusing.  Then I began to also medicate with alcohol.  Every other weekend that my kids were out of town I would go out with friends and have a few drinks, which usually turned into a handful.   Add this to a pre-workout drink (a concoction of chemicals that people take before a workout to increase blood vessel dilation, increase energy, strength and endurance) I would take 5 times a week and my liver was operating on survival mode.  I endured this suffering  that I imposed on myself, for almost 6 months until one day I’d had enough, so  I began to meditate, which almost overnight started to completely dissipate my stress.  I began to relax and began decreasing my ulcer medication.  I began to see a drop in weight within one month I had probably lost 20 pounds.  This was also attributed to me stopping my pre workout consumption and I did the Master Cleanse to heal my ulcer.  I never gained that weight back and lost another 10 pounds over the next couple of months.  My skin cleared up immediately as soon as I started meditating and with the internal calm it created, I was able to  reduced my ulcer medication.  Bye bye Quasi Moto.  Was the rash from my stress, or the medication?  I have always assumed it was a little of both, but the point is that through meditation I was able to start healing myself by changing what I was doing externally through calming myself internally.  I also reduced my alcohol consumption dramatically to where I may enjoy a drink or two now and then but it is not on a regular basis, nor is it on the level of numbing myself to suppress my external reality.   There are numerous studies that show the direct physiological benefits of meditation.  Decreasing blood pressure, increasing the brain blood flow between the pituitary and pineal gland (Kirtan Kryia does this), decreasing abdominal fat, increased immunity, increased fertility, relieving irritable bowel syndrome, anti-inflammatory,  increasing exercise tolerance in heart patients, aiding in post-operative healing, decreasing respiratory rate, decreases muscle tension and on and on.

So where to begin?  There are many ways to meditate, I will explain a few to get you started.  The first is just 12 minutes a day and is called the Kirtan Kriya.  This meditation was studied by the Alzheimer’s institute and has shown in brain scans to reduce the effects of Alzheimer’s.  It increases the brain blood  flow between the pineal and pituitary gland which aids in memory.  This meditation is great to teach to children to get them started because there is so much that you are actively doing.  By doing mudras and chanting mantras, you are distracted from thought.  Mudras are the actions of your different finger positions and this helps to activate meridians in the body.  http://www.alzheimersprevention.org/research/12-minute-memory-exercise  This link takes you to the Alzheimer Research and prevention site that has studied this specific meditation extensively and gives a great instruction of how to apply it.  I use a timer app on my phone and have it set to signal with a gong sound to move to the next section of mantras.  The apps is  Seconds and is free from your app store.  Within the app I use the Circuit Timer option.

IMG_1855Another way to meditate is with mala beads.  The main thing is that the beads have 109 beads.  108 are regular size and one large bead, called the guru or Jupiter bead.  They are to  signal you to stop or to turn around and go back the same way.  Here is a site that explains in detail about it    http://www.gaia.com/article/how-use-mala-beads-yoga-and-meditation  The mantra that I use is Amaram Hum Madhuram Hum.  This means I am infinite, I am Blissful.  You can use any mantra or affirmation you choose.  I also will wear my necklace on the days I have used my beads to remind me of my mantra and will quietly say it to myself on my exhale.  The key with this is that when I say it I’m creating a vibration.  I can feel it in my chest, throat and mouth.  It generates a very calm and peaceful feeling.  You can purchase these necklaces on-line or just make your own.

If all of this is not enough of an incentive to meditate on a regular basis, then how about this.  My personal experience is that when I regularly meditate, I am unconditionally happy and everything in life seems to just start working for me.  Things become magical.  I become more in-tune with the flow of life and find myself efforting less at creating what I desire and more in the flow of receiving more than I had ever imagined.  One of my all time favorite books that beautifully illustrates this is The Surrender Experiment by Michael A.  Singer.  I highly recommend this to everyone.  So if getting fit and healthy isn’t motivating enough to get your meditation on, then how about a life full of magical rainbows and lollipops, because lollipops always accompany magical rainbows.

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