Meditation: Is it worth a try?
Now that yoga and meditation are among the most popular physical and mental practices worldwide, many people think about starting to engage in them but are still in doubt. For some, it is still unclear what the goal of meditation is and whether it is worth trying. The answer to these questions will depend on the preferences and goals a person pursuits. Yet, beyond the shadow of a doubt, meditation does not harm anyone. So if you want the lowdown on different meditation practices and their goals, continue reading and find the answers to your questions.
The Effects of Meditation
Meditation has not become widely popular for no reason. It is not just a trend that comes and goes. There is much more behind the goal of meditation than making you fashionable. In particular, you might want to engage in it because of the myriad of health benefits it offers. Among these are:
People who go in for meditation are less likely to suffer from anxiety and stress. Furthermore, it can reduce perfectionistic thoughts that are often the triggers of a depressive mood. Scientific evidence shows that those who meditate indulge in rumination and self-compassion less than those who do not (3, 8, 9, 10).
Better cardiovascular health
Meditation increases the cortical thickness in the hippocampus, which is responsible for the memory (6).
Mindfulness contributes to a person’s ability to focus on a particular thing or action for a longer time. People with the ability to sustain memory for long periods tend to succeed in their study and work (6).
Symptom reduction in cancer treatment
Some evidence shows that meditation can improve the physical wellbeing of people with cancer. Likewise, it can be recommended to those who have overcome cancer, since it can also help reduce stress levels (3).
Better immune system for the HIV-positive
Mindful practices are said to suspend the declination of CD4+T lymphocytes, thus boosting the immune system (3).
Alzheimer’s disease prevention
Meditation can improve the blood flow to the brain, inhibiting neurodegeneration and, subsequently, Alzheimer’s disease (9).
Those who meditate tend to live longer due to several health benefits it offers (11).
What is the goal of mindfulness meditation?
You must have heard yoga and meditation experts talking about mindfulness along with meditation. Some even use these words interchangeably. However, meditation and mindfulness are not synonyms. Mindfulness is rather a quality of meditation, which focuses on self-awareness and living at the present moment (5). In other words, mindfulness is a type of meditation, which is geared towards the prevention of unwanted thoughts and releasing what no longer serves you.
Throughout the day, people go through a lot of thinking, problem-solving, decision making, brainstorming, and other stuff going on in their minds. These have a propensity to exhaust the brain, eventually inducing stress and anxiety. Mindfulness meditation is exactly what you need after a busy day to relax and let go of the annoying thoughts. The goal of mindfulness meditation is to draw your attention to the wonderful world around you and redirect your attention from your worries (5).
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How to stay mindful?
The conventional way to meditate is, of course, in a sitting cross-legged position with your back straight. Then, you have to close your eyes and start to inhale and exhale softly. Focus on your breathing and see how your body reacts. You might be interrupted by some sounds or other phenomena, but this should not break your practice. You should return to your mindfulness as soon as possible and finish the practice (5).
In fact, the lotus posture is not the only asana in which you can practice mindfulness. There are a variety of ways you can stay mindful throughout the day without interfering with your routine tasks. Here’s how:
Instead of rushing through your meal, you should try enjoying every bit of it. Your task here is to feel the taste, texture, and flavor of your food in detail, to the extent you would be able to write a descriptive essay about it. Mindful eating is useful for not only your mind but also your body, as it prevents overeating.
Try out a mindful workout
Rather than jogging or lifting weights in a rapid motion, work out slowly, engaging each of your muscles. As you are lifting the weights, feel how heavy they are. After you have become aware of this, you will notice how exercising is becoming easier for you, and the weights – lighter. Similar to mindful eating, the mindful workout is beneficial for your body: the slower you exercise, the faster you will build the muscles.
Take a mindful bath
Just run a bath and sink into it, relaxing each muscle and letting the water embrace you. Enjoy the experience and, if it feels good, turn on some soft music.
Go for a mindful walk
You can meditate during your walk by paying attention to the surroundings. Of course, a park or a forest is a perfect place for a mindful stroll, but you can still do it in other locations. The key point here consists not in the destination but in the way you organize your thoughts. Hence, you might want to focus on inhaling and exhaling, feeling the air circulating in your lungs. Similarly, you can observe the interaction between the wind and leaves on the trees or listen carefully to the sound of the busy traffic. Therefore, what is important here is to throw away your busy thoughts and pay attention to each detail of the environment.
What is the goal of chakra meditation?
Chakra meditation aims to reach and maintain balance in your chakras, which are located vertically along the midline of your body. There are a total of 7 chakras that run down from your forehead down to your lower back. Each chakra is responsible for a particular area of your body and sphere of your life. Hence, the goal of chakra meditation is broken down into 7 chunks, corresponding to the 7 chakras:
1. Root Chakra
This one is located at the base of your spine and makes you feel grounded. You can work on this chakra by standing or sitting barefoot and focusing on your breath. If you feel detached from your family and home, you should try root chakra meditation.
2. Sacral Chakra
This chakra is situated in the lower abdomen and is responsible for connecting with people. To balance the sacral chakra, you need to collect the positive energy in your palms, holding them in the prayer position. After taking 3 deep breaths in, lie down on your back and put the palms on your lower abdomen and stay in this position for 11 minutes.
3. Solar Plexus Chakra
Located in the upper abdomen, solar plexus chakra is linked with self-confidence. It is important to work on this chakra to overcome the state of shyness and self-consciousness. For this kind of chakra meditation, take a sitting position, and start inhaling and exhaling slowly, noticing how you release your muscles and begin to feel relaxed.
4. Heart Chakra
As the name itself suggests, the heart chakra is associated with your emotional side. It also connects the upper and lower parts of the body. To release this chakra, try such yoga postures as warrior 2, shoulder flossing, and full wheel. At the end of the meditation session, express your gratitude for everything you have and value.
5. Throat Chakra
This chakra is connected with truth and sincerity. To reach it, you need to use crystals, such as blue calcite, turquoise, and blue lace agate. During the meditation session, hold one of those in your left hand and place it near your throat.
6. Third-eye Chakra
This one is situated just between your eyebrows and is the most mysterious chakra out of all. It is linked with intuition and said to help people in decision-making.
7. Crown Chakra
It is located at the top of your head and responsible for your consciousness. To feel it, you should free your mind from all thoughts and worries and make sure you breathe smoothly throughout your meditation session.
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What is the goal of yoga meditation?
Despite being widely known as a type of workout that helps you slim down and improve your flexibility, yoga is primarily a meditative practice. The end goal of a yoga session is complex: first off, it makes you feel relaxed and concentrated; and second, it helps you both build and release your muscles. With each posture of your yoga practice, you are gradually letting go of your day-to-day problems and businesses (4, 13). Yoga contributes not only to your physical balance but also to the inner one.
The main advantage of yoga meditation is that it is suitable for everyone, regardless of their gender, age, occupation, and fitness level. Even if you are not advanced in yoga, you can still practice it and get results with it. Just as any kind of meditation, yoga can make an invaluable contribution to your wellbeing. Yoga meditation can reduce your stress, relieve your chronic pain, and improve your nervous system (12). If you cannot find calmness because of work, study, family, etc., yoga might be the best option for you, as it detaches you from the earthly troubles.
Yoga and meditation
Each yoga posture can open a unique meditation experience for you. For example, the child’s pose requires you to relax entirely in your muscles and spine as you are releasing your body in the opposite direction. One of the most famous yoga poses, downward-facing dog, requires an even distribution of weight in your body as you are lifting your hips in the sky and letting your sternum fall. In the plank position, you are concentrating on the lengthening from your neck to your lumbar spine.
In addition to the serenity you can achieve through your yoga practice, the latter can decrease your BMI (12). In other words, yoga, and yoga meditation, in particular, can help you lose some weight. Although weight loss is insignificant, it might still be of great importance.
The Bottom Line
The goal of meditation will vary from person to person, depending on their tastes. Nonetheless, this practice can benefit all, you just need to find your perfect way of meditation. So, it is now your call whether you want to go in for mindfulness, chakra, or yoga meditation.
Roll out your mat and watch this meditation video to put the world on hold and check in with your inner self.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any medical conditions. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility.
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- Beyond Medications and Diet: Alternative Approaches to Lowering Blood Pressure (2013, ahajournals.org)
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- Review of Controlled Research on the Transcendental Meditation Program and Cardiovascular Disease. Risk Factors, Morbidity, and Mortality (2004, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Stress Reduction in the Secondary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease: Randomized, Controlled Trial of Transcendental Meditation and Health Education in Blacks (2012, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Stress, Meditation, and Alzheimer’s Disease Prevention: Where The Evidence Stands (2015, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- The Effect of Meditation on Self-Reported Measures of Stress, Anxiety, Depression, and Perfectionism in a College Population (2011, tandfonline.com)
- Yoga Breathing, Meditation, and Longevity (2009, nyaspubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com)
- Yoga, Meditation and Mind-Body Health: Increased BDNF, Cortisol Awakening Response, and Altered Inflammatory Marker Expression after a 3-Month Yoga and Meditation Retreat (2017, frontiersin.org)
- Yoga: Fight stress and find serenity (2019, mayoclinic.org)