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How To Start A Personalized Meditation Process

Meditation and mindfulness methods best suited for depression and anxiety.

Meditation and mindfulness research has been making major headlines in 2017. Across the scientific literature you can generally find a similar definition for the meditative state: present-centred, non-judgemental awareness. Sounds pretty peaceful doesn’t it? We knew the wellness trend would continue but we Westerners didn’t quite foresee how much this ancient practice could shift our emotional experience, our overall perspective, and our physical well being. Thank goodness for some good news!

Now that we’re open to the idea of meditation and mindfulness the first question is often how do I begin? Home practice – especially guided practice – can be a great way to begin one’s relationship with meditation. I often see beginners make a common assumption after their first attempt with meditation; they try one style of guided meditation and sometimes assume the whole field of meditation and mindfulness isn’t for them. As teachers in the sector we could be doing a better job of promoting a personalized approach to meditation and mindfulness, informing meditators of all the styles and methods available and helping to guide students towards their own intuitive nature. Perhaps humans are far too interesting and complex for a one-size-fits-all perspective? For now, let’s focus on methods of meditation and mindfulness that are best suited towards students in some mental distress, namely depression and anxiety.

Some methods of meditation are better suited for those struggling with anxiety and/or depression than others. Generally speaking methods that are categorized in the literature as focused-attention (FA) are best suited to reduce anxiety and aid in disrupting depressive thinking habits. Those techniques include: 

a) Mindful breathing (as long as this doesn’t exacerbate things for individuals who may be triggered by focusing on breathing)

b) guided visualization

c) body-scanning techniques including ones found in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), progressive relaxation, and the practice of yoga Nidra.

Generally my guidance to those beginning their practice is as follows; some methods will work well for you while others, much less so. Try at least one meditation in each style and then choose a method that you feel works best with the nature of your own mind. Choosing a partner or finding a therapist we relate to easily is a highly individualized pursuit, and the same is true for finding a method of meditation best suited to the nature of your own mind.

Here are two meditations in each of the methods I mentioned above:

Body Awareness Meditation


Breathing Exercises (watching the breath, not manipulating the breath – as that method is not best suited for those with a tendency towards anxiety)


Guided Visualizations (can be done seated or laying down):


Before you begin let me say that the best way to enter a meditation practice is in a state of deep readiness. If you feel like you should be doing it or you’re strongly resisting the process, try giving yourself 20 minutes to relax before attempting to sit down. Remember the big picture and your desire to move towards health, happiness and peace, and start small. Even 5 minutes counts! Wellness is a lifelong strategy – be patient and enjoy!

Emily Squirrell, Founder, The Present Centre for Meditation & Mindfulness

Meditation to Release Anxiety

Feel free to set a timer for 10 minutes.

Sit in a comfortable position on a pillow on the floor or in a chair. Find a focus point to gaze at, or softly close your eyes.

Be present in the moment.

Don’t worry about what has happened earlier today or what needs to happen later on.

Be here in the moment and focus on the breath.

Let the space around you be free of judgement. Imagine sitting by the window and the sun beaming with light. The rays of the sun are shining in through the window and radiating positive energy all around you.

Take a deep breathe in through the nose and exhale through the mouth, two times. Inhale cleansing air in, exhale any tension that does not serve you. Inhale Confidence, Exhale Fear.

Then coming to the natural rhythm of your breath as you breathe in and out of your nose.

Inhale, bring awareness to your breath.

Exhale, ground your feet into the earth.

Inhale, lengthen through from the base of your spine to the crown of your head.

Exhale, draw the navel slightly back towards the spine.

Inhale, rest your hands in your lap on top of one another, palms facing up or hands resting on your knees.

Exhale, relax your jaw, allowing space between the teeth but still keeping your mouth closed.

Inhale, lift the shoulders up towards your ears

Exhale, round your shoulders back and down.

Inhale, soften the muscles in your face including the space between your eyebrows.

Continue to breathe, feel free to count your breath. Inhale 1, Exhale 2, Inhale 3, Exhale 4. Continue at your own pace until you reach 10 then start from 1 again.

When thoughts arise and distract you from breathing, imagine a cloud gently floating the thoughts away.

Bring awareness back to the breath; feel free to place one hand on your stomach and one hand on your heart. Inhale to feel the stomach lift, exhale to feel the stomach to lower.

Bring attention to your heart, inhale love, exhale anxiety.

Continue to breathe at your own rhythm.

Once the timer goes off slowly open your eyes to come back to the present moment.

Meditation on a regular basis helps us become more focused, reduces anxiety and helps to increase our self-awareness to our physical body, emotions and thoughts.

Take a moment to thank yourself for taking the time to practice.

Stacey Harris, MSW, RSW
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Credit for window photo: Sunlight, Jason Tessier

Stress and the Pelvic Floor

Your palms begin to sweat, your stomach feels uneasy, you are tired but you cannot sleep. There is a pounding in your head, you have chest pain, your sex drive is negative. There is pain and tightness in your muscles. These are all COMMON EFFECTS OF STRESS ON THE BODY.

You cannot sit still, you are overwhelmed and irritable. You feel anxious, with a lack of motivation and focus. You feel alone even in a room full of people. You are sad, and possibly depressed. These are all COMMON EFFECTS OF STRESS ON MOOD.

You are socially withdrawn, no longer exercising, and cannot eat or are overeating. You become angry and short tempered, and may have outbursts. You rely on crutches like smoking, drinking or drugs to help you cope. These are all COMMON EFFECTS OF STRESS ON YOUR BEHAVIOR.

The human body is designed to experience stress, and to react to it. Stress can be a very important protective mechanism whereby the body becomes alert and ready to avoid danger. This positive stress is referred to as “eustress”. The opposite occurs when stress becomes negative and an individual faces continuous challenge without relief. This type of stress is called “distress”, and it is this stress that impacts the body in the ways outlined above.

So what does all of this have to do with the pelvic floor you ask? Wait…WHAT IS the pelvic floor you ask? Believe me when I say you are not the first to ask, and you will definitely not be the last. You should have a better understanding when we are through.

The pelvis is the “bony container” that surrounds the bowel, the bladder, and the reproductive organs. The pelvic floor muscles present like a hammock and span the bottom of the pelvis, holding the pelvic organs in place and playing a vital role in bowel, bladder and sexual function.

What you may not know is STRESS CAN DIRECTLY AFFECT YOUR PELVIC FLOOR!!! Remember, we talked about the body’s response to stress? When we experience stress, particularly that of a prolonged nature, we hold our muscles very tightly – all muscles, even our pelvic floor muscles. Stress plays a major role in pelvic floor disorders, and many of my clients experienced their first pelvic floor symptom during or following a particularly stressful time in their lives.

We have all encountered cyclical situations situations at some point, and a chronic state of stress is no different. Stress and the tightening of the pelvic floor muscles (consciously or subconsciously) can lead to conditions such as:

  • Urinary or fecal incontinence (leakage)
  • Urinary urgency
  • Urinary frequency
  • Sexual pain, difficulty with sexual arousal and orgasm
  • Constipation
  • Pelvic pain including vulvodynia and vaginismus
  • Bladder pain including painful bladder syndrome
  • And many others

These conditions then lead to stress and anxiety – possibly because people are afraid to discuss them – and so the cyclical pattern continues.

The only way to initiate the healing process is to break the cycle!

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The most important message I can convey is that we need to talk about pelvic pain. NO. MORE. WHISPERING. How will people ever understand the relationship between stress and pelvic pain if we do not talk about it?  Each day, I challenge every one of my clients to discuss their pelvis with one other human. This might be their partner, their best friend, or a random stranger in line at the grocery store (you may never see them again, so go for it). It might seem like unconventional advice, but people should NOT have to suffer in silence or go through life with the belief that peeing your pants when you age is normal. Or that the inability to hold a bowel movement after giving birth is normal.  Or that the stress associated with a traumatic event will forever define your ability to have pain-free intercourse. Common, yes! Normal…NO!

There is help out there, and people who want to help!  As mentioned above, sometimes it does take a village, and as a pelvic health physiotherapist I am fortunate to have established a wonderful reference team that I confidently refer to when needed. You have to start your journey somewhere – start by talking!

Screen Shot 2017-03-06 at 5.42.15 PMKeri Martin Vrbanac

Registered Physiotherapist, Pelvic Health Physiotherapist & Owner of a Body in Motion 

Keri has been a Registered Physiotherapist since 1997 when she graduated with distinction from the University of Toronto. Prior to beginning her physiotherapy studies, Keri completed a Bachelor of Physical and Health Education and a Bachelor of Arts, with distinction, from Queen’s University. Keri’s clinical expertise has included orthopedics, pediatrics, neurological specialties and sports therapy. Keri discovered her passion for Pelvic Physiotherapy in 2013 and has continued to further her education in the areas of sexual pain, incontinence, special topics in women’s health including endometriosus, infertility and post hysterectomy treatment. Keri enjoys her work with her children with pediatric incontinence, her pre-natal and post-natal clientele, as well as men and women suffering with pelvic pain as a result of bladder or bowel difficulties, interstitial cystitis and prostatitis, just to name a few.


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