Meditation as a Wellness Practice
Meditation is an important part of any wellness practice. In the same way that your workouts keep your body stable, agile and strong, meditation does this for your mind.
Now, it’s not really quite so simple. Meditation is proven to have physical affects on the body just as exercise is proven to impact the mind. From a holistic perspective on wellness, everything is inter-connected and causes a chain reaction throughout one’s whole being.
There are countless forms of meditation with different methods and intentions. In this post I will mostly be referring to mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness can be defined as “the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us”.
a ten-minute simple meditation to help you relax and contemplate
What is meditation?
There are many ways to define meditation. Some meditation teachers say life itself is a meditation!
In some senses meditation is very simple. It simply means to experience the moment without our mental opinions and projections and judgments. In another sense though, meditation is a huge umbrella term and there are countless schools, methods and forms of meditation.
The actual definition of meditation is “to engage in contemplation or reflection”.
From this view, meditation is a way of doing rather than a thing you do. Anything could be a meditation: walking, unloading the dishwasher, gardening, folding laundry, waiting in line, and so on.
Simply dropping into all of your senses, wherever you are and allowing them to come alive with all there is to be witnessed in the moment is one very accessible way to practice meditation. What can you hear? What colours can you see? How light is it? What can you smell? What textures can you feel? Just allowing yourself to be fully present, in exchange for the chitter chatter of the mind, is meditation.
How does meditation improve wellness?
Meditating regularly has a host of benefits for our wellbeing and some of those we need now more than ever. Here are some of the biggest benefits of mindfulness meditation that come to mind:
1) Calm and becoming less reactive
Meditation gives gives you a sense of spaciousness – distance between you and your thoughts – which helps you feel calm. So, you become less reactive.
2) Clarity/better discernment
When we quite all the chitter chatter of the mind consistently, it gets less loud even when we aren’t meditating (most of the time). So, it’s easy to think clearly and make better decisions.
3) Confidence in oneself/knowing oneself
In meditation you watch your thoughts come and go and you will start to notice patterns in your thoughts. This practice of simply witnessing your thoughts helps you see that you really aren’t your thoughts at all and your sense of self is instead replaced with an inner knowing that is unwavering and true.
If you struggle to fall asleep, it’s really worth trying a guided sleep meditation. Even if you don’t struggle to fall asleep and haven’t tried sleep meditation yet, I’d still try it! You’ll likely find they improve your quality of sleep. I struggled to fall asleep for as long as I can remember before I trained myself to fall asleep with sleep meditations.
Meditation can also be a tool for our personal healing and transformation.
When you get yourself into a very calm, relaxed state of mind, we can access deeper states of consciousness and do all kinds of work on ourselves there.
Whether that be getting an answer to a decision we have been contemplating, or resolving unprocessed memories or connecting with our own inner wisdom more generally, meditation can be so much more than feeling good.
There are many guided meditations that help you do this, including the one I am gifting you! They often start with mindfulness to help you relax before going into the healing work.
One of the incredible aspects of ourselves we can help heal through meditation is our relationship to ourselves and our bodies, an undeniably central aspect of our fitness and wellness journeys. With my clients, I never want to bypass how important this is in pursuit of fitness or weight goals.
Relationship to yourself, as far I am concerned, has got to come first.
How can you incorporate meditation into your fitness regime?
With a wider view on your overall fitness practice, you can use meditation to help you connect to and heal your relationship with your body. That’s what the meditation I have recorded for you is intended for. To help you drop in to presence, feel at home in your body and create an experience of genuine lightness and compassion towards yourself.
There are also a number of other ways you can use meditation to better your fitness practice.
You could meditate before a workout to drop in to presence, check in with yourself and set an intention for your workout. For example, “I want to feel amazing”. If feeling anxious before a workout is something you experience, we have some tips to help you move through this here.
You could meditate after your workout to merge back into the rest of your day. To calm your nervous system after an intense session (which can spike adrenaline and cortisol levels in the body), lean into the rush of endorphins washing over you, and cultivate love and gratitude towards yourself for showing up for yourself today. You can do that right now, in fact, by reading this article!
On the other hand, if your workouts are low intensity and full of slow movements that require your full attention such as some balancing exercises, these themselves can be considered a sort of meditation and give you many of the same benefits. Particularly after workouts like these, you’ll likely find it easier to drop into a deep meditative state.
It is not uncommon for athletes to use meditation to enhance their performance. You can learn more about this here.
How to get started with meditation
If you are totally new to meditation, I would start with the practice mentioned earlier about what meditation is.
If you can, accompany this by deep breathes in and out through the nose. Allow your stomach to expand as you inhale, and gently contract as you exhale, as if you’re trying to push all the air out (gently).
After this, I would try the meditation provided here and even choose a meditation app or meditation channel on YouTube to come back to daily to build the habit and start strengthening your attention muscle. The Calm app has a wonderful YouTube channel with a number of completely free meditations to get you started.
I was fortunate enough to begin my own meditation journey with a meditation teacher as a mid- teen. My teacher saw me frustrated trying to “meditate” for 10-20 minutes. He told me to start with 3 minutes and increase by 30 seconds every time I felt ready, every few days or so. This advice took so much pressure off and helped me start making real progress which is why I am sharing it with you.
This is how I learned to meditate and how you can too. Like a muscle, it takes time to strengthen. We don’t start working out with 8kg dumbbells! No, we start with 2 or 3kg, and increase overtime.
“Use it or lose it” applies to meditation the same way it does to muscle and fitness. It is something you need to keep up to continue experiencing the benefits. Muscle memory applies here too. You may lose it if you don’t keep up the practice but getting it back will be easier than the first time.
The more time you can commit to meditating, the better. If you are seriously tight for time, don’t worry! Anything is better than nothing and consistency is more important than quantity. Don’t underestimate even 30 seconds to pause, breathe and be here.
Your meditation practice can look however you want it too. If there are some ideas you have about how meditation is meant to be that are keeping you from doing it then let them go.
There is no minimum length of time you need to have, kind of space you need to be in, or a way you need to sit. There is no particular way you need to look or dress. You don’t need a meditation den or special meditation pillow. You don’t need to sit cross-legged if that’s not comfortable. You can even lie on your back!
If finding a time you know you’ll be undisturbed at home is difficult, then you can try doing a walking meditation. Take some earphones and go for a walk. Deep belly breaths are especially important if you’re doing this, to help you drop in. Just make sure you don’t do it while driving.
Written By Bea: Female fitness expert at MotivatePT – Reps Level 3 Qualified / Pre & Post Natal