Meditation is a practice that’s open to anyone, and there are huge health benefits to be had from a simple and daily meditation practice – both physically and mentally.
There are so many studies out there that have proven that mindfulness and meditation can have a positive impact to your mental and physical health. For example, meditation can reduce stress to the extent that it can help to reprogram your brain to increase your capacity to manage stress, and also reduce the stress hormone cortisol in your body and even strengthen your immune system.
Meditation can also help to improve your concentration and helath This is because meditation creates a mindful awareness in the brain, allowing it to be calm and in harmony with itself. Regular practitioners of meditation have shown a heightened attention and concentration span.
Meditating daily can also help to decrease your blood pressure. Mentally, it can also increase creativity and help to reduce anxiety. Additionally, people who meditate show a calmer and more positive emotional demeanor.
Meditation can also give some spiritual benefits. You don’t have to be religious, and you can practice meditation regardless of which faith you follow. Meditation can help to connect you with the world, and bring calmness and joy into your mind and body – it can even help you discover more about yourself.
It’s easy to start meditating, though it may take you a while to get into it. Most people who try meditation for the first time do so to reduce stress levels. While this is a great action to take if you’re feeling stressed, meditation after a while can create a calmness that spreads into other aspects of your life, and you’ll find yourself felling more balanced, more compassionate, with a clearer vision about your life and the ability to make strong decisions. However, if you’re feeling very stressed, it can be hard to switch ‘off’, and allow yourself to feel the benefits of meditation.
Begin to meditate simply by learning one technique and trying it every day.
There’s no ‘wrong’ way to do this – whatever technique speaks to you is probably the method you’ll return to. An easy technique is to sit comfortably on a cushion, or a chair – and sit up straighter than usual! Slouching can hurt your back and can also make you a little less focused.
To start you may want to try to sit against a wall to support yourself, and use extra pillows, cushions or blankets to make yourself feel comfy. You can even lie down, if this is more comfortable for you. Try to calm your mind before you start meditating. You can do this by simply listening to a song you like, to take yourself out of the stress of the day to day and calm down.
To start with, set a timer for just five minutes, and work your way up to 10, then 15, and then 20. Try not to put yourself on a schedule, and go at your own pace to lengthen your practice.
When you breathe, breathe through your nose with your mouth closed. Focus on the way the breath moves in and out of your nostrils, or your chest rising and falling.
If you notice your mind wandering away, come back to your breath and focus on it. It’s important not to drift off or fall asleep – this is why it might be better for some to meditate sitting rather than lying down. It’s totally normal to feel tired when you finally let go of your day-to-day worries, but if you work on keeping your spine straight and try to keep your eyes open.
Let whatever thoughts you have pass through your mind and bring your thoughts back to your breath. If your mind starts to race, try to count your breaths, or even repeating a word or a phrase over again in your mind. This can even be a mantra you set yourself. The key is not to suppress your thoughts but to surpass them. If your mind keeps racing, a guided meditation can be a good thing to quieten your thoughts.
Some people may have problems sitting up straight, or feel restless. Walking meditation can be a great way to counteract this. Walk at your usual pace, or perhaps slower. Try to synchronize the rhythm of your breathing with your steps, and gaze ahead. You can still focus on your breath in a walking meditation if you find your mind starts to wander.
Even if you’re feeling busy and overwhelmed, and don’t think you have the time to meditate, you can seriously carve the time out. Even if it means setting your alarm to wake up a few minutes earlier every morning, or meditating before you go to bed as part of your nightly routine. The most important thing is to meditate regularly – the amount of time you do it isn’t important.
The benefits of meditation are endless and profound. To reap these benefits, one must actually practice meditation. This week we give you four different opportunities to find your center in different seated meditation practices from four different teachers.