By mellowburnyoga, Jan 29 2020 02:16PM
In our culture it’s about more more more. More money, more experiences, more holidays, more clothes, more jewellery more stuff. We put the stuff in our houses and we want bigger houses and bigger cars to put in the drive way. Of course we have to work harder to make all this happen!
In the UK we work some of the longest hours across Europe and typically take less time off. We are on demand 24/7 and lack of productivity equals cultural shame. But this constant list of ‘doing’ comes at a price. Our emotional needs are pushed aside and life becomes more overwhelming.
This has begun to affect our mental health. Anti-anxiety and anti-depression drugs have sky rocketed by 450% since the late 1990s - interestingly around the same time that technology began to take over our lives.
We Need to Restore Balance. But How?
Stress is a killer. It affects numerous things from mental health, fertility in both genders, it increases inflammation (which is linked to things like skin conditions, asthma, heart disease and arthritis). It affects immunity and blood pressure. So we need to reduce stress as much as possible.
Recognising that healing is often an inside job is the key to changing. Addressing our lifestyle choices to include things like Yoga, meditation and mindfulness is a wonderful way to improve mental health. Trends in veganism, holistic medicine, immersing in nature are also all on the rise, showing a real desire to slow down, find head space and de-stress.
Why Does meditation Work?
When we relax in a meditation practice, we are switching off the stress hormone and giving our bodies a chance to heal naturally. The heart rates slows and we shift gears into a space of calm and being, rather than chaos and doing. We gift ourselves the time to process physically and mentally.
Being calm is a super power. And I don’t say that lightly. Recognising how our own thought patterns are directly related to our stress levels and consequently the physical effects on our bodies is transformative. Learning how to train your mind can be the difference between a healthy existence and a non-healthy existence. Your experiences are a mirror of who you are and where you’re at. If you can choose to be calm, your entire life experience will be different.
So HOW Do You Meditate?
In it's most basic form, meditation is sitting or laying quietly and still and letting go of your physical body and of doing so that you can explore the mind and beyond. Meditation isn’t about switching off the mind. The mind thinks because that’s what it’s designed to do! Meditation is a process of relaxing the physical body, acknowledging and then distancing yourself from sensations you feel. Once in that place, you simply bear witness to what is actually going on inside your head. Like a bystander, you watch what’s happening without getting involved.
This can be a lot harder than you think. Despite what ends up happening, you’re not going to sleep, you’re not hypnotised. You’re being.
You are fully aware, but in a completely calm, undisturbed place of peace. The mind will still fluctuate, but with practice, the thoughts become less commanding and further apart.
The experiences you have can and will vary enormously almost every time. Your mind will do anything to distract you! A huge range of feelings from restlessness, boredom, contentment, bliss are all completely normal. Meditation is a journey into the self, beneath the mind and the thoughts.
Here are some basic meditation techniques. I recommend you set a gentle alarm to go off for the desired amount of time (remember begin with just 2 or 3 minutes) so you don’t have to think about when it’s ending.
The Body Scan
For a basic meditation, begin by laying down on the floor in a quiet warm space where you are alone. From the crown of your head, slowly begin a mental walk down, relaxing any tension as you find it from your face, neck, shoulders, chest, back, limbs and extremities (fingers and toes). You’ll be surprised at how much thought is connected to held tension in the body and once you’ve done one cycle, it’s recommended that you begin again. Surrender to the floor and continue allowing your body to soften.
The good news is you can be tone deaf and still chant! Mantras (meaning ‘mind vehicle’) are an effective way of finding physical and mental release. There are plenty of Sanskrit ones to choose from like the universal seed sound Om (remember to pronounce this like Auuuum) or Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo (I bow to the teacher within) or Sat nam (elongate the ‘a’ in sat) meaning true identity.
This is one of the easiest ways to meditate. You can play some super soft instrumental music if you like. As you lay back and relax with your eyes closed, you can imagine in your minds eye a place where you feel most serene. A soothing lake or waterfall, a lush tropical beach, a moonlit meadow… literally there are no limitations. Visualise colours and senses of where you have gone to, what it feels like to be there, how it sounds, what it smells like even. Allow yourself to fully immerse into the meditation.
Like with anything, it takes patience and practice and quite often you’ll feel as if you’re not getting anywhere. It take immense concentration and discipline to keep returning to your focus again and again. Try to remember that every time you realise you’ve become distracted, you simply draw your awareness to your breath, your body and your mind. No judgement, no expectations. Be prepared to begin again, however many times it takes. That is the practice of meditation.
Why not come to a yoga class and learn how to meditate and do yoga with Mellowburn Yoga classes in Guildford and Woking. Mellowburn yoga public classes are:
Yoga for all abilities
Winston Churchill Sports Centre,
Gentle & Simple Yoga
Stoughton Methodist Church Hall,
VInyasa Flow Yoga & Yoga Conditioning
Stoughton Methodist Church Hall