So while I was going through Yoga teacher training, we talked a lot about meditation. Did you know? The main goal of Asana (posture) practice is to strengthen our hips, back, spine, and core to be able to sit in meditation for hours at a time. Yea – who would have thought right? All those down dogs I’m doing are for meditation?? I digress.
As I was saying, during my yoga teacher training, we learned about different meditation techniques, and all the positive and great benefits of meditation. However, I also learned that for myself, I find meditation to be extremely difficult. During my teacher training, my guru told us all to try and meditate for about 10 minutes each day. I could barely do 5. The image below accurately describes what went through my brain as I tried to focus my mind and quiet the chatter (this still happens to me)
But one thing to remember is that meditation is not just about quieting the mind, it’s about focus. It’s about trying to quiet the mind of the rest of the chatter and then bring it to a single-minded focus of a thought or prayer or observation.
Meditation is an ancient concept and there are many different ways to meditate. So as mentioned earlier, one type of meditation is to try to focus the mind on one single idea, or point and as the brain wanders, one attempts at redirecting it back. Another type of meditation is open-monitoring meditation where one simply observes one’s surroundings without reacting to anything. There are many other types as well such as flame-watching, even moving meditation (like in a vinyasa yoga class where every movement is linked with breath)
The great thing about meditation is that it’s quite personal and it can be tailored to fit your own needs.
- For example: if you’re an audio learner – you can maybe listen to a chant of some kind or music while you try to quiet your mind for a few moments.
- For those who are visually inclined – one can listen to a guided meditation where a narrator takes us through a visualization of a pleasant place (such as a walk along the beach, or in the woods or a trek to a waterfall)
- The kinesthetic learner can try a counting meditation where he or she inhales to a set number and exhales to that same count.
- One can also repeat a mantra or a chant repeatedly to help focus the mind. The mantra doesn’t have to be something religious or esoteric, but can be something very simple as “I am where I should be” (So maybe as you Inhale – think “I am” and as you exhale think “where I should be”)
There are so many more different kinds of meditation but this is just a glimpse of a few things you could try.
Now that I have gone over some of the basics of meditation (granted I left out quite a bit and have given you an abbreviated dissertation about meditation) – what are its benefits? Oh where do I begin….
- Reduces stress levels and promotes relaxation (Meditation makes the body less responsive towards stress hormones thereby lowering blood pressure similar to that of blood pressure medication)
- Lowers blood pressure
- Increases concentration and focus (we currently live in a society where we are distracted and are unable to concentrate on one single thing for an extended period of time. There is always a lame Facebook status post to read!)
- Emotional balance (our neurotic parts of our selves that go crazy with emotions and egotistical actions begin to slow down)
So reading all that may sound monotonous and repetitive, however a picture is worth a thousand words. Using fMRI scans, scientists have been able to study exactly what happens in the brain while we meditate.
The main difference is the reduction of the beta waves (shown in bright colors on the brain on the left). This reduction of brain activity is a GOOD thing as again – it helps us with better focus, memory, anxiety, stress, and so much more as I’ve listed above. The above picture was taken after 20 minutes of meditation and look what a difference that makes! Your brain needs a break! It does so much for you! Show it some love with meditation 🙂
Sitting down for 20 minutes to meditate may sound really difficult and it is for most of us. So maybe instead of 20 minutes – we could start off with 5. Just 5 minutes of concentrating on your breath, or a single thought (such as compassion, peace, love, anything positive) and see how you feel afterwards. It may not make a difference initially – but with time – you might just start to act upon the thoughts that you have during your meditation. I mean, if you’re concentrating on the idea of love for 5 minutes a day – don’t you think some small part of you will just think about it more and thereby give some love to someone or something?
Someone wise once told me – meditation is like a deep lake. If you go to the lake, maybe you dip your toes at the edge, or you decide to jump into the middle of the lake at its deepest point and get totally soaked. The point is – some part of you still gets wet. Similarly – maybe you decide to really immerse yourself and find it easy to meditate for a whole hour each day – or maybe you just do 5 minutes. You are reaping the benefits of what meditation can do for you no matter how much or little of it you do.
With that my dear reader(s) – I’m going to try to find a quiet spot for a few minutes and close my eyes and try really hard to NOT think about my next credit card payment and concentrate on a nice thought (maybe FOCUS will be my meditation mantra for today. I will try not to make it SHOES)