Archive for the ‘Online Resources’ Category


The relaxation response triggered by yoga and meditation counters the stress response. When the mind-body has repeated experiences of stress, the stress response triggers faster as a survival mechanism and the stress hormones, over time, cause health problems. Stress may contribute to, or exacerbate, some of these familiar health problems:

anxiety * arthritis * constipation * depression * diabetes * headaches * heart problems * heartburn * infectious diseases such as colds and herpes * insomnia * irritable bowel syndrome * backaches, joint aches, abdominal pain * PMS * ulcers

This is now widely accepted knowledge as I am learning in the Mind-Body Medicine: The New Science of Optimal Health by Professor Jason M. Satterfield Ph.D (Great Courses from The Teaching Company).  The stress response is well-explained in the following excerpt from:

Now and Zen: How mindfulness can change your brain and improve your health Longwood Seminars, March 8, 2016 Content provided by Harvard Health Publications health.

Collectively, the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and adrenal glands make up the HPA axis, which plays a pivotal role in triggering the stress response. The hypothalamus sends a chemical messenger (corticotropinreleasing factor, or CRF) to the nearby pituitary gland, which then releases its own chemical messenger (adrenocorticotropic hormone, or ACTH) into the bloodstream. ACTH travels to the adrenal glands, which respond by releasing a number of stress hormones into the bloodstream. At the same time, the sympathetic nervous system releases stress hormones, too. The combined effects of these hormones are widespread…Senses become sharper, muscles tighten, the heart beats faster, blood pressure rises, and breathing quickens. All of this prepares you to fight or flee in the face of danger. Simultaneously, the hypothalamus fires up the autonomic nervous system.

Yoga and meditation activate the relaxation response through the parasympathetic nervous system which counteracts the overactive sympathetic nervous system. (This has finally become mainstream and is no longer “fringe medicine”!) Stress hormones such as cortisol are reduced. Blood pressure may drop, heart beat slows down, breathing is slower, the muscles relax.

Along with life style changes, cultivating positive behaviors, and improved diets, yoga and meditation offer very cost-effective ways to significantly improve health outcomes. Cognitive Behavior Therapy is also found to be effective, but it can be very expensive.

For a study at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind-Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital (see the link above), two groups were studied: long-term practitioners of yoga, meditation, and repetitive prayers and a group with no prior experience of these techniques. The novice group was taught a 20-minutes sequence with diaphragmatic breathing, body scan, mantra repetition, and mindfulness. Blood samples were taken from both groups to examine gene activity–specifically on how the body deals with free radicals.

The long-term practitioners had the most significant positive change and the novice group saw some positive change after eight weeks of practice. However, this effect is not long-term, suggesting that like physical exercise, the relaxation response needs to be triggered regularly. Yoga, meditation, prayers, need to be part of a regular routine.

I have two links to free audio tracks (diaphragmatic breathing and body scan) for readers of this blog who may want to start a regular practice.




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wave-320755_1280In compiling this list, Ridgewood’s hidden diversity has become apparent in the number of private meditation groups that offer oases of peace–from Centering Prayer to Vedanta and Zen/Buddhist teachings to Yoga meditations.  These are quietly welcoming communities that practice, and keep alive, the ancient traditions of meditation in a contemporary society. Some do not charge anything.

These are the groups I am aware of–please get in touch with me if there are other groups in Ridgewood so they can be included on this list.

Arya Samaj of New Jersey

105 Cottage Place

Ridgewood, NJ 07450

The mission of Arya Samaj is to bring harmony to the community through Vedanta teachings. The group meets every Sunday and offers yoga classes from 1:30 to 2:30 PM. It is followed by Havan (fire ritual) and 15 minutes of meditation.

Contact: Sanjeev Kumar 201-527-5700.


Centering Prayer

Westside Presbyterian Church (Gathering Room)

6 S Monroe Street, Ridgewood, NJ 07450

Centering Prayer is a form of Christian silent meditation that has been practiced for many years. It is a form of “resting in God” and letting go of anxieties and fears—as well as any emotions that keep the Love of Christ from flowing through us. This class meets regularly at 9:25 am, ending at 9:50 in time for participants to gather upstairs for the 10:00 am service. Please direct any questions to Susan McBrayer at susanmcb4@gmail.com or Heidi Ahlborn at heidi.ahlborn@gmail.com. We welcome you to join us as we celebrate the loving, compassionate, forgiving, non-judgmental and inclusive Spirit of God.

Heart Circle Sangha

451 Hillcrest Road

Ridgewood, NJ 07450


Heart Circle Sangha fosters the practice and study of Buddhism through meditation, study, services, retreats and workshops. Our purpose is to awaken the spirit of living in the present moment and appreciating our life just as it is. We are committed to serving our communities and the world. Our practice schedule is as follows: Sunday 9:00 am to 12:00 pm, Monday 7:30 pm to 9:00 pm, Wednesday 7:00 am to 8:00 am. For beginning instruction come on Sunday at 9:00 am.

Mahasri Yoga

The extensive website, founded by Meena Modi, a longtime Ridgewood resident, yoga and meditation teacher, is committed to serving the local as well as global community—peace begins with each one of us. The website is a free resource for numerous Yoga Nidra and other meditation tracks, book reviews, and articles on Yoga and Yoga-based meditations. The accompanying blog informs on research.

Currently, Mahasri Yoga conducts free Happy Circle meditations through Parks and Recreation, The Village Hall, Ridgewood.

Contact: Meena Modi info@mahasriyoga.com

www.mahasriyoga.com and www.yogamedblog.wordpress.com

New Moon Zendo

The Unitarian Society of Ridgewood

113 Cottage Place, Fellowship Room

Ridgewood, NJ 07450

The Zen group New Moon Zendo is led by Carl Viggiani, Sensei, on Mondays from 8 pm to 9:30 pm. New arrivals must call ahead and come at 7:30 pm for instructions. The contact person is Marcia Spitz at 201-652-0313, phone contact preferred (email mbpianopots@aol.com) or Ralph Pleasic at pleasic@optonline.net.

New York Insight

Ridgewood United Methodist Church (Hardenbergh Lounge)

100 Dayton Street

Ridgewood, NJ 07450

New York Insight is delighted to announce the New Jersey Meditation Group, led by NYI co-founder Joseph Schmidt. This weekly sitting group meets Wednesdays from 7 to 9 PM. It provides an opportunity for interested people to meet for meditation, a Dharma reading, and discussion. All are welcome to join. Suggested starting donation $10. Enter the administration building to the left of the church. Street parking is free after 6 pm.

Contact: info@nyimc.org phone: 212-213-4802

Ridgewood Meditation and Buddhism

Christ Episcopal Church

105 Cottage Place

Ridgewood NJ 07450

Classes held on Wednesdays from 7:30 pm to 9 pm, $15, no registration. Ridgewood meditation and Buddhism classes are offered by the Dharmachakra Buddhist Center, and are suitable for both beginners and more advanced meditation practitioners. These classes offer meditation techniques and teachings on the fundamentals of Buddhism, with an emphasis on their practical application in everyday life. The center also offers classes through the Ridgewood Community School on certain Tuesdays. Please call the Community School for those details.

Contact: contact@meditatenj.org phone: 973-847-5421


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Lady Gaga asks His Holiness The Dalai Lama about the despair and loneliness in youth; the importance of kindness and compassion for self-esteem and sense of purpose; and connecting to our shared humanity for healthier living. What meditation to practice is another question briefly explored.

Dalai Lama Lady Gaga Talk

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Thich Nhat Hanh Quote Collective's photo.

“In a family, if there is one person who practices mindfulness, the entire family will be more mindful. Because of the presence of one member who lives in mindfulness, the entire family is reminded to live in mindfulness. If in one class, one student lives in mindfulness, the entire class is influenced.”

Source ~ Thich Nhat Hanh Quote Collective


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Mind and Life Fellow Jud Brewer talks about the relationship between mindfulness and addiction in his recent TED Talk, “A Simple Way to Break a Bad Habit.”



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We try out many different ways to manage our physical and mental stress, anxiety, pain, grief, loss, regrets. Some work, some don’t. Meditation is one of them–and all the different types of meditations. Mahasri Yoga offers free online shorter breathing tracks as meditation and longer Yoga Nidras. They have had a profound effect on many (and like any other type of meditation, done nothing for many!). A recent reminder is that of an old college friend who had juvenile arthritis that started in college. She now lives in Spain with debilitating arthritis as an adult and happened to try the Yoga Nidras on the website. A Christmas card announced that they had transformed her life, “They were fabulous.”

So this goes to anyone who may want to try it out!


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Every day in life is beautiful…every day.  

Alice Herz-Sommer

Holiday meditation to see beauty and light in ourselves and others

Candle Flame Meditation.

This image can be used for the flame.


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