On Thursday, Campus Manager Lisa, led the students in an hour of meditation theory and techniques. A couple of the students in class, were already experienced meditators, while others were completely new to the practice. But the great thing about meditation is that you need no skills or experience to get the benefits.
First we looked at the reasons why people meditate…
Meditation’s popularity has surged globally, driven by a growing awareness of its benefits. From stress reduction to improved focus, people embrace meditation for its positive impact on mental well-being and clarity.
Meditation yields an array of benefits, fostering mental, emotional, and physical well-being. Enhanced focus, reduced stress, and anxiety, along with improved self-awareness, are commonly reported. Regular practice can lead to better sleep, heightened creativity, and an overall sense of calm, promoting a balanced and fulfilling lifestyle.
Then we looked at the health benefits of meditation…
Meditation significantly enhances health by reducing stress, a key contributor to various ailments. It lowers blood pressure, boosts immune function, and promotes emotional well-being. Regular practice fosters better sleep, reduces inflammation and pain, and improves mental performance and physical resilience.
There are many different ways to achieve a meditative state…
First, you can focus on one or more of the senses. For example, focus on something you see, such as a candle or flower. Or focus on the sounds around you or a soundtrack of rain or birdsong.
You can also concentrate on the sense of touch, by perhaps walking barefoot or stroking a pet. The main thing is to completely lose yourself in that one sense and notice what you see, hear or feel in great detail.
Other forms of meditation bring the focus internally into the body. Vipassana meditation is simply watching the breath as it goes in and out of your nostrils. Other practices focus on the sensations in the body, perhaps rotating through each body part and noticing what you feel.
Pranayama, is the yogic practice of breath control i.e. the practitioner controls the breath in different ways e.g. counting the breath in/out, breath retention, breathing through the nose/mouth/one nostril only.
Each Pranayama technique offers distinct benefits. Ujjayi breath promotes concentration, while Kapalbhati energizes and cleanses. Nadi Shodhana balances energy channels, and Bhramari induces calm. Anulom Vilom harmonizes breathing, and Sheetali cools the body.
Visualization in meditation involves creating mental images to evoke a sense of calm and focus. Guiding the mind through serene scenes or envisioning positive outcomes enhances relaxation, reduces stress, and fosters mental clarity.
Finally, meditation through movement, as seen in practices like Tai Chi or walking meditation, combines mindfulness with physical activity. Integrating breath and deliberate motion fosters a profound mind-body connection and provides an alternative path to inner peace and well-being.
Preparing the body…
After all that theory, we were ready to get started. But, first, to help the body relax, we cranked up Taylor Swift and spent one minute ‘shaking it off’. Shaking helps the body release physical tension and the physical exertion of shaking releases endorphins, a happy hormone, that makes us feel relaxed, content and more able to sit still.
Meditation # 1 – Humming Bee
The first practice we did was Humming Bee, or Bhramari Pranayama. This practice entails closing the eyes, blocking ears with fingers, and inhaling deeply, followed by a slow, controlled exhalation while producing a humming sound. This technique aims to induce relaxation and enhance concentration through the soothing vibration of the humming breath.
Meditation # 2 – Nadi Shodhana
The second technique we tried was Nadi Shodhana, or alternate nostril breathing, is a yogic pranayama technique. Sitting comfortably, the practitioner uses the thumb and ring finger to alternate blocking one nostril while inhaling and exhaling through the other. This method harmonizes energy channels, promoting balance, focus, and calm in the breath and mind.
Meditation #3 – Yoga Nidra
Our final practice was Yoga Nidra, often termed “yogic sleep”. This is a guided relaxation practice originating from the ancient Indian tradition of yoga.
Participants lie down comfortably and are talked through a systematic relaxation process, bringing awareness to different parts of the body, observing inhalation and exhalation, experience sensations of heat and cold, heaviness and lightness in the body and using visualisation or affirmations to enhance positive thinking and manifestation.
During Yoga Nidra, the mind enters a state between wakefulness and sleep, known as the hypnagogic state. Conscious awareness remains, yet the mind relaxes deeply. This state fosters receptivity, making it an optimal environment for positive affirmations, deep relaxation, and heightened self-awareness.
Before we started, we identified each body part so that the students could relax totally once the yoga nidra began. Then everyone made themselves very comfortable lying down on their yoga mats. It’s good to put something under the knees to protect the lower back (we used a second yoga mat) and sometimes something under the head to keep the neck straight. We also played some gentle yoga music in the background.
The entire process took about 30 minutes and it’s normal to sometimes drift in and out of sleep. At the end everyone said that they felt very relaxed indeed and many were keen to do it again.
There are many yoga nidra recording online on apps such as Insight Timer and YouTube. Here in Byron Bay, we are also lucky enough to have a community yoga nidra class every week. This is held at Bamboo Yoga, which is just a couple of kms from the school.
How often should you practice meditation?
The frequency of meditation practice varies based on individual preferences, goals, and lifestyle. For beginners, starting with a few minutes daily helps establish a routine. Then try to gradually extend your sessions to 20-30 minutes can deepen the practice. Consistency is key; even brief, regular meditation proves beneficial. Some meditators practice daily, while others find benefit in several sessions weekly. The aim is to integrate meditation into daily life, adapting to personal needs. Experiment with different schedules to discover what aligns best with your routine. The most important aspect is the commitment to regularity, fostering a sustainable and enduring meditation practice.
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