We have heard so many health & wellness experts promote the benefits of meditation, but what exactly does it involve? After chatting to several Yoga & Mindfulness Teachers, we feel happy to reveal our findings with you and hope to help you get the most out of your practice, this year and beyond.
What is meditation?
Meditation is simply setting some time aside to connect within. There are various different styles of meditation. Many have an intentional focus and this is called an anchor. Others tend to be more contemplative. The practice of a mindful meditation helps you to cultivate more presence and focus and to embody calm and peace in your daily life. Over time, greater personal awareness is developed and this truly has significant benefits for your health, your state of mind and general wellbeing.
What happens when we meditate?
A bit of science coming up…
When we meditate, our brains undergo a physiological effect. With regular practice, your amygdala (the part of your brain that is triggered when you are stressed) shrinks and your prefrontal cortex thickens.
When you’re in the prefrontal cortex, you are much calmer, more patient and more compassionate. You’re able to respond rather than react and you can think more creatively and innovatively. Bonus!
HOW TO GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR MEDITATION PRACTICE
1. Accept that your mind will wander
A common misconception about meditation is that you have to stop your thoughts. The mind thinks – that’s its job – and it will drift off during your meditation practice. This is all a part of the meditation experience. Notice when your mind has wandered away, and without judging it, bring it back to the focus of your meditation. Anchor yourself by using your breath.
2. Meditate without any expectations
Each time you meditate, the experience will be different, so enter our practice without expectations of how you should feel and lose all judgement of what is ‘good’ or ‘bad’. For every tranquil experience, there could be another where the mind feels chaotic or you feel very restless. Each practice gives you a physiological benefit, so rather than labelling it, notice how you feel afterwards.
Are you more patient with your partner or family? Are you a little less reactive to that triggering text message? It’s not so much about how you feel while meditating, but how you operate in your daily life that shows how your meditation practice is benefiting you.
3. Become the observer
Rather than judging your mind, invite curiosity, interest and playfulness into your meditation. Say ‘yes’ to the present moment as it is, with an acceptance for what is here right now. Thoughts, feelings and emotions will always be coming and going. They will pass through and are always changing. Know that you are not your thoughts or emotions, and instead, become their observer.
4. Make it a habit… Turn it into a ritual
Meditation is a bit like going to yoga to practice Asana: the more you practice, the more benefits you experience. To develop a routine, try to sit at the same time each day, and connect it to something else that you do regularly. For example, you might decide to meditate right after you have a glass of lemon water first thing in the morning. Early morning rituals help us set incredibly powerful intentions for the day ahead.
Try out different types of meditation to find which style you enjoy the most. Create consistency, particularly if you want to develop meditation as a part of your life. This will really help you reap the amazing benefits it brings and once you get a taste of these positive vibes, you’ll wonder why you didn’t start meditating years before!