Ways to Reduce Stress

xanthostemon chrysanthus

Tell a friend you have taken up bead meditation and said ‘friend’ may suddenly look askance, thinking you have gone ‘weird. ‘ But being in touch with your inner ‘flower child,’ can have untold benefits in combating  stress and potentially improving daily life, memory, concentration and overall well-being.

I was introduced to bead meditation some years via after my yoga class, and have to say that I experienced many benefits of a daily five-minute practice. But lately, I have been too busy, too rushed to continue my practice. And now, as I face a stressful time in my life, I have once again turned to Bead meditation.

The practice can be done anyway and or anytime, as long as you can do it uninterrupted. Carry the beads in your bag and you can practise in those few minutes of down time, where you might be ordinarily checking social media on your phone, or whilst waiting in the car for someone, waiting for a bus/train, last thing before bed, even in the loo! For me, it seems to work best first thing in the morning, when I know that I should get up soon, but don’t want to, just yet.



Benefits I have enjoyed from Bead Meditation

  • Sense of Calm
  • Less anxiety
  • More control in crisis or stressful situations
  • Lower Blood pressure
  • More sustained attention span and improvement in effortless single focus concentration
  • Relaxed start to the day
  • Distractions from run-away thoughts or self-destructive negative thinking
  • Increased sense of compassion and empathy
  • Increased energy levels
  • Improved sense of well-being & self-esteem

The secret seems to be in keeping the mind busy on a single activity, and in doing so, worry and stress can not seep into your consciousness.  The mind will try to wander and intrusive thoughts will tug at you, and  if this happens, gently bring it back to the task at hand (sorry no pun intended there) Do this as often as you need.

“The mind is harder to control than the wind”, it was said. So now, not only can the mind be quieted by having something to do, the movement of your fingers on the beads, gives the body something to do and allows the body to feel more content and relaxed.

Prayer beads have a similar purpose, however this is more to do with religious devotion and counting prayers, which is not within my realm to recommend or discuss here. Rather than focusing on spiritual growth, secular meditation techniques such as this, emphasizes stress reduction, relaxation and self-improvement.


Wiki tells us, “Most of the ancient religions of the world have a tradition of using some type of prayer beads as tools in devotional meditation.[125][126][127] Most prayer beads and Christian rosaries consist of pearls or beads linked together by a thread.[125][126] The Roman Catholic rosary is a string of beads containing five sets with ten small beads. Each set of ten is separated by another bead. The Hindu japa mala has 108 beads, as well as those used in Jainism and Buddhist prayer beads.[128] Each bead is counted once as a person recites a mantra until the person has gone all the way around the mala, which is counted as 100, with an extra 8 there to compensate for missed beads.[128] The Muslim mishbaha has 99 beads. Specific meditations of each religion may be different.”


Start with the head bead ( the one that is large and different) and start chanting a mantra of choice ( samples shown below), and with each repetition, move your fingers along to the next bead, and repeat, until you are completely round the circle. If you have time, reverse and do the same back to the head bead again. This depends on how quickly or how slowly you chant the mantra. Choose a mantra that speaks to you.

You only have to say the mantra loud enough for you to hear. It is not necessary to sing it, or say it loudly. Don’t worry so much about your breathing technique; it is not so important in this form of meditation.


The eternal wisdom contained in the yoga texts explains that a ‘mantra’ is a spiritual sound vibration that purifies one’s consciousness and brings about ever-increasing spiritual insight and happiness. When performed as a group, you can really feel that vibration!!


  • Gauranga
  • Nityananda
  • Om Hari Om
  • Gopala
  • Govinda
  • Chaitanya Nityananda Gaurhari
  • Gopala Govinda Rama Madana Mohana
  • Haribol Nitagaur Nitaigaur Haribol
  • Madana Mohana Murari
  • Haribol Haribol Haribol

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The following passage, from Wiki illuminates the scientific basis for claiming health benefits of meditation. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meditation

Scientific Evidence to Support Benefits

 A study of college students by Oman et al. (2008) found that meditation may produce physiological benefits by changing neurological processes. This finding was supported by an expert panel at the National Institutes of Health. The practice of meditation has also been linked with various favourable outcomes that include: “effective functioning, including academic performance, concentration, perceptual sensitivity, reaction time, memory, self-control, empathy, and self-esteem.”(Oman et al., 2008, pg. 570) In their evaluation of the effects of two meditation-based programs they were able to conclude that meditating had stress reducing effects and cogitation, and also increased forgiveness. (Oman et al., 2008)

Li Chuan Chu (2009), found that meditation enhances overall psychological health and preserves a positive attitude towards stress. (Chu, 2009)

Mindfulness Meditation has now entered the health care domain because of evidence suggesting a positive correlation between the practice and emotional and physical health.

Examples of such benefits include: reduction in stress, anxiety, depression, headaches, pain, elevated blood pressure, etc. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts found that those who meditated approximately half an hour per day during an eight week period reported that at the end of the period, they were better able to act in a state of awareness and observation. Respondents also said they felt non-judgmental. (Harvard’s Women’s Health Watch, 2011)

“Meditation as Medicine” (American Academy of Neurology) [150] cites scientific evidence from various studies which claim that meditation can increase attention span, sharpen focus, improve memory, and dull the perception of pain.

A review of scientific studies identified relaxation, concentration, an altered state of awareness, a suspension of logical thought and the maintenance of a self-observing attitude as the behavioral components of meditation;[67] it is accompanied by a host of biochemical and physical changes in the body that alter metabolism, heart rate, respiration, blood pressure and brain activation.[46][152]

Meditation has been used in clinical settings as a method of stress and pain reduction. Meditation has also been studied specifically for its effects on stress.


Some people feel meditation is an alien concept and take it like they would a bitter pill, while others embrace it wholeheartedly. Are they the less stressed?

It will be something I shall ponder about what you make of it.

schnauzer at beach



Be a Warrior Every Morning – Fight the Aging Process

I find as I we get older, our bodies begin to show signs of wear and tear. We can easily pull a muscle bending down to pick up something, especially first thing in the morning.

One way to combat the aging process is to maintain a regular stretching regime.  Our bodies LOVE to stretch and it is the best and most natural activity to do when we first get up in the mornings.

Stretching warms up and activates our muscles getting us ready for the day.  A muscle that is regularly stretched will be less likely to strain or “pull.”

A sun salutation practice is a group of Yoga exercises that incorporates a stretch of every  muscle in the body.


One of the exercises I do in my “sun salutation,’ or morning ritual, is the Warrior Pose. It not only strengthens the arms and hips, but also stretches the groin and legs and can help reduce backache.

  1. From a standing position, inhale and exhale as you step your feet 3 feet apart or further if comfortable. You know your body best and what is comfortable for you. Do not overstretch!!!
  2. Inhale and float your arms out to the side at shoulder height. Turn your right foot out to point ahead and your back foot in at a 45 degree angle. Turn your head to look out over your fingertips and front foot.

3.Exhale and bend your right knee until your thigh runs horizontal to the floor (or as near to horizontal as it can get and don’t be too ambitious at first). Turn your head to look out over your fingertips and front foot. Extend out through your arms and slide your shoulders down to create space between your head and neck area.

Alignment is important. (See photo) Shoulders over hips, front knee over second toe and ankle, arms at shoulder height, heels in line.

N.B. If you find it hard to balance, practise against a wall, This will also assist you in maintaining the correct alignment.

4.  Lift your torso up to open your chest and improve respiratory capacity. Inhale and exhale slowly for 5 breaths.

  1. Exhale completely before inhaling and straightening the bent leg. Keeping your knees soft, turn both feet back to centre.
  • Repeat on the other side.

  • A great way to start the day. I have been starting my day this way for 30 years now!

    Something to Ponder About.



    Therapeutic Hunger – when it is good not to finish all on your plate!

    Interesting concept we can all adopt.

    Abridged from:


    Therapeutic Hunger: Habitual Mindless eating to Mindful eatingDSC00905

    Therapeutic Hunger: Necessary for good health

    I want to coin this term “Therapeutic Hunger” (TH), to differentiate it from the hunger that is associated with problem issues like famine, poverty and eating disorders.

    “Therapeutic Hunger” (TH) is residual hunger that is still left when we don’t eat stomach full.  When we finish meals, and have eaten just the right quantity of food, that we don’t feel full. This sweet hunger is very therapeutic, as it helps optimise digestion, proper absorption of nutrients, and enough space for elimination of waste.

    TH is a signal for body organs to more efficiently. Our body parts have evolved to work in such a way, so as to conserve energy. They will not perform any unnecessary work. So when there is plenty of food supply, they don’t need to extract nutrients most efficiently or digest fully. Also abdomen is like a food processor, when filled over the limit it can’t process food very well. It needs space to digest the food.

    Thus if we make it a habit to always eat just the amount of food, so as to leave some “Therapeutic Hunger” (TH). It will improve health by controlling weight, digesting food, absorbing nutrients. It seems hard in the beginning, but later it feels good like sweet hunger. That remaining hunger is a very good feeling, and one can enjoy various tastes of the foods, digestion and good health.

    Now a days, when we are used to eating on fixed time and fixed amounts. We have time for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The serving sizes are also more or less fixed, as suggested by food recipes. Even the most weight loss programs suggest the size of meals. Instead of habit of eating at fixed times, and fixed quantities, we should build or senses to eat when we are hungry and the right amount for individual need. Dependence on stimulating agents like coffee, team, alcohol, tobacco etc. also doesn’t help. These substances mask our senses and we slowly lose control.

    • Always leave some space for food to process, and digest. No over eating.
    • Enhance your senses, move from habitual Mindless eating to Mindful eating.
    • Food is just one channel of life force, there are others. Don’t ignore other forces that sustain life – breathing, sun, and other cosmic energies. When you eat less, body will automatically draw more from other life forces.

    Bikram – Fraud or Fanatic?

    For the past two days, or make that 16 hours, I have attended two classes in the so-called “Bikram Torture chamber” of Bikram Yoga. This is yoga performed in a hot room. Why did I choose to do this  ?

    Well I love a good sauna, and I like yoga…. perfect combination? Right? WRONG!

    Classically trained on and off for the past 24 years in Iyengar yoga as a recreational pursuit for fun flexibility and fitness, I decided to give Bikram a go… Despite several warnings from my work colleagues about the challenging nature of the class. I was ready for that…

    What I wasn’t ready for was the American style , six-pack- loaded teacher complete with” Madonna-style” mic on a pedestal in front of the class, barking orders at me and clicking her fingers like I was some kind of performing seal!  This,for me, contravenes all that is good and attractive about yoga. That is: relaxing, finding peace tranquility, at one with mind and body.

    But strange as it seems, plenty of people like to be spoken to like some kind of circus animal, endure poses where the object, according to the instructor, is “pain” and sweaty bodies in a smelly room heated to 105 degrees celsius with restricted access to water.  There were at least 17 in the class I attended.

    If you are contemplating a Bikram class, for goodness sake, drink at least 3 litres of water beforehand and  do not drink your water during class, unless instructed to do so. Or else, you will be reprimanded mercilessly. Secondly, if you dare to do a variation of a pose, ( one that you have practised for 20 years the correct way) contrary to the Bikram technique, due to a muscle cramp, you can expect to be asked to leave the class, as I was……..

    This is such an abomination of the concepts of Yoga I feel quite irritated that it even calls itself Yoga! So I began to research this style, and it seems that there are some suspicious issues that question the very integrity of Bikram, and these I discovered, even in a basic wiki search.

    For example:

    Wiki tells us:


    Another controversial component of Bikram yoga pertains to the prevalence of Yoga Asana Championships, regionally and nationally. While practitioners of other forms of yoga maintain that competition contradicts the idea of peace and unity, Bikram contends, “Competition is the foundation for all democratic societies. For without ‘Competition’, there is no democracy.”[12]

    Legal issues

    In the United States, {Bikram} Choudhury has claimed and been aggressive in enforcing broad copyrights in most aspects of the practice, teaching, and business of the system.[3] While these claims are not definitively resolved (i.e., by any judicial ruling on the merits), Choudhury has extracted legal settlements from a number of yoga teachers and studios.[3] However, in a recently issued, official statement, US Copyright Office concluded, that the copyright for Bikram’s sequence of 26 postures had been issued in error. Ed’s note: {These postures have been done for thousands of years and are not his to copyright}

    In Bikram’s Beginning Yoga Class (First Edition), Choudhury claims he conducted “medical” studies at the Tokyo University Medical School validating the medical benefits of his 26 postures. During one of the lawsuits defendants demanded copies of the “medical” studies and Choudhury claimed he could not find them. In Bikram’s Beginning Yoga Class (Second Edition), Choudhury removed all references to “medical” studies.[13]

    Competition is necessary in democracy?  Copyright issues? Fraudulent scientific claims?

    Highly suspicious!  Yet the teachers continue to expound how his techniques are “scientifically proven” and the class swallows every mouthful. I think after my second class, I suffered heat stroke, and only recovered 6 hours later. Fairly dangerous to drive a car after a class in this condition.

    No wonder they ask you to sign a disclaimer that includes the phrase,” that you have in the last 6 months seen a medical practitioner that states that you are safe and fit to do Bikram Yoga and that you are aware …..that there may be….injury, even  paralysis and death (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) I deleted this condition before signing…

    Something to ponder about in our more relaxing moments….