By L. R. Zimmerman
Meditation is often perceived as a complicated, trance-like coma meant for monks and yogis. In reality, meditation is simply intentional breathing. Doesn’t sound so complicated, right?
“One conscious breathe in and out is meditation.” –Eckhart Tolle
Meditation is an act of calming the mind, bringing stillness to the body, and focusing on the breath to become fully present. This consideration allows non-judgmental awareness of sensations, feelings and state of mind. By allowing yourself to press the pause button and meditate, you can increase your well-being and quality of life. While any form of meditation is beneficial, it’s important not to take meditation so seriously. Meditation does not require a yoga mat, gong or essential oils. Grounding blankets and healing crystals are not a meditation necessity. There’s no need to “OMMMMM” or chant mantras. You do not have to boast or share your meditation journey with everyone on social media. The essential key to successfully creating your mindful moment is to set aside a few minutes of your hectic day to quiet your mind and show your brain some love.
Do you know what I’m really good at? Freaking the f*ck out about every little stress ball life throws my way. Like most, I suffer from occasional depression and anxiety. As a mother it’s near impossible to not constantly multi-task or feel overwhelmed when you preview your week’s schedule. I needed a way to calm my mind without using a substance or pharmaceuticals to relieve this anxiety. I turned to meditation to help unscramble my clustered mind and improve the quality of my mental health.
“Meditation is not a way of making your mind quiet. It’s a way of entering into the quiet that’s already there – buried under the 50,000 thoughts the average person thinks every day.” –Deepak Chopra
My intention when I started to practice mediation was not to reach nirvana but to simply see how I felt after the practice. I tried meditating for one minute and after focusing my intention solely on my breath for a minute, I noticed that I felt light and calm. I really liked that feeling. The daily stresses were removed from my mind and I was fully present. After practicing meditation for a week I began to notice that I was more attentive to my thoughts and more conscious of my emotions. That awareness helped me begin to better understand my mind. I enjoyed that consciousness so much that I decided to continue my practice. As a result, I started to experience improved emotional quality and an entirely new perspective of how to transform the mind from negative thoughts to a positive mentality.
Headspace, Oak, and Aura are three guided meditation apps that I have found super helpful and have encouraged me to continue to practice meditation.
- Headspace is my favorite meditation app and a great tool for well-being. It offers a 10 day free trial that will give you a solid foundation to build your practice on and is a simple way to reframe daily stress.
- Oak by Kevin Rose is an easy and free meditation app. It offers a simple and straight forward approach to meditation with three choices to begin your practice. (wisdom, breathe, meditate).
- Aura offers a free trial but a pricey subscription of $59.99 per year. This app is super easy to follow and helps create a mindful moment a day.
There are a lot of studies that have proven the many physiological benefits of meditation and correlated meditation to improved mental health, but what actually happens to the brain when you meditate? Researchers at UCLA have studied meditation for many years and a recent study suggested the brain of people who practice meditation are a bit different than those who don’t. They have found that people who meditate have stronger connections between brain regions and show less age-related atrophy in the brain.
Studies at The Carnegie Mellon University offered an interesting conclusion that mindfulness may alter your biology. They conducted a randomized study and reported that “mindfulness meditation training is associated with improvements in a marker of inflammatory disease risk.”
Another study by Harvard researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital determined that meditation literally rebuilds the brain’s grey matter in just eight weeks. The researchers recorded the subject’s brain before and after extensive meditation. They surveyed this theory by taking magnetic resonance images of the subject’s brain two weeks prior to the study and again after the study was completed. Analysis of the images found increased grey-matter density in the hippocampus which is known to be important for learning, memory, and introspection.
After researching and studying meditation I decided to get in contact with the owner of 4 States Yoga, Jessica Taylor, to learn more about the correlation between yoga and meditation.
As a daughter of a local chiropractor, Jessica had alternative ways of healing the body instilled in her at a young age. She received her 200 hour intensive yoga teacher training certification in Joplin at the old downtown yoga location, Tree House Yoga. Jessica enjoys several styles of yoga but her favorite style is Vinyasa Flow, which in Sanskrit literally translates to “Breath in Movement.”
“Ashtanga is a traditional style of yoga that I was taught [during teacher training],” she said. “Through my own research and practice I found out how to put together a class that is called a Vinyasa Flow.”
FYI, Jessica’s Vinyasa Flow is a kick ass class that I highly recommend!
After practicing yoga for over 6 years, Jessica saw a need in the community for a yoga studio and humbly took on that role. She now has two studio locations in town, the original 4 States Yoga and Restoration Center which is located on 2615 North Rangeline Road and 4 States Yoga Downtown, 501 South Wall Avenue. As a yogi and alternative health advocate, Jessica practices five minutes of meditation daily.
“Sometimes I meditate first thing in the morning while my kids are still in bed,” she said. ” If I want more structure while I meditate, I will sit against a wall for added support. I remind myself to meditate while I’m washing dishes or doing household chores and enter that state of mind where I focus exactly on what I’m doing. I simply take awareness of the present moment and notice all of my senses.”
Jessica is an amazing instructor and is very passionate about helping others through yoga. She encourages her students to practice mediation daily, but to keep it simple and to just find what works best for them and their lifestyle. Jessica also shared her insight on how yoga offers a unique form of meditation.
“Yoga is not just about stretching. You do get the benefits of stretching but because you’re listening to the instructor tell you exactly what to do, your only choice is to shut off that monkey brain,” she said. “Your physical body is moving and stretching but your mental body is able to take a break.”
Jessica’s yoga flow is for all levels. Each movement is synchronized to a breath and the poses run together so smoothly that your focus is in the now and you’re able to block out those unwanted thoughts. Her Vinyasa style supports strength and flexibility through breath and her straightforward guidance makes meditating feel natural.
If you are interested in getting your yoga on, 4 States Yoga and Restoration Center offers a variety of classes and services. You can view their class schedule and upcoming events on their website www.4statesyoga.com.