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This is another post in our series of Fitness Saturday exercises, workouts, and expert tips appropriate to women in the second half of life. Jonathan Urla, a certified advanced health and fitness specialist, shares the many benefits of meditation.


Woman MeditatingImage from Flickr via

I remember the first time I used one of the benefits I gained from my regular meditation practice. I was riding in an elevator with two other people when it suddenly stopped between floors. One of the other passengers immediately started to get agitated and complain. I am a bit claustrophobic myself, and soon felt my stomach knot up and my skin start to sweat.

Then, I closed my eyes and did some slow deep breaths, just like I do when I start to meditate. I thought positive thoughts: that the elevator would start up again soon and nothing bad was going to happen. Relaxing into my meditative mindset, I felt my muscles relax. My heart rate slowed down and my anxiety was quelled. When I opened my eyes, the agitated passenger was pressing the call button for the tenth time. The elevator started again and it was all over. I left the building and actually felt refreshed from the brief “mental vacation” I had taken. This ability to detach from the situation, control my thoughts, and not react instinctively was, I felt, a great skill that I would use countless times as I lived and moved about this very stressful city.
Coping with the physical effects of stress and anxiety is just one of the benefits that a person can get from learning to meditate. There have been over 600 scientific studies on the effects of meditation, and the list of its benefits is growing. One of more recent studies reported by The New York Times shows meditation can help train attention. In this fast paced, information overloaded world, being able to focus better can be the key to helping accomplish the things that need to get done. Additional studies have shown that regular meditation also leads to better academic performance in students, improved memory, increased creativity, and a bigger brain! It also improves athletic performance. One study on athletes training for the Olympic trials, showed that those who meditated only a few minutes every night earned more gold medals than those who didn’t.
In my professional and personal life, I have always sought to optimize my performance and well-being. Research shows that meditation can re-wire your brain to be more efficient, help prevent disease, and even promote natural healing. For me, meditation is as essential as exercise for my health, both mentally and physically. Through my practice, I have learned to appreciate the moment, and discover a “restful alertness” that makes me more productive and happy. My practice involves just a few minutes a day to clear my brain with slow breathing and make me more fully aware. I don’t need to chant or light incense. Some people take slow walks and watch the sunset or sunrise. The truth is, it all works. 

Click here to read more about the benefits of meditation.

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