By Guest Blogger: Caitlyn Hope
Beginning a meditation practice can be both exciting and intimidating. I'll be the first one to admit that I used to be clueless when it came to meditation. I would dim the lights, sit quietly and try to focus on my breath. Problem was, I was so focused on conquering meditation that my mind couldn't relax. It wasn't until Yoga Teacher Training that I truly learned how to properly meditate and reap all its benefits!
Meditation may be an ancient tradition, but it’s still practiced in cultures all over the world to create a sense of calm and inner harmony. These days, with the greater need to reduce stress in the midst of our busy schedules and demanding lives, meditation is increasing in popularity. Although there isn’t a right or wrong way to meditate, it’s important to find a practice that meets your personality.
Wait, why should we meditate anyways?
• Reduces stress and controls anxiety
• Lowers high blood pressure
• Decreases tension related pain, such as tension headaches, ulcers, insomnia, muscle and joint problems
• Increases serotonin production that improves mood and behavior
• Enhances self-awareness & self-acceptance
• Increase blood flow and slows the heart rate
• Lengthens attention span and increases memory recall
• Improves body's immunity and ability to fight diseases
• Improves quality of sleep
First things first, you need to find a comfortable and quiet place to sit. Some people like to lie down while meditating, but I find it tempting to fall asleep, so I prefer sitting up. Next step: choose a meditation style that interests you.
Sorting through meditation styles can be a lot like sifting through yoga-class schedules when you are new to it. To break it down, here are 5 of my favorite meditation types. Most of these can be done in 10-15 minutes.
The most well-known type of meditation, mindfulness meditation, is about being aware of the sounds and activities happening around you. Mindfulness meditation is simply paying attention to the present moment and being aware of all the sensations, thoughts, etc. that arise without judgment or attachment. It's almost a flow of a type of meditation because you literally just let your mind be fluid and flow from one thought to the next, not really focusing on one particular thing. For instance, if you live in a noisy city, you don't have to block out the outside sirens and screaming children, you let your mind be aware of the sounds without becoming too focused.
Breath Awareness Meditation
Breath Awareness Meditation is a simple practice of finding a comfortable seat, closing your eyes, and placing your attention in the inhalation and exhalation of your breath. Breath awareness is an effective way to establish a greater mind-body connection and to reduce stress. This type of meditation can be your preferred meditation practice each day and it is also highly useful during moments of tension in the workplace and at home.
A guided meditation is led by someone else, either in person or via a recording, that will usually (although, not always) have a theme and relaxing music playing in the background. Because guided meditations are led by another person, this style of meditation is great for beginners and those who may struggle with sitting still for more than just a few minutes at a time. They are also beneficial if you would like to enhance your existing practice or focus your energy and attention on a specific outcome. You can find free Guided Meditation videos on YouTube, your local yoga studios or library.
Mantra uses sound or chanting as a focal point for meditation. The word "mantra" stands for an instrument of thought. It can be a particular sound, an affirmation or a phrase. This type of meditation requires conscious engagement on your part where you repeat the mantra multiple times with purpose and feeling. During the practice, whenever you drift away from the mantra to other thoughts, sounds, or physical sensations, you simply guide your attention back to the repetition of the mantra. Think of it as a dance back and forth between mantra and thought. Some mantras have a specific meaning and it’s said that by repeating the mantra, you are connecting to the energetic essence of its intention.
Trataka is a form of meditation where one focuses the eyes on one point. Very commonly trataka is performed while gazing at a candle flame. Begin with your eyes closed, surveying the body and watching the breath until it becomes calm, regular, and even. Then open your eyes and rest your gaze on the middle part of the flame, right above the tip of the wick. Keep your eyelids slightly more open than usual, and maintain your gaze without blinking or blurring your vision for as long as possible. Observe any thoughts that arise, watching them come and go without becoming engaged.
So I encourage you to give meditation a go! You never know how it'll make you feel after!
Caitlyn Frizziola is a Registered Nurse, working in Home Health Care. She graduated with her RN degree from Ocean County College in 2014 and went on to obtain her Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing in 2015 from Chamberlain University. She has been growing her yoga practice since February 2013, originally as a self-taught yogi. She received her 200 hr Registered Yoga Teacher in February 2017.
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