Mediation: the art of skillfully taming the mind, bringing intention inward and inviting relaxation and ease into the body. There are countless health benefits of meditation, primarily its proven ability to help reduce stress levels, combat anxiety and depression and lower blood pressure, to name a few. Gut health, I would imagine, is not the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about the health benefits of meditation. However, our thoughts, feelings and emotions significantly influence the overall wellbeing of our microbiome which is home to nearly eighty percent of the immune system! Before we dive into more detail on the relationship between our emotional state and the gut, let’s first define what constitutes gut health.
A healthy gut is determined by the collection of both good and bad bacteria, also referred to as the microbiome, as well as fungi, or mycobiome, residing in the gut. Optimal gut health is achieved by maintaining a healthy balance of good and bad bacteria and fungi as well as a healed and sealed gut lining.
One of the best ways to support gut health is through diet, eating a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, clean meats, healthy fats and properly prepared grains while avoiding processed foods and sugars. However, gut health is more than just eating the rights foods, it is a lifestyle, as stress has been cited as being equally if not more damaging on the gut than food.
When the body endures chronic stress, it results in an eternal state of increased inflammation, a natural response by our immune system. If this is experienced over an extended period, the gut lining weakens and may even become permeable, allowing toxins to inundate the blood stream. This further leads to a decline in the immune system which ultimately may result in serious health complications. With nearly the entire immune system located in the gut, it makes gut health and stress management a top priority in achieving optimal health.
Meditation is one of the most prevalent practices in helping to reduce stress.
Fortunately, there are a variety of meditation techniques that share similar components encouraging relaxation, ultimately accomplishing similar health benefits. Below are a few common meditation techniques that can be easily implemented into your daily routine.
This type of meditation evokes the senses by forming mental images that sooth and relax the body and mind.
This particular method of meditation invites you to choose a positive word or phrase to repeat that helps invite awareness into the body, focusing on the present moment in order to prevent distractions.
This practice of meditation allows thoughts and feelings to surface and pass without judgment or attachment. It increases awareness and acceptance of the present moment by becoming mindful of experiences that may arise during the practice.
Interested in reducing your stress levels and inviting meditation into your daily routine? Check out this guided body scan below to help bring awareness to the entire body, ease stress levels and support gut health!
Begin by finding savasana (corpse pose), a comfortable reclined position on your mat or flat surface. Breathe deeply enough to feel the rise and fall of your belly with each inhalation and exhalation. Start by visually scanning the body from the top of the head to the tips of the toes, noticing how the body feels in its current state. Slowly shift awareness to the right side of the body, beginning with the right foot, sending awareness to the right ankle, right calf, right shin, right thigh, right hip, right side of the body, right shoulder, right bicep, right forearm, right hand. Bringing awareness to the entire right side of the body, up and down the right side body. Slowly shift awareness to the left side of the body, beginning with the left foot, sending awareness to the left calf, left shin, left thigh, left hip, left side of the body, left shoulder, left bicep, left forearm, left hand. Noticing the entire left side of the body. Shifting awareness to the core then moving up through the torso, noticing the rise and fall of the belly, chest, throat, mouth, cheeks, eyes, forehead, crown of the head and beyond the crown of the head. Bringing awareness to the entire body, up and down the entire body, noticing how you feel in this space. Continue to breathe here, enjoying the benefits of becoming fully present and aware. When you are ready, begin to slowly wiggle the fingertips and toes, gently pressing yourself up to a seated position.
Photo Credit: Caleb Weaver