It’s tough to find a Zen moment with today’s hectic lifestyles. But meditation is one great way to unwind, leading to improved mental and physical health.
Studies show this ancient practice reduces anxiety, blood pressure and depression, and boosts attention and concentration. Meditation takes many forms, though most focus on freeing the cluttered mind — something that’s much harder than it sounds.
Group classes can help: There, an expert leads you through the process and a community lends support. On a recent Wednesday at Huntington’s Dipamkara Meditation Center, a dozen men and women gather for “Soup & Serenity,” a lunchtime meditation session that ends with an offering of homemade vegetarian soup.
Participants remove shoes, get comfortable on folding chairs or floor cushions, and close their eyes. For the first 30 minutes, instructor Susan Brenner directs deep-breathing exercises to relax the whole body. She reassures everyone whose brains are still buzzing. “If a thought or sound enters your mind, name it, release it quickly and come back to your breath,” Brenner says.
Each week, the group also discusses Buddhist teachings that apply to real-life problems. On this day, some volunteer negative qualities to eliminate, such as self-criticism. “Now I recognize anger quicker, which makes it easier to avoid it. Then, when it does crop up, I can let it go a lot quicker,” says regular Ed Santangelo, 68, of Babylon.
Ten-year meditation veteran Rindi Tarlow, 60, of Northport says it releases tension in a way physical exercise doesn’t. “I feel like I’m healing anxiety on a deeper level,” she says.
At Yoga Nanda in Garden City, Sunday evening is for yoga nidra meditation, a guided technique that’s said to provide four hours of rest in a half-hour. Lights dimmed, eight people lie on mats and concentrate on teacher Sharon Hartman’s soothing images: watching sunlight on ocean waves, walking barefoot through a green field, sitting softly in warm sand. Several become so calm they fall asleep.
“Whenever I take this, for the rest of the week I’m relaxed and nothing really bothers me that much,” says Stephanie Singson, 28, of Bethpage.
Michele Caponi-Sajecki, 55, of Floral Park leaves the class feeling peaceful, but rejuvenated. “I feel like I could take on the world if I needed to,” she says.
WHERE TO TAKE CLASSES
Drop-in classes are available at least two days a week at the locations below.
DIPAMKARA MEDITATION CENTER
WHEN | WHERE Basic classes (from 45 to 90 minutes) at noon Mondays-Thursdays; 7 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. Sundays at 282 New York Ave., Huntington
INFO 631-549-1000, meditationonlongisland.org
COST $5-$15 a class
ALSO TRY Similar classes at the center’s branches at 516 Broadway, Massapequa; 301D E. Main St., Port Jefferson; and 299 Raft Ave., Sayville.
WHEN | WHERE Thirty-minute class at noon Thursdays; one-hour class at 6:30 p.m. Sundays at 55 Hilton Ave., Garden City
INFO 516-307-9007, yoga-nanda.com
COST $8 or $20
Thursday’s session uses vibrating Tibetan singing bowls to encourage a relaxed state.
AWAKEN YOGA AND MEDITATION CENTER
WHEN | WHERE One-hour classes at 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays; 8:15 a.m. Wednesdays; 7 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. Thursdays; 8:15 a.m. Fridays. Thirty-minute classes at 8:45 a.m. Tuesdays; 7:45 p.m. Wednesdays; 7:30 a.m. and 11:15 a.m. Saturdays at 52 Broadway, Greenlawn
INFO 516-551-4910, awakenyogaandmeditationcenter.com
COST $10 or $20
A 30-minute private session with owner Michael Aronoff is recommended before a group class, which are mostly silent and focus on traditional breath work.
LONG ISLAND CENTER FOR YOGA
WHEN | WHERE Thirty-minute classes at 4 p.m. Mondays; 10:45 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. Wednesdays; 9 a.m. Saturdays at 107 E. Main St., Babylon.
INFO 631-893-5445, longislandyoga.com
Guided sessions by owner Jacqueline Morrison involve controlled, yoga-style breathing.
VAJRAVARAHI MEDITATION CENTER
WHEN | WHERE Thirty-minute guided meditations at 12:15 p.m. Mondays-Fridays; 90-minute classes at 5:30 p.m. Fridays and 10:30 a.m. Sundays at 112 Hampton St., Sag Harbor.
INFO 631-728-5700, hamptonsmeditation.org
COST Lunchtime sessions are by donation; $15 for Friday evening and Sunday classes.
Buddhist nun Gen Norden guides many of the classes, including Friday sessions that delve more deeply into Buddhist philosophy.