Meditation: It Does A Body Good
There’s a lot of benefit in simply doing nothing, and it's not just for the mind. It turns out there’s scientific proof that meditation does a body good. For example, a 2011 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America found that meditation may help with anxiety, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder, and even Alzheimer’s disease.
Of course, meditation also benefits the mind. According to the Journal of the Association for Psychological Science, meditation and mindfulness training can actually improve memory and test scores and reduce mind wandering. I definitely could have used this during my childhood years. I was such a daydreamer, and I guess still am to some extent. According to these studies, there’s something to be said for sitting still and quieting the mind after all.
I believe Savasana (meditation) is one of the most beneficial aspects of yoga. I can’t tell you how many of my students have never tried meditation before and enjoy it. If you’re not experienced with meditation, it can be quite challenging at first. Our society just doesn’t encourage sitting still or being quiet. We don’t place much value in doing nothing, but more on achievements. In this way, we may be actually doing a disservice to our society at large. If our entire world incorporated meditation into their daily lives, I can only imagine the huge impact it would make.
Most yoga classes conclude with about a five-minute meditation at the end of the class, but this often seems too short to me. Sometimes I give my classes a good ten-minute meditation and they are surprised at how quickly the time goes by. But if we as yoga teachers taught a class with a thirty-minute meditation and thirty-minute asana (physical) practice, I would think people might be discouraged from starting out. We are a society on the go and we just don’t value sitting still. We simply don’t have time for it, or so we often think. However, the truth is we can make time for meditation if we want to.
If you’re new to meditation, it can be a bit intimidating at first because it’s unfamiliar. Trust me, it’s actually pretty simple to do. It’s really a matter of just sitting still and quieting the mind. Have you ever tried to not have thoughts before? That’s exactly at the moment when your mind thinks about trying not to think. This is very normal and it takes practice to quiet the mind, but it is achievable.
Here are a few tips to begin your meditation journey:
- Take five minutes out of your day to meditate. Then increase the time as you’re comfortable or able.
- Meditate in the early morning before you start your day or in the evening before bed.
- Pick a quiet place to meditate alone with the least amount of distractions. Meditate in the closet if that’s the only quiet place in your house (I heard a friend talk about doing this one time).
- Sit in a comfortable position with your hands on your knees or use a mudra (hand gesture). Lying down is also an option. Just get comfortable.
- Close your eyes. If you don’t want to close your eyes, focus on something like a candle.
- Start breathing exercises. Basically, take deep breaths. Slow your breath and try to quiet the mind.
- Don’t think about anything. Literally, nothing! Thinking about nothing is something, so just don’t even think. Just BE. When you have a thought come up, acknowledge the thought and then return to the breath.
Try meditating with relaxing music, guided meditation, or simple quiet. Nature is always a good option. Sit in the sun and listen to the birds. I enjoy listening to either chimes or nature sounds like ocean waves. Deepak Chopra occasionally offers a 21-day guided meditation available to download. I participated in the last two meditations and really enjoyed listening to his soothing voice. It’s easy to follow along and includes very positive messages.
I won’t make the claim that mediation will radically change your life, but I can pretty much guarantee that if you practice meditation you will notice some positive shifts. I can’t tell you what will happen for you because I believe this is a personal experience. However, I can say that I have walked through many personal difficulties with meditation. For me, meditation and yoga have improved my overall life, peace, mindfulness, awareness, and spiritual connection.
I wish you well in your meditation journey. OM Shanti.
1. Judson A. Brewer, et al., "Meditation experience is associated with differences in default mode network activity and connectivity," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 108(50), 2011
2. Michael D. Mraczek, et al., "Mindfulness Training Improves Working Memory Capacity and GRE Performance While Reducing Mind Wandering," Journal of the Association for Psychological Science 24(5), 2013
Photos courtesy of Jacqueline Kaufman Photography.