Meditation for Stress Relief

ImageThe modern world and urban lifestyle is full of stress, pressures and demands. We live amidst constant stimuli and often struggle to keep up with the ever increasing pace of life and demands that we are subjected to. In such a life-state, stress becomes inevitable and balance becomes elusive, resulting in a tired mind in a tired body.  Since sources of stress such as our jobs, families, education, finance and society are unavoidable, it becomes important to explore methods to relieve this constant stress that we accumulate and in doing so heal both our body and our mind.  Meditation has emerged as one of the most holistic, natural and effective remedy for stress relief that has been passed on from ancient times into the present day.

Stress Related Facts:

  • Number One Proxy Killer: The American Medical Association recognizes stress as the number one proxy killer disease today. Their research shows that it is the basic cause of over 60 percent of all human ailments and disease.
  • 95 million Americans suffer from and take medication for some stress related symptoms every week.
  • A 20 year long study by the University of London found that unmanaged stress was a bigger precursor/risk for cancer and heart diseases than either cigarettes or cholesterol.
  • According to a survey of over 200 American Corporations, 60 percent managers felt that stress related illness was a major problem among employees and hampered productivity to the tune of 16 days of medical leave and $ 8,000 per employee annually.

Understanding Stress:Image

Stress exists when the adaptive capacity of the individual is overwhelmed by events. Acute stress disorder may manifest as restlessness, irritability, fatigue increased startle reaction, and a feeling of tension, inability to concentrate, sleep disturbances (insomnia, bad dreams), and somatic preoccupations often lead to self-medication, most commonly with alcohol or other central nervous system depressants. – Stuart J. Eisendrath, MD, & Jonathan E. Lichtmacher, MD (CMDT)

It is difficult to define stress, yet we all feel and succumb to it at various points in our lives. In the simplest terms stress can be defined as our body’s response to changes that demand a physical, mental or emotional adjustment. Taking cues from studies of Hans Selye, who has spent a life-time studying stress (1982) and the Lazarus and Folkman research (1984) at the University of California at Berkeley investigating the stress disorders of college students, middle-aged whites, and health professionals we can conclude that depending on the source of stress, one can categorize it into:

  • Work related stress
  • Relationship related stress
  • Education related stress
  • Financial stress
  • Attitude related stress

Although stress originates in the mind, it often manifests itself in the body in the form of physical illnesses and ailments. Stress plays a significant role in the regulation of our psycho-neuro-immunological processes and hence is the primary proxy cause of many psychosomatic diseases like heart ailments, hypertension, ulcers, diabetes and cancer. Although most people have heard that stress is dangerous, they often take it lightly and don’t do anything about it.

Stress Relief: Why Meditation over Medication

ImageResearches indicate that billions of dollars are spent annually by Americans on stress relief by anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications. In fact one research claims that people spend more money on a popular anti-anxiety drug, Xanax, every year than on Tide detergent. Most psychiatrists are quick to prescribe strong, mind altering medication for stress relief. These medicines are not only addictive; they also cause various side effects and worst of all improve the subject’s condition only on the most superficial level. They merely dim the over-all brain activity and processes, so as to subdue the external symptoms of stress. The root causes and thinking patterns remain just as before, and there is no improvement in the stress- tolerance or coping ability.

On the other hand many studies have indicated that the bet for treating stress and keeping it at bay is relaxation and attitude change. An overactive mind is the root cause behind stress; it is the main reason for experiencing stress beyond the usual levels.

Meditation for stress relief is targeted specially at the overactive mind and helps in making it still, calm and quiet. Meditation techniques enable you to recognize the thought patterns that cause the increase in your stress levels as well the attitudes that trigger stress reactions and decide how you deal with stress. Some techniques like relaxation target physical stress relief, while others work directly at the source of the stress and reinforce your spirit and elevate your life state. Meditation is an effective way of achieving both relaxation as well as attitude change. It works at the root of the problem and thus enables us to effectively deal and cope with stress causing situations.

Meditation for Stress Relief: Why it Really Works

ImageMany studies including – Stilson, Matus, & Ball, 1980 have found that meditation has profound and long-lasting impact on both the body as well as the mind. Meditation helps us to mute the constant noisy chatter in our heads so that we can think much more clearly. Meditation surpasses all our expectations, self-demands and attitudes, and provides deep relaxation. Moreover, it cultivates mental discipline, where-in we can control our thoughts instead of being controlled by them.

One of the most important reasons why meditation is so effective for stress relief is because it teaches one to live in the now – the present. It inhibits our restless mind from carrying on our worries and anxieties to the past or the future, where we often spend most of our time. Meditation helps us become aware of the beauty of the present moment and its transience, leaving us contented and happy in the perfection of the present. This leaves no scope for stress or anxiety.

According to Dr.Herbert Benson of the Mind-Body Medical Institute under Harvard University which is associated with several Boston Hospitals, clinical studies have demonstrated that meditation for stress relief appears to induce a series of biochemical and physiological changes that can be collectively called- relaxation response. These include changes in metabolism, heart-rate, blood pressure, respiration and brain activity.

Moreover the National Institutes of Health (NIH) also affirm the benefits of mediation on stress relief by saying that, “Practicing meditation has been shown to induce some changes in the body. Some meditations seem to work by affecting the autonomic (involuntary) nervous system, which is responsible for our reaction to stress.”

Meditation Techniques for Stress Relief:

Many think of meditation as some complicated, mystical exercise; while there are others who consider lying on a couch, or introspection, as meditation. In truth it is neither of the two. Meditation is not passive, it is a conscious effort to relax your body and de-clutter your mind so as to focus on a single point for a sustained period of time. This point of focus completely occupies your mind, and all other thoughts and problems that cause you stress fade away.  This helps you relax and rejuvenate; and also clear away all negative energy, thinking patterns and hormones that have built up and are causing stress. A parallel can be drawn between meditation for stress relief and the phrase -“stop and smell the roses”.  Listed and explained below are some meditation techniques for stress relief that you can practice easily and inculcate in your daily life. Find the meditation technique for stress relief that works best for you.

Meditation Technique:

woman-meditating-horizThere is nothing religious or mystical about meditation for stress relief. You can easily perform this simple meditation for stress relief on your own by following these listed steps.

Step 1: Find a quiet spot and sit down in a comfortable yet upright position

Step 2: Close your eyes and focus on the spot between the eyes

Step 3: Gradually and consciously relax your muscles. Start with your feet and progress upward to your eyes (You can use a Progressive Muscle Relaxation Technique for this)

 Step 4: Once the muscles are relaxed, focus on deeper over-all body relaxation. Imagine relaxing waves springing from your crown and flowing down your body.  Imagine these cool, relaxing waves washing away and cleansing all stress from wherever they touch. Synchronize these waves with your breathing. Let these waves flow first over your head, then the neck moving down your torso, arms and finally the legs and feet. Feel the soothing effect of these waves on all the muscles of your body.

Step 5: Once in a state of deep relaxation, turn the focus to your breathing.

Step 6: Inhale deeply, using the diaphragm and not the chest. Count your breaths and vocalize the number of the breath as you gently and fully exhale, once again by relaxing the diaphragm. Concentrate on the number to maintain focus on the breath and avoid any other stray thought.

Step 7: If you find any other intruding thought or your mind wandering, consciously direct your mind away from that thought and back towards your breathing. This may be difficult at first and you might find your mind wandering away quite often, but with patience and practice you can overcome this and gain complete focus.

Step 8: Sustain this for 10 minutes when you start the practice and gradually try to increase the time.

Remember focusing on breathing and counting the breaths is just one way to hold your wandering mind during meditation for stress relief. You can also try different approaches for this, as follows:

  • Focus on a specific object: Maybe a symbol, idol, candle flame or any other. Gaze at it during the entire meditation process, focusing on its details. Concentrate on its shape, texture, colors, shades or movement of that object.
  • Focus on sound: You can try to focus on specific sounds that you can enunciate while meditating. “Om”, which is the Sanskrit word for creation and absoluteness, is a popular choice for this.
  • Visualization or Imagery: You can create lovely and relaxing mental images in your mind and focus on lending details and perfection to these mental images. You can visualize a place, objects, people or deep wishes that give you inner peace and happiness.
  • Affirmations or Meditation Scripts: You can even choose to focus on either self affirmation like “I am feeling relaxed”, “I am a peaceful and beautiful person” or listen to other meditation scripts that are easily available on the internet and often provide very helpful guided meditation.

Finally, no matter what technique or focus object you use, it is important to remember the central idea which is to divert your mind from all your worries, anxieties or tensions and sustaining a period of singular focus. It is important to exist and feel the wondrous “now” or present moment, and allowing all stress to flow out of your body and mind in order to enjoy perfect clarity and the full benefits of meditation for stress relief.

 

 

 

 

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Say Open Sesame – to Discover the Miraculous Benefits of this Unbelievably Healthy Oil

ImageJust as Alibaba opened the door to unbelievable fortune in the Arabian Nights- with one simple phrase- “Open Sesame”, you too can benefit from the distinguishing richness of the sesame seed, which is a treasure of nutrients.

Revered in alternative medicine as a healing oil since the Babylonians, it aides cardiovascular health, detoxifies body, fights ageing and strengthens bones. Cold-pressed sesame oil is a treasure of healthy fats, antioxidants and natural resistance. Sesame oil comes in two varieties- toasted and un-toasted. When sesame seeds are dry roasted prior to oil extraction, the oil is richer in flavor and darker in color. The other kind is the light golden variety, which has a milder flavor but a higher smoke point.

Sesame is packed with Nutrients

Nature has blessed Sesame oil with 3 really powerful compounds that are found nowhere else, namely – Sesamol, Sesamin and Sesamolin. Moreover, it is rich in omega-6 and omega-9 fatty acids, and other essential vitamins and minerals. However, in order to enjoy the maximum benefits of this power-packed healthy oil, one should use cold pressed sesame oil over the processed, supermarket variety. Cold-pressed oils are produced by crushing/pressing oil seeds and fruits with heavy granite millstones or modern stainless steel presses. The process is done with low-level heat, to preserve the minerals, vitamins and essential fats in the oil.  This process gives lower yield than modern methods but the oil produced is healthy and natural.

  • The Vitamin E and Sesamol, a unique compound in sesame, have been found to have fantastic antioxidant properties
  • Sesamin & sesamolin are cholesterol-lowering agents and protect the liver from oxidative damage
  • Zinc strengthens bones
  • Recent studies recommend sesame oil to Diabetics over any other oil.
  • Copper soothes rheumatoid arthritis pain
  • Calcium prevents osteoporosis, migraine and colon cancer
  • Magnesium supports respiratory health.

Cardiovascular Benefits of Sesame Oil

  • The poly-unsaturated fats in organic sesame oil restrains  hypertension and blood pressure
  • Sesamin, lowers blood pressure, reduces the formation and absorption of cholesterol- and so helps maintain cardiac health.

Beauty Benefits of Sesame Oil

Ayurveda, the ancient Indian system of medicine, acknowledges sesame oil as an important healing oil.

  • Sesame oil has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, which nourish and detoxify damaged skin and hair.
  • Oil-pulling with sesame oil promotes oral hygiene and rids body of harmful toxins.
  • Massage with Sesame oil for youthful skin as it counterbalances free-radicals, a major cause of aging.
  • Apply sesame oil on sunburns, skin allergies, dandruff and eczema to benefit from it’s anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties.

Cooking with Sesame Oil

Derived from Sesame seeds, this oil has a distinct aroma and flavor that is slightly sweet and nutty. The virgin, cold-pressed variety is strong in flavor, and is almost essential in oriental cooking. You can use Sesame oil for sauteing vegetables, chicken and sea-food. Not particularly suited for frying, but you can sprinkle it over dishes, and salads before serving to add a lovely flavor profile. Still, cold-pressed sesame oil holds on at a higher smoking point than most other organic oils. This is due to the stabilizing properties of sesamin and sesamol that are naturally present in it. These compounds prevent sesame oil from going stale even when stored in the the open.

Oil Pulling- Daily Detox Routine that You Should Start Immediately

ImageOur bodies have a natural detox mechanism, constantly eliminating the accumulated toxins that are metabolic byproducts. But the rising amount of chemicals in our bodies- ingested as pesticides, medicines and pollutants are more than our body can handle.

If you suffer from constipation, acne, exhaustion, excess gas, sinus, depression, mood swings, nausea, halitosis and a low immunity, you might need to undergo a detox or cleansing.

As opposed to complicated detox methods, Oil Pulling offers surprisingly easy way to cleanse your system and push out those toxins every day. An added bonus- get pearly white teeth without chemical bleaches.

 What is Oil Pulling?   

Oil-Pulling is a morning ritual derived from the best kept secrets of the Ayurveda. It requires swishing or pulling, cold-pressed, unrefined sesame oil, in your mouth for several minutes. It rids the mouth of the bacteria, germs, parasites and other toxins that cause secondary infections and chronic inflammation- leading to a number of health problems.

How to Perform Oil Pulling?

Oil-Pulling should be done first thing in the morning, before consuming any water or food.

  • Put a spoonful of, cold-pressed Sesame oil in your mouth and swish it around for 15-20 minutes
  • Spit it Out: Do not swallow the oil, the swishing leaves oil full of toxins and germs
  • Brush your teeth.

 Helpful Tips:

  • The first few times, the taste of oil will make you want to gag. Be persistent and in time, you’ll be ok
  • In case sesame oil isn’t available; other cold-pressed, refined vegetable oils can also be used.

Benefits of Oil Pulling

  • Promotes Oral Hygiene
  • Shiny White Teeth
  • Stronger Immunity
  • Better Sleep
  • Clearer Skin
  • Increased Energy
  • Improved Concentration
  • Decreased migraine headaches
  • Clearer Sinuses
  • Less severe asthma
  • Regulated Menstrual Cycles
  • Improved Lymphatic System

Oil Pulling not only cleanses the body of impurities but also provides clarity of thought and peace. Try including this amazingly effective detox exercises in your daily routine for a new and healthy life.

10 Amazing Natural Beauty Products Hiding in your Kitchen

Looking and feeling good is important for our confidence and self esteem. Women and men often make substantial efforts to look good, using a number of cosmetics available in the market.

A recent study claims that our skin absorbs 67 percent of the cosmetics applied on it. Imagine the amount of synthetic chemicals our body absorbs owing to make-up products. Take a closer look at the ingredients of your favorite make up to discover the kinds of chemicals your skin has been absorbing all this while.

Luckily, several effective and chemical free beauty products are lying in your kitchen cabinet- waiting to be discovered.

Discover 10 great and natural ways of looking beautiful using simple kitchen ingredients.

Image1.   Honey

The golden juice of nature is rumored to be the anti-ageing secret of Greek Gods. It is also the secret to perfectly moisturized skin and lustrous hair.

Glowing Face Pack:  Full of antiseptic and antifungal properties, apply honey on face, to discover healthy and blemish free skin.

Acne Treatment: Dab honey over facial acne for a speedy recovery

Hair Mask: Mix honey and coconut milk to make a hydrating and refreshing hair mask

Image2.   Potatoes

Surprisingly, the humble potato has several beauty benefits. It is a perfect cure for puffy, tired eyes.

Puffy Eyes Mask:  Potato contains a compound known to help reduce swelling and puffiness. Treat puffy eyes with a mask made with shredded potatoes. Shred a small potato, freeze it and apply as an eye mask for 15 minutes.

Image3.   Cinnamon

This flavorsome exotic spice has some great skincare benefits.

Lip Plumper: Mix a bit of cinnamon powder with lip-gloss for fuller lips. Caution – It might sting a bit

 Facial Mask: Make a royal mask of cinnamon and honey for acne-free and fresh skin

Image4.    Beet Root

Discover the perfect ‘Blush of Health’ with beetroots. The naturally colorful beets can add some much needed color to an otherwise pale/dull face

Cheek and Lip Tint: Add little glycerine and rosewater to beetroot juice and preserve it for further use. The cheek cum lip tint is 100 percent natural and also longer lasting than the commercially available products

Image5.    Rose Water

Fresh, moisturizing and pleasantly fragrant, Rose water is considered to be nature’s perfume. Feminine yet strong, it has many beauty benefits

Toner:  Use organic rose water as a toner for fresh, well hydrated skin

Body Splash: Spray on rose-water after bath for a fragrant day ahead

Anti-ageing Agent:  A natural astringent with anti-inflammatory qualities, the use of rose water has been found to reduce fine lines and wrinkles.

Image

6.   Turmeric

This antiseptic spice is a great remedy for post-acne scarring

Post- Acne Cream: Mix organic turmeric powder with lemon juice for a medium-thick paste, and dab onto discolored/ scared skin. Wash the area after 20 minutes. Because turmeric has a strong yellow color, the area treated may have a temporary yellow tint, which might last a wash or two.

7.   Yogurt

A moisturizing agent, as well as a skin exfoliant, yogurt can be used as a cooling mask to rejuvenate dry and tired winter skin.

Image8.   Coffee

Conditioner: Brewed dark roast coffee can be used as a post-conditioner wash to add rich color to brunette and auburn hair. Instant coffee mixed with conditioner provides a similar effect.

Scrub: Use instant coffee as a facial exfoliator. Some mix granulated sugar with coffee to scrub off dry, dead skin.

Energy Mask: Caffeine can also rejuvenate the skin. Turn a tired and dull face to glowing and fresh by applying a mixture of instant coffee and honey for 10 minutes.

Image9.    Sugar

Scrub: Use sugar as part of your weekly beauty regime. Mix sugar with baby oil/ almond oil and scrub gently in a circular motion, to reveal a fresh and clean skin

Image10.       Salt

Sea salt and ground rock salt are great exfoliants that work as home-made body polish scrubs, to reveal a naturally radiant skin.

Body Polish: Rub salt in a circular motion on your entire dry body, before a shower for an incredible glow. Follow up with a rich moisturizer to re-hydrate skin.

Acne Cure : Make a thick paste of salt and honey. Apply to the affected area. Word of caution – It will sting initially, but is an effective medicine for fighting acne.

Honey – Sweet Remedy for Losing Weight

Losing weight is almost always a struggle and involves eating bland food, as well as, completely depriving the sweet tooth of any pleasure, whatsoever.

natural fitness

However, ancient knowledge coupled with latest findings suggests that losing weight can also be a sweet affair with honey. Contrary to common belief, research shows that the daily use of honey instead of sugar does not lead to weight gain. Packed with nutrients- it in fact makes you feel more energetic. This simple, Nectar of Gods, helps in weight loss, while also ridding the body of harmful toxins.

There are various ways of using this nature’s gold to lose weight, boost metabolism and get beautiful, glowing skin.  Listed under are some simple ways of using honey everyday:

Honey and Lemon-  Ayurveda recommends having honey and lemon for effective weight loss. Start your day with a warm glass of water with honey and lemon, on an empty stomach. This drink can be taken throughout the day before meals, ideally half an hour before food.  Digestive herbs like ginger can also be added for boosting flavor and nutrients.

Honey and Lemon in hot water is also a great detox drink, particularly beneficial for glowing, fresh skin.

Honey and Cinnamon- Unani Healing, the ancient tradition of Greek-Arabic medicine, suggests drinking a brew of cinnamon and honey first thing in the morning. This drink can be made by boiling cinnamon in half a cup of water and later adding honey before drinking.

Hibernation Diet- A revolutionary diet that suggests consuming a spoonful of natural honey before bedtime can lead to both- a sound sleep, as well as, weight loss. This easy to follow diet suggests that the nutrients in honey promote fat burning in the body while you sleep. The body burns fat during sleep as a natural self healing mechanism. This is often disrupted by low blood sugar as we sleep. Honey primarily concentrates on bettering the sleep metabolism of the body, by supporting the liver and adrenal function.

Substitute Sugar- Honey is rich in fructose and glucose, which supplies our body with energy to burn fats, while also boosting the metabolic activity in our body. But unlike the empty calories of sugar, corn syrup and other processes sweeteners, honey is nutritionally abundant with amino acids, vitamins and is a rich source of calcium.

Honey not only improves the taste of herbal teas and smoothies, but is also known to curb hunger.

Natural Energy Drink- Avoid expensive and toxic energy drinks. Instead, substitute them with natural honey-based energy drinks. Researchers at University of Memphis have found that honey is an effective energy drink pre and post exercise. Honey gives equal amount of energy as glucose, but with sustained energy and prompt recovery. Make your own energy drink, which is both natural and energizing during work outs and sports.

Raw Honey- The Food of Gods

Here is amber honey sweet, in a crystal bowl. Sun kissed food the fairies eat. Nectar for the Soul – Ann Fairbairn Image

Honey has been praised as “the food for gods” in the scriptures of yore. So is this delicious liquid gold really good for you? Definitely, but being rich in calories- only in moderation. This natural sweetener is packed with natural goodness. Being predigested by the bees, honey is easily metabolized and is extremely rich in nutrients. So much so- that many consider it to be the perfect food. No wonder then, that pots of golden honey were discovered in the pyramids of the great pharaohs.

Benefits of Natural Honey

  • Natural honey is primarily composed of two sugars- laevulose and dextrose. Both of these do not require to be broken down further, and so, are quickly absorbed into the blood stream. This gives the body an instant energy boost.
  • Honey is also rich in amino acids, vitamins and minerals, and no cholesterol. Vitamins and minerals in honey include- vitamin B6, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc. The exact nutritional profile of honey depends on the floral source of the honey.
  • It contains some potassium salts that eliminate germs and bacteria, even more than some antibiotics. This is why natural honey can never get spoilt. Recent studies recommend using it as a topical treatment for burns and ulcers.
  • The potassium salts in honey also help in lowering blood pressure.
  • Is helpful for fighting obesity and losing weight when taken with lemon or cinnamon on an empty stomach.
  • It’s a great beauty aid and is recommended as a mask to attain glowing silk and lustrous hair.
  • Cures constipation when taken at night with milk.
  • Has some well known antioxidants like chrysin, pinobanksin, catalase, pinocembrin and vitamin C.

Raw Honey v/s Pasteurized Honey

Most of us buy bottled honey from super markets. These bottles are often labeled as ‘natural honey’, however, this is not usually accurate.   Most commercially available bottled honey is in fact pasteurized, to prevent it from crystallizing, and increasing its shelf life.

The commercial, pasteurized honey has been heated at 161 °F (71.7 °C) or higher for the pasteurization and filtered for the appealing, golden glass effect of bottled honey. Although, it makes the honey easier to store and use, pasteurization partially destroys honey’s fragile aromas, yeast and enzymes which make honey so healthy, and are responsible for stimulating vitamins and minerals into the body. According to the “Bee Hive Product Bible”, pasteurized honey has 30-50 percent lesser vitamin content than natural honey.

How is Organic, Raw Honey Different?

Raw honey isn’t very appealing to the eyes. Unlike the beautiful golden liquid available at the super-store, natural honey is slightly cloudy at room temperature since its crystallization properties aren’t harmed by the heat. Unlike popular belief, crystallization is not a sign of honey gone bad, it’s just a natural property of it.

Raw honey is filtered but only to rid it of the dirt and minor particles of the bee-hive, safeguarding all the healthy enzymes, minerals and vitamins that give honey its wondrous quality.

So go on, buy yourself a jar of raw, organic honey from the farmer’s market or a trusted organic store to enjoy the benefits of this wondrous gift of Gaia.