At Lots of Yoga, we are super excited in sharing our top tips on meditation for beginners. We understand that life is fast-paced and hectic. When you try to balance all the facets of our lives - work, education, exercise, family, friends, it can lead tos stress, tiredness and even possible health issues. Well, we are here to tell you to take just a little time out of your day to stop and meditate. You will not believe the positive, life altering effects this can have on your routine.
What is meditation?
Meditation can mean different things to different people. In its essence it is - the practice of focussing one's mind for a certain fixed period of time, in absolute silence or with the help of chanting or narration. Another way of looking at meditation is, that it is a way of training your mind similar to how you train your body with exercise. Dr. Michael J. Baime, Director of the Penn Program for Mindfulness says: "Meditation cultivates an emotional stability that allows the meditator to experience intense emotions fully while simultaneously maintaining perspective on them." You had us at emotional stability, Dr. Baime.
The practice of meditation has been linked with many benefits - stress reduction, concentration, decreased blood pressure and so many more. According to scientific studies that have been conducted this year, here are five reasons why meditation can support your well-being.
5 Benefits of Meditation
Studies on the effects of meditation have been conducted since the 1960s and still continue. A study from back in 201 documented the effects of meditation on the brain over a course of 8 weeks. The analysis of MR images, found increased grey-matter density in the hippocampus, known to be important for learning and memory, and in structures associated with self-awareness, compassion and introspection. So exactly how can meditation be helpful to hour health? Here are the top 5 benefits of meditation:
1. Meditation and mindfulness can improve concentration and memory
Meditation is said to have wonderful effects on a person's concentration, according to a recent research from the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. The researcher found that students who practised meditation and mindfulness exercises over a two-week period showed increased mental concentration, mental retention and better information processing.
2. Practicing meditation techniques can give you emotional equilibrium
Emotional rollercoasters are not fun, despite what they sound like. The good news is, meditation can help you get off that rollercoaster. The School of Applied Psychology Gold Coast Campus Griffith University, Australia concluded that individuals in their study reported "fewer negative emotions", "greater self-compassion, flow and less psychological distress" by incorporating meditation in their routine. So you see, meditation can increase you calmness, compassion and also act as a stress buster. Adam Holt, Aurora Health Centre also states that there is consistent evidence to show that meditation produces changes in the nervous system of the meditator which help with the different "psychological markers of well-being". The Program on Integrative Medicine, UNC School of Medicine, United States, found that repeated meditation sessions may help you become more mindful and less likely to be upset, although the exact effects would vary from person to person.
3. Can Meditation Help with Health and Healing?
Several studies have been conducted recently that indicate the positive results meditation can have on health and healing. They found that meditation and mindfulness techniques can help reducing distress and improving quality of life among women with cancer. Specifically, meditation is beneficial for improving depression and enhancing well-being during breast cancer survivorship.
Another interesting study was conducted in New York on the effects of breathing, movement and meditation on patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease. This research concluded that there were significant improvements in psychological and physical symptoms and an improved quality of life among the patients in the study. If practicing meditation can have such positive effects on patients, just imagine what it can do for you!
4. Meditation can be valuable to your mental health.
People always say "it's all in the mind". It really is! To see if meditation could be a stress buster an interesting study was conducted in Bizzell Memorial Library, University of Oklahoma where they created a meditation area at the bottom of the main stairwell of the library (Which, btw, we think it should be under *every* building's stairwell). From their initial results they concluded that 65% of those who used the space left feeling less anxious and stressed. Another study was conducted at the MGH Benson-Henry Institute regarding whether using mind-body interventions (in this case transcendental meditation techniques) can reduce stress and build resilience. Due to improved mental and physical resilience in the participants of their study, they concluded that such mind-body interventions can substantially reduce the dependence on healthcare.
5. Practicing meditation for sleep can help you get a good night's rest
We don't get that Sleeping Beauty kind of sleep all the time. Sometimes, you just lie in bed waiting for that sweet slumber and when ti d. A very recent study done with patients suffering from insomnia stated that meditation can be used as therapy for insomnia with durable results. Also, like the above studies have indicated, reduced stress and calmness of mind can also contribute to catching that required shut-eye.
Meditation for Beginners: How you can start meditating if you are a complete beginner
If you are now raring to start your meditation journey but don't know where to start, here are three things to help you on your meditative path.
1. Find Your Comfortable Seated Positions
Finding a comfortable seated position is easier said than done, especially if you are not used to the more traditional cross-legged position. At the beginning, you may want to start by sitting on a chair with a decent back rest, so you are not distracted by your bodily needs while concentrating on letting it go. If you'd like to start practising by sitting comfortably on the floor, we really recommend the use of a meditation chair or meditation pillow:
- You can actually make your own bolster with what you have at home already with these three simple steps (and definitely no sewing required).
- We love these little foldable floor chairs (US$46) which makes it super easy for you to sit comfortably on the floor, and afterwards you can just fold and stack them away.
2. Use A Free Youtube Guided Meditation Video
These Youtube videos are great for guiding beginners through meditation and the best part? They're free and readily available.
15-minute guided meditation
18-minute guided meditation
40-minute guided meditation for detachment from over-thinking
1-hour guided meditation
3. Try a Free Meditation App
Before you fire up your meditation app, don't forget to put your phone in do-not-disturb mode! There's nothing more distracting then seeing email and social media alerts popping up while you try to zen out. With that out of the way, here are two of our favourite meditation apps:
Headspace is a smartphone app that comes with ten free 10-minutes lessons to help you start creating a meditation habit. Andy, the instructor, has a very calming British voice that makes you stop judging yourself and follow the flow. They have great short animation videos that really help us understand what goes on in our mind, too. If you love it, you can buy additional classes from the store.
Started as an awesome FREE timer with beautiful Tibetan gong bell sounds (so you don't get woken up by horrible electronic alarm sounds), InsightTimer then created this amazing platform where all meditation practitioners in the world share their audio files of meditation guide. So you can choose the length and style of meditation, and all for free. The best part? Whenever you log onto the app, you can see how many people are meditating in the world with you, right now. Very spiritual, indeedy.
Last but not least
Remember, meditation is a very personal journey. There is no right or wrong way. The most important thing is to start building the practice and find your groove. The fact that you create this special space where you can unpick what's going on inside you is a magic journey. At times, it can bring up emotions; but it can also give you the tools to deal with what's going on both inside and outside your world. We are excited about your journey and please keep us posted on where you are. Say hi to us via old school email or social media, or join our special Facebook group Coffee and Yoga if you'd like to drop by.