Be Still and Find Your Inner Calm

Article in The Tennessean, 1/17/06, by Sameh Fahmy

If the demands of work and family and the constant distraction of cell phones, e-mail and 24-hour news have you feeling like you're pulled in every direction at once, then Nashville yoga and meditation teacher Sandi Anders has an antidote.

It's stillness, and she's not talking about plopping down on the couch and watching silly TV . Rather, the form of stillness she teaches is an ability to find calm and inner peace despite the busy nature of modern life.

"Stillness to me is important, because it's an antithesis to the frenetic multitasking that we face in our lives," she explains.

To help you achieve that state, Anders has released her first guided meditation CD, The Alchemy of Peace & Love: Magical Meditations to Calm Your Mind and Lift Your Spirit.

The first of its two discs guides listeners though a process known as a body scan in which the listener becomes aware of and then relaxes every part of the body -- from the forehead to toes -- to achieve a deep state of relaxation. The body scan is followed by a meditative song and then 20 minutes of soothing instrumental music. The second CD is a meditation designed to help people overcome destructive and self-critical thoughts.

Nashville clinical psychologist Philip Chanin met Anders in a yoga class nearly 15 years ago and has been a regular client since. He credits Anders' teachings with helping him deal with the emotional demands of his life and uses her CD with clients struggling with stress, depression and anxiety.

"Given most people's stressful lives, everyone needs to know how to relax and how to deal better with stress," he says.

Anders' work is based on the relaxation response, a term coined in the 1970s by Dr. Herbert Benson of Harvard Medical School. Benson showed that during conscious relaxation, heart rate, blood pressure and breathing rate slow down, and brain wave patterns change.

Anders says that by regularly engaging in meditation, people can train themselves to react to stressful situations -- everything from being stuck in traffic to major life changes -- with a sense of calm.

Sherry Lawler, a clinical social worker in Nashville, uses the CDs to put everyday stresses and the tumult of the recent loss of a loved one aside.

She often listens to them at night before going to sleep, but points out that they're more than a sleep aid.

"It's really more to awaken your inner self and to find the calm that's in the center of yourself," she says, adding that the experience is hard to describe.

"You just have to go ahead and experience it, and that's what this CD helps you do."

Follow these five steps to conscious relaxation:

In her CD, The Alchemy of Peace & Love: Magical Meditations to Calm Your Mind and Lift Your Spirit, Nashville yoga and meditation teacher Sandi Anders helps listeners achieve a deep state of relaxation with the following techniques:

1. Rhythmic, deep, diaphragmatic breathing to shift the body away from the stress response;

2. Body scan to find and release muscle tension;

3. Centering meditation to enhance relaxation; focus on a word such as "rest" or a calming phrase;

4. Mindfulness, which allows you to relax by focusing your attention on the present moment instead of anxieties about the past or future;

5. Visualization or guided imagery/meditation, which allows you to change the way you feel and promote healing in the mind and body by intentionally using your imagination.