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With the stresses and strains of everyday life, finding time to unwind can seem almost impossible. In fact, the recently published Wellness Index from MINDBODY found that downtime takes a back seat for many of us— with the UK getting fewer than nine hours of headspace per week and one in five people stating that they are “not content” with the state of their current mental health.
“While we might feel that we don’t have time to meditate (or we’re intimidated because we don’t know how), the reality is that everyone can find some time for mindfulness through meditation,” says Charlotte Newton, Senior Manager EMEA Marketing. “What’s more, it’s not all about mantras, lotus positions and long periods of concentration—it can be super simple and there’s a style that can work for anyone. “
To celebrate Meditation May, our MINDBODY team put together a no-nonsense, myth-busting meditation guide for first-timers!
Any activity that gets you to focus and allows the subconscious to let go can be meditative, like colouring, drawing, or even cooking! Illustrator and keen yogi Kate Phillipson launched Yoga Life Drawing to fuse her two passions: yoga and art. She explains that drawing, like yoga, is a moving meditation and a great way to unlock creativity. Try tapping into this type of meditation with Kate, who will be hosting Yoga Life Drawing workshops this month!
Meditation is about being comfortable, so if this means you are most relaxed propped up or sat on a cushion, then so be it. The traditional cross-legged Lotus Position is considered the best pose for meditation, as it places all the primary Chakra energy centres in alignment, making spiritual perception and operation easier. However, it isn’t a necessary meditative position and isn’t accessible to everyone (it requires open hips and a lot of practice). So, instead of battling with this particular pose, find peace in a comfier position and make use of tools, like a yoga block, blanket, or meditation cushion.
Meditation isn’t about achieving total perfection. Like anything, regular practise helps you to improve and means you’ll learn more, but the benefits of meditation can be almost immediate. A study led by Harvard University found that as little as eight weeks of meditation helped people experience decreased anxiety and improved stress regulation. With MINDBODY’s Wellness Index revealing that 24% of U.K. adults are ‘always’ or ‘regularly’ stressed/anxious daily, research like this is promising.
“At the end of every day take five minutes to reflect, think about the day and what made you happy; whether it was a beautiful sunrise, a great workout, or dinner with your family,” says Catie Miller, founder of Xtend Barre. “ Remember those things and be grateful for them.”
It’s a common misconception that you need to create a sacred and special environment to meditate effectively. Whether it’s at your desk, in the supermarket or on the tube, you can observe and focus on the breath to feel the immediate effects of meditation anywhere. Whilst it’s best to meditate in a clean and clutter-free environment, if you feel your emotions start to get on top of you, pay attention to your breathing for five minutes and focus on it entering and leaving your body.
Many apps and online programs have actually helped bring meditation into the mainstream; technology like Muse and apps such as Headspace have guided users through focused meditation and can be a practical way to find your zen. If you find you are distracted by something in the room, don’t rush to block it out. Simply acknowledge the distraction before bringing your attention back to the breath. If you try and eliminate every single thought that pops into your head, you’ll just end up frustrated.
With common benefits including improved concentration and decreased blood pressure, meditation is definitely worth your time—as limited as it may be. Even just five minutes in the morning can be enough to set you up for a more productive and positive day. Focusing on the present moment also means that you’re not dwelling on the past or worrying about the future, so you can focus on the ‘right now’ and make the most of your day.
“I make time to move and have a daily yoga practise. Even if it’s just five minutes of sun salutations on a hotel room floor at 5 am before a busy day,” says Leon Taylor, yoga teacher, mentor, and Olympic medallist. “Keeping my morning routine consistent keeps me grounded when things are busy and challenging.”
Want to dive deeper into your practice? Download the MINDBODY app to explore meditation classes near you!