When you think of meditation, you probably get images of monks with shaved heads, or sage old gurus, or, if you're me, Wendy Wu Homecoming Warrior. It's this elusive, unattainable practice that surely has benefit, but seems really hard, right? But we all know it's good for us. The science has been all over the news lately- meditation can greatly improve your quality of life, and even your longevity. Meditation actually reshapes the mechanisms in your brain to make you better suited to addressing stress, conflict, and everyday life. But how can we implement it in our lives?
Yoga is often called "meditation in motion", because we link movement with breath. Focusing on your breath, with intent and focus, is considered meditation in any form. So taking a few deep breaths to calm yourself during a fight is actually meditating. By putting the practice in context, we can make it seem far less intimidating.
And you don't have to go from 0-100 right off the bat with a 30 minute long om-sesh. Just like physical asana, meditation is a practice. Starting with just a few minutes of focused breathing is a great place to start, and eventually work your way up to longer periods of time.
I often hear people say that it's "too hard" because the thoughts keep coming. There's the common misconception that makes meditation such a scary concept- the goal isn't to create a mind vacant of thoughts, but to rather become able to not engage those thoughts.
I like the way Headspace puts it- it's like watching freeway traffic. If you try to run out and chase each car, you'll get frantic and stressed very quickly. But if you simply acknowledge them and let them pass, you have the control.
Meditation is for everyone. It's an achievable practice for even those who find the physical asana intimidating, but still want to reap the benefits of yoga. Everyone from students with test anxiety to high-stress corporate executives can and should carve out just five minutes of their day to practice meditation for their own benefit and those around them. Meditation makes people more sociable, more grounded, and more friendly by helping to keep them centered and calm.
I highly recommend the program I mentioned earlier, Headspace, for those new to meditation. It's a free introductory course that breaks down guided meditation into short, achievable time frames. I personally loved it because it helped me establish a solid routine of meditation in my day.
I encourage everyone who ignores the guided meditations that pop up in some yoga classes "because they just want to relax" (guilty) to give it a shot. I never thought I'd be the kind of person that meditates, but if you're a person, you definitely should.
Mindfulness- it's not just for monks.