Meditation is the practice of focusing attention and has been practiced for centuries, across religions and traditions. However, meditation is not necessarily wedded to religion. For example, someone may not self-identify with a religion and yet can regularly meditate about love or peace or a quality they want to cultivate. Meditation is vast and there are many, many, many, MANY different types. The article What is Meditation? delves into this practice further.
I started practicing meditation regularly since about 2013/14 and I started with breathing exercises in yoga classes for 3 – 5 minutes at the start and end of class. It was literally: Inhale for 4 counts, pause, exhale for 4 counts. Repeat. The meditation was around breathwork and allowing more oxygen into my body and brain. As an anxious person, this was a game changer and helped my body to switch into a calm state and grounded me for the day ahead and if I had class in the evening, I slept better and didn’t wake up anxious or disrupted sleep. When I was not feeling well, I was regularly at the doctors for anything and everything. I had headaches, was fainting, didn’t feel like eating, cried a lot. It was pretty hectic at the time. So, I am a big advocate for meditation and breathing exercises.
Fast forward to 2021, I have a regular meditation practice, physical practice, regularly journal and pray. I can feel the difference between when I do meditate and don’t. I feel more grounded nowadays than before and have gotten to know my body and recognise feelings and thought patterns and catch myself if/when I start to go down a slippery path. Meditation has helped me to gain clarity and my brain feels less foggy and I have started to smile in my heart. Always a plus when that happens, right?
- Helps to decrease symptoms of depression
- Helps to decrease symptoms of anxiety
- Helps lower blood pressure
- Helps to decrease headaches
- Supports lowering stress
Check out Health Line’s article 12 Science-based Benefits of Meditation.
I am a big fan of meditation, yet I do want to make a few points clear about meditation.
- Meditation is not a magic pill. In that, it’s not a case of ‘I have gone to one meditation class, I am going to solve every problem in my life now.’….meditation is an ongoing practice.
- Meditation is not a replacement for seeking medical or professional support for mental health and wellbeing. Counsellors, therapists, psychologists are trained and have an incredible scope of knowledge and are there to support you on your mental wellness journey. It’s important to express how you feel and what you need.
- Meditation is quite potent. There are retreats that you can go on that offer 10 + days of silence and meditation. If you have experienced mental health conditions previously, I highly recommend you check in with your doc about your emotional and mental wellbeing before you book in a meditation retreat. This is because going from our current world with stimuli to complete silence can be overwhelming and confronting, particularly if you have experienced depression or anxiety or any kind of mental condition before. Silent meditation retreats are not for everyone. I am a natural introvert and can easily go inwards, so I feel the need to go out and connect with people more nourishing for me than going completely solo. So this comes back to having self-awareness about what is right for you and not jumping on the latest meditation trend.
- Meditation is a practice. Start small, 3 – 5 minutes a few times a week of your breathing exercise is great. Overtime this will naturally increase and you will notice when your mind wanders and learn how to guide yourself back to the present moment.
- The benefits of meditation are not always immediate. Sometimes they are, and sometimes they are not immediately evident.
- You don’t have to be perfectly still to meditate. In fact, if you have sharp sensations in the body or start to get pins and needles, you need to adjust cos you are potentially cutting blood flow to parts of your body and sharp sensations may mean something is awry in the body and needs attention. You can lie on your spine to meditate or practice yoga – one breath, one movement. You can even be on a bus and practicing breathing exercises and no one would even know. Only you, as you cultivate the quality you want to.
- Meditation can make you feel angry….it’s not necessarily meditation or yoga, rather it’s the body releasing stored thoughts and emotions. It’s OK and pretty healthy to release angry feelings. It’s the HOW that matters with releasing angry emotions. E.g Punching someone in the face cos you are angry after meditation is never OK. I wrote this article What’s the deal with angry feelings in yoga? which explores feeling pissed off in yoga.
And…that’s a wrap. I encourage you to start a meditation practice once a week and eventually increase to twice a week and so on. Try it for one month and let me know how you go and if you feel different/notice any changes! Or not. What have you got to lose?