Last week we talked about ways to relax, Vixens. This week we are taking a deeper dive into meditation – something you have probably heard a lot about. You might already have a practice that works for you, or you might have tried it and found it challenging, or it might be on your list of things you should try one day but haven’t gotten around to yet. Regardless of where you are, you will probably find something useful here.
What is it?
If you see the word “meditate” and you picture a young, flexible woman in lotus position chanting “Om” you aren’t alone, but there is more to meditation than that. At it’s core, meditation is a contemplation practice with inward exploration. Depending on the style you choose, how, when and where you meditate will vary. While mindfulness meditation is growing increasingly popular as a support for mental health, any activity that draws your focus to the present moment and helps you stay connected to your body, breath and mind is a form of meditation.
Who is it for?
While a general meditation practice will benefit anyone who commits to it, specific practices can have a positive impact on specific conditions. Mindfulness meditation has proven positive outcomes in addressing depression, anxiety and chronic pain. Yoga nidra has had positive outcomes from people living with and recovering from cancer and other auto-immune conditions. Breath focused meditation can improve focus or improve relaxation. Loving kindness meditations can help decrease loneliness, improve social connection and generally improve well being. Forest bathing helps us connect with the greater world and the natural cycles of growth and rest. Depending on what your current experience is, there is probably a meditation style that is just right for you.
Each style of meditation comes with a practice goal. Some are more specific (yoga nidra is practiced to access deep states of rest, loving kindness meditation helps generate more compassion) so you can select a style of practice that aligns with your goal for the moment, for the month, or generally for your life. Since meditation supports connection with yourself, you might also find that your practice helps you become more aware of your physical, physiological and psychological experiences and that awareness can help you make better decisions for yourself and the people you care for.
Where can I meditate?
In short, you can meditate anywhere that you feel comfortable. Generally a quiet, comfortable space is recommended for meditation. Traditionally meditators sit in a comfortable position that allows them to breathe easily, to chant (if that is part of their practice) or to move their arms. You could be seated on the floor, in a chair, or anywhere you feel comfortable. Meditations that promote rest and relaxation can be done on a yoga mat, or in bed since you may fall asleep. Other forms of meditation like forest bathing happen while walking in green spaces – which could be out in the woods, or in your nearest city park. Other forms of moving meditation include dancing, mindful walking or completing a set of 108 sun salutations, so you can choose a space that works best for you.
When do I meditate?
In short, you can meditate whenever you need to – though not while driving, operating heavy machinery or doing something where you are responsible for another human being. Classical yogic texts recommend meditation between 4:30am and 6:30am but don’t worry if that does not work for you. Relaxation meditations are best done before bed time, and movement meditations are usually done towards the middle of the day when it can be helpful to stretch muscles and move all of your joints. Finding a consistent time that works for your schedule will help you build the habit, so you might opt to meditate before or after something else that you do every day, like brushing your teeth.
How do I start?
Meditation is a personal practice, so you can adapt any existing practice for where and when you are.If that sounds too easy, and you are concerned with getting bored, antsy, or losing focus you could explore a guided meditation through an app, or from a favourite teacher. If you have already tried a more static meditation, you might book a spot on a forest bathing tour. If you are struggling with calming your mind, it might help to remember that meditation is not about quieting your thoughts, but about observing them with gentleness and curiosity while staying connected with your breath.
We wish you luck on your journey to zen, Vixens, and look forward to hearing about what works for you. Please feel free to share your favourite meditation practices with us by tagging us on our social channels!
Thanks to Niya for sharing!