Why and how should I start meditating?

           The ancient practice of mindfulness and understanding the mind/body connection has interested various practitioners from yogis to gurus to philosophers to healthcare professionals. Meditation is the art of training one’s consciousness to open in a way that transforms the person positively by achieving a higher state of awareness. Meditation has been linked to spiritual connectivity, lowering resting metabolic variables such as heart rate, blood pressure and respiration, and an increased understanding how our bodies and minds relate. You should try mediation to help reduce stress.
            Geoffrey Melville studied the effect of yoga and meditation in an office environment on preventing stress using physiological and psychological markers. Both were shown to reduce perceived stress in the subjects and had the ability of maintaining the reduction post intervention. Both yoga and meditation  lowered the subjects’ heart rates compared to the control group. Meditation reduced the systolic and diastolic blood pressure measurements in the subjects. Melville found that both yoga and meditation offered in a workplace were successful at controlling and lowering stressors.
            Meditation can seem daunting at first. It can be overwhelming to begin, as the act of sitting still and silencing the mind is contrary to our normal behavior being stimulated by technology and media. I’ve been slowly experimenting with meditation for about a month. I have found that by acknowledging my insecurity of doing it “right” and continuing to practice that I am becoming more comfortable. Start meditation by sitting on the floor with some back support (yogis sit in lotus or half lotus position where you are cross-legged but your feet are tucked up over your thighs). Rest your hands palm up on your thighs with your thumb and pointer finger touching. Sit up straight and close your eyes. Begin by focusing on your breath. Breathe in through your nose and out through your nose. Feel your breath as it fills your chest and it rises and falls with each contraction. There are so many styles of meditation that if you start one and feel uncomfortable or that you are doing it incorrectly don’t give up – seek another style. In Hatha meditation the breathing is guided by breathing in through one nostril, breathing out through the nostril and then taking in a breath on that nostril before breathing out the other nostril and continuing the sequence. There is also spinal breathing where you focus on your breath coming up your spine all the way to your third eye before you focus on it going back down. There is also no exact “correct” way to meditate. I’ve been learning that it is not wrong if you cannot silence your mind completely; it is normal to have your mind wander during meditation if you are inexperienced. The key is to be able to acknowledge your mind wandering but bring it back to focus on your mantra. Some prefer using the mantra “I AM” as a sound, not analyzing any meaning. I find that meditation allows me to begin to unwind and relax. Afterwards I feel refreshed and slightly less stressed. I know it is a process that you have to work on continuously and at the moment I find 5 minutes is hard enough to complete. But I know people who recommend 5 minutes of spinal breathing followed by 15 minutes of meditation followed by Savasana (corpse pose in yoga: lay on your back, legs and arms out, eyes closed). Meditation is personal and can be tailored to suit your comfort level so you will still be able to achieve its benefits.

Melville, G. W., Chang, D., Colagiuri, B., Marshall, P. W., & Cheema, B. S. (2012). Fifteen Minutes of Chair-Based Yoga Postures or Guided Meditation Performed in the Office Can Elicit a Relaxation Response. [Article]. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 9. doi: 501986

What is the best drink for after a workout? Chocolate Milk Refuels the Body

            When you exercise you sweat and become dehydrated. It is important to replenish your fluids during and after exercise. More than a 2% loss of water from your body is serious and should be avoided. Since your muscles could be anywhere from 55-70% water it is important to be conscious of what fluids your body needs. If you workout over 90 minutes then you need to consider drinking fluids other than just water to replenish your electrolyte stores. What is the best drink post-workout? Depending on whom you ask you will hear widely varying opinions on whether you really need protein or you need carbs or a mixture of both.
Your favorite childhood treat - chocolate milk – has become popular as a recovery beverage for refueling the body post-workout. Chocolate milk is a drink that combines carbs and protein and so therefore replenishes the depleted glycogen stores used as energy during a workout. For athletes and active people, the ADA/DC/ACSM Position Stand recommends that one should consume 6-10 g carbs/kg, 1.2-1.7 g protein/kg, and fat should be 20-35% of total calories.
            Michael John Saunders looks at whether chocolate milk is a good recovery beverage for endurance athletes. Chocolate milk contains carbs and protein. This is seen as important for possibly influencing “glycogen resynthesis, protein turnover, rehydration, attenuations in muscle disruption or perhaps a combination of these factors.” The studies of the effects of chocolate milk efficacy are limited and more research is needed to be able to determine its effectiveness. However, current evidence supports chocolate milk as an aid that may help to positively influence recovery post exercise. In Kim Spaccarotella’s study only men were shown to have benefits from drinking chocolate milk as a post exercise recovery drink during training sessions by increasing their time to fatigue. Spaccarotella’s study was really small and only in soccer players at a Division III level.
            My personal experience is that post-exercise drinking a cup of chocolate milk has been helpful. After an especially high-intensity 60+ min. workout I am not hungry and often sick of drinking water. My cup of chocolate milk is refreshing and gives me the energy to then shower and go about the rest of my day with less fatigue. Chocolate milk may be helpful to others and it likely wouldn’t be harmful. If you have stayed hydrated with water during your exercise, then try tracking how you feel when you add a cup of chocolate milk post-exercise to your routine. It will matter what type of exercise you are doing, your duration, your training program and your preferences (are you lactose tolerant for example?)

Saunders, M. J. (2011a). Carbohydrate-Protein Intake and Recovery from Endurance Exercise: Is Chocolate Milk the Answer? [Review]. Current Sports Medicine Reports, 10(4), 203-210. doi: 10.1249/JSR.0b013e318223ccb4
Saunders, M. J. (2011b). Glycogen Replenishment with Chocolate Milk Consumption. [Letter]. Current Sports Medicine Reports, 10(6), 390-390. doi: 10.1249/JSR.0b013e318237c0ed
Spaccarotella, K. J., & Andzel, W. D. (2011). THE EFFECTS OF LOW FAT CHOCOLATE MILK ON POSTEXERCISE RECOVERY IN COLLEGIATE ATHLETES. [Article]. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 25(12), 3456-3460. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3182163071

Embodily Defined

Express your spirit to embody wellness!

em·bod·ily Adverb

1. Express or give a tangible or visible form to (an idea, quality, or feeling).

2. Provide (a spirit) with a physical form.