For our team at Tahoe Trail Bar, mental and physical wellness are a priority. With the added stress and lack of daily structure which a good number of us have been presented with amidst quarantine, it is important to look for healthy outlets. Meditation is a recommended practice that many are turning toward.
According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, there is evidence that meditation can lead to some great health benefits including:
- Reduce blood pressure
- Ease symptoms of anxiety and depression
- Help people with insomnia
Before quarantine, the closest thing to guided meditation I had experienced was Savasana at the end of many yoga classes. I had always looked forward to this in my yoga practice, however it had never crossed my mind that I would be able to achieve the same feeling on my own. For my first guided meditation I reached out to a friend who recommended a 30 minute long guided meditation by Stephen Levine. After my at-home work out I laid a towel down on the ground, crossed my legs and closed my eyes. This was the fastest half hour of my life. Once the meditation ended there was a calmness over me that I hadn’t experienced in weeks.
Tips to get started:
- Focus on breath. Some choose to count their breaths. Starting with one when inhaling, then two when exhaling and so on up to ten, then repeat. Others choose to focus on the oxygen moving through their diaphragm. Find what works for you.
- There is no right or wrong way to meditate. Your meditation practice is simply about you. You may choose to sit on the ground, or you might prefer to sit on the couch. Whatever you find to be the most comfortable is recommended when starting out. If you feel ‘lost’ find your breath and focus on it. Be proud of what you are doing for your body and mind.
- Start with a simple two minute meditation. I know that I said before my first practice was a half hour long – however since then to keep it consistent that number has varied from around two to five minutes. This is the recommended way to add meditation to a daily routine.
- Figure out what works best for you, and stick with it. The best way to get the full benefit of meditation is to practice every day. An easy way to keep on track is to add meditation to a routine you already do every day. Some prefer right when they wake up in the morning, I am enjoying meditation at the end of my daily workout. Think of meditation as an ‘exercise’ for your mind. You wouldn’t go to a gym and expect to be able to lift the heaviest weights without training. It will take time to be able to find your breath and tune into your practice. Find what works for you and stick with it.
- Accept that your mind will wander. This is completely understandable! Don’t let it discourage you. If you catch yourself daydreaming simply take a deep breath and start your count back at one.
Types of Meditation:
When starting, there are different kinds of meditation you can try out to find your preference. The first step would be to decide whether you would like to try out guided or unguided meditation.
Usually with guided meditation the teacher will begin by helping you find your breath. From there the focus will turn toward different meditation techniques, followed by more specific goals for your practice.
Phone applications such as Insight Timer, Headspace, etc. will provide a brief summary of what the specific practice will be focusing on, and also how long the meditation will last. This can be useful in finding the right guided meditation for you.
Guided meditation is often recommended for beginners because it can help ensure that you are getting the most out of your practice.
- Unguided meditation is performed without the explanation from a teacher.
- This can be done in complete silence, with white noise, with different frequencies, or even to different types of music so long as you are able to focus on yourself and your breathing.
- Some prefer to set a timer when practicing unguided meditation, knowing that you have a set amount of time for meditation can help get you in the right mindset.
- Oftentimes people will learn what they like best from different guided meditations, and focus on those ideas while practicing unguided.
Once you decide if guided or unguided meditation is best for you, there are specific types of meditation based on what you would like your outcome to be.
- Focused Attention:
- When we think of ‘meditation’ generally we picture Focused Attention. This style of meditation uses breath as a focal point to maintain attention and to keep the mind from wandering.
- Mindfulness Meditation:
- Mindfulness describes a state of being in which one is aware and present in the current moment. In this mindset one can be conscious of the thoughts and feelings that are going through their head, however also free from the distractions that may come with them.
- Sleep Meditation:
- With busy or stressful days, sometimes it is hard to keep your mind from racing when it is time for bed. Sleep Meditation is focused on techniques which relax the mind and body. One of the main goals of Sleep Meditation is to slow the heart rate, in turn slowing the breath and providing more quality sleep.
- Transcendental Meditation:
- This form of meditation is practiced one on one with a certified teacher. It usually consists of two 20 minute sessions per day. According to a five year study published by The US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health on patients with existing high blood pressure, those who practiced Transcendental Meditation were 48% less likely to suffer from heart attack or stroke when compared to the control group.
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