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Physical Benefits • Stimulates our parasympathetic nervous system, or the branch of our peripheral nervous system that helps our body return to a calm, relaxed state after the threat of danger, or even daily stress, has passed. When this branch is activated our body can naturally rejuvenate, repair, and rebuild itself. • Clears our mind for better quality sleep. • Improves athletic performance by refining our ability to focus

on a particular goal or situation (another term for meditation used in this way is “visualization”).

• Slows down our respiration for longer, deeper breaths. • Boosts our immune system by slowing down the production of the stress hormone, cortisol.

Mental/Emotional Benefits • Reduces anxiety and depression by enabling our body to bal- ance its own neuro-chemical systems. • Enables us to make better decisions and improve critical

thinking. • Breaks unhealthy habits by helping us detach the emotions associated with an action from the action itself. • Improves communication with ourselves. When we better

understand our own thought processes, we have more control over what we think. • Helps us stay in the present moment. When we let go of the past

and the future, we live 100% in the now, which affects all aspects of our lives and relationships.

Active Meditation Techniques There are many different meditation traditions and techniques.

Westerners, used to fast-paced living and constant information exchange, often benefit more from active meditation techniques. Active meditation involves focusing our thoughts and aware- ness on a particular thought, idea, visualization, or concept. Choosing to focus our mind on something positive can help us to rid our minds of all negative thoughts, negative emotions, and other clutter. Whatever your meditation practice looks like, however be sure to embrace the essence of YogaFit: let go of all judgment of your experience.

• Choose a mantra (word or phrase), thought, or feeling on which to meditate. Repeat it over and over in rhythm with your breath. If your first choice leads to negative thoughts or feelings, let it go and choose something else. For example, a commonly used mantra and source of all mantras is “OM” (pronounced Aaaaaah Uoooo Mmmmmm), which represents the root of all sounds that are ever-present as vibrations in our bodies.

• Visualize an object or place in which you find peace, such as a lotus blossom or quiet beach.

• If preparing for a performance or competition of any kind, visualize yourself succeeding, incorporating all your senses as you mentally act out the scenario.

• Use a guided meditation. There are many such meditations available on CD and online. Relax and fully listen to each word.

“Commit to practicing your meditation for at least 10 minutes (or whatever time you have available) every day. “

• Use an affirmation card with a phrase that inspires or strengthens you. There are many books now available with positive affirmations as well as boxed card sets, or make your own.

• Focus on a small, meaningful object held in your hand or placed in front you.

4. When complete, journal about your experience so

you can keep track of your progress. For example, write down any techniques you tried and what you experienced practicing them. What were your thoughts and feelings before, during and after meditating? Also, note if your practice revealed any solutions to

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The following steps will help you establish a personal active meditation practice:

1. Commit to practicing your meditation for at least 10

minutes (or whatever time you have available) every day. It is help- ful to set an alarm so you don’t have to keep one eye on the clock. To help make your meditation practice a habit, practice at the same time each day, or immediately after your yoga practice. Finally, if you have room in your home, establish a special place to sit and meditate. Even if it’s as simple as placing a chair in a corner near a favourite window, or a cushion surrounded by a few of your favourite candles, create a sacred space. Knowing you have somewhere you love to go will help you get there.

2. Sit in a comfortable position with your spine straight, be it

in a chair, on a cushion, or directly on the floor. If you are not com- fortable, you will be distracted. If you are practicing before or after your YogaFit workout, roll up your mat and sit on it, as elevating your hips can ease tension in the hips and hamstrings and improve circulation to your legs when sitting for long periods.

3. Use Relaxation Breath. Sitting upright with a neutral

spine, relax your abdomen and breathe quietly without forcing your exhalations. Take the same amount of time for both inhale and exhale, consciously beginning your inhale just as your exhale ends. The abdominal muscles must be unrestrained by tension or clothing and completely free to move.

4. Select one of the following techniques. If the technique you choose doesn’t work, let it go and choose something else.

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