Meditation is a relaxation technique designed to still the mind, improve breathing, deepen a spiritual connection and instil a sense of inner peace.
Forms of meditation include Guided, using mental images to aid relaxation, Transcendental, using repeated mantas or sounds to help empty the mind, Buddhist, focusing on an object like a candle or flower, Mindfulness, focusing on the present moment, and Walking meditation which synchronises breathing with footsteps.
Meditation switches electrical brain waves from beta (goal-oriented tasks or stress) and gamma (learning or anxiety) to theta (deep relaxation) and alpha (wakeful rest or calmness) to improve conscious awareness.
What are the benefits of Meditation?
Stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenalin activate the ‘sympathetic nervous system’. This prepares the body for fight-or-flight scenarios by increasing the heart rate, raising blood pressure, quickening breathing, switching off digestion, and firing-up muscle cells.
Meditation helps to dampen down stress hormones and switch the body to being under the influence of the ‘parasympathetic nervous system’. This is known as the rest-and-digest nervous system, as it restores relaxation, balance and harmony within the body.
Meditation primarily helps to unravel the stress response. It also helps dissipate anxiety, worry, tension, restlessness, headaches, sleep issues, grief, pain and muscle tension. Done regularly, it also helps lift the mood, improve mental clarity, activate creativity and helps build a connection to your intuition.
It is also thought to strengthen the connection between regions of the brain that process emotional responses.
What does a typical Meditation class look like?
Meditation is usually practised sitting on the floor, crossed legged so it’s advisable to wear comfy, warm clothes and classes generally last between 30-60 minutes.
In other classes you could be sitting in a chair and some teachers encourage you to lie on a Yoga mat – for this style of class a cosy blanket is beneficial.
There are a number of online guides and apps that make it possible to teach yourself but it’s possibly much more helpful to sign up to a class so you can get guidance from a teacher, either one-to-one or by joining a group to help establish your technique.
How do I find Meditation to suit me?
Meditation is all about focusing your mind away from your thoughts and finding the best way to switch of the mental chatter and external influences, so that you can drop into a state of wakeful relaxation.
It’s worth trying a few different styles so you can find the one that suits you the best. Some people find Guided Meditation a good style to start with as this helps focus the mind on a ‘journey’ towards relaxation.
The more your practice the easier it gets. Once you’ve learned how to achieve ‘passive alertness’ you can use meditation as a daily tool to help improve your wellbeing.