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Meditation

​What is Meditation And Why is it Beneficial Today?

By MeditationNo Comments

What comes to mind when you think of meditation? Probably something along the lines of a person sitting cross-legged on a pillow with their eyes closed, hands placed in an intentional position, and perhaps making the sound of OM. You wouldn’t be wrong, but meditation is a profound practice that goes beyond the common image we see on social media nowadays.

Meditation has roots that go way back. Some scholars believe it’s as old as humanity itself, while others document the practice back to the first set of meditation techniques originating in India over 4,000 years ago, as documented in the oldest Hindu texts. What can be concluded is that it’s an ancient practice that has made its way all the way in to 2020 and doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, anytime soon. Let’s take a look at some reasons why that might be.

What Is Meditation?

Most commonly today in modern Western society, meditation is the term used to describe the technique of training your mind to be calm, similar to how you go to the gym to train your body to be strong and flexible. Meditation refers to a practice that brings the practitioner into a state of consciousness, connectedness, and profound awareness. Usually attained by sitting still, focusing on breathing, and clearing of erroneous thoughts. It is often described as the journey into stillness, silence, and space. Meditation teaches us to look within ourselves, which ultimately deepens the connection we have to ourselves, and the entirety of life and existence.

Slightly varied to modern use and terminology, in traditional Yogic philosophy, meditation is the 7th limb of the 8-Limbed Yogic Path, known as Dhyana. The technique to attain Dhyana, is the 6th limb of the 8-Limbed Yogic Path called Dharana. This yogic path explains that a practitioner must first practice the previous limbs, to then master the technique of focus and concentration (Dharana), to then reach a state of meditation (Dhyana). The practice of concentration brings the practitioner into a state of awareness uninterrupted by thoughts, otherwise known as meditation.

In meditation, the mind is relaxed and still. One known example is to think of a mind that’s engaging in the outside world, processing stimuli, thoughts, and emotions, as similar to a turbulent ocean where it’s difficult to hear or see anything due to the commotion. Compare this to an inwardly focused, silent, and still mind, as similar to a crystal clear, calm sea. One in which you can peacefully see the ecosystems both beneath, above, and between the water and its surroundings. Here we can visualize the difference of a meditative mind versus one that’s actively engaging in thoughts and the external world.

Why is Meditation Relevant in our Modern World?

Political tension, changing natural environments, wars, debt, high rent, deadlines, office politics, fires, and deadly viruses. The majority of people have felt stress in some area of modern life, many of whom a significant amount. It’s no secret that modern life while wonderful and exciting, can also be extremely stressful. A lot has changed in the just the past 100 years, and it will continue to. The modern world is often fast-paced with screens full of information always available at our fingertips. Again, while this has its benefits, it can also become emotionally draining, sometimes to the point of mental or physical illness. While meditation isn’t meant to replace professional help, it has proven to be an incredibly powerful aide to remain balanced and clear in a world full of chaos and distractions. One could argue that perhaps it’s more vital today than it was over 3,000 years ago.

Time spent in silence and stillness, connecting to one’s own inner experience is often pushed further down on the To-Do list in the life of a busy, modern person. As the old Zen saying goes, “You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day, unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.” While not everyone has a full hour to practice meditation, starting small with a realistic goal is beneficial. A three or five-minute meditation can increase a state of calm and peace amidst a world that never sleeps.

Try it out for yourself, set a timer every morning, or every night before bed for three to five minutes. Sit with a tall spine on a folded blanket, close your eyes, slow down your breath. Let your thoughts float by, become an observer of yourself. Have patience with yourself as this takes practice. You also might be surprised where you can fit in a longer meditation practice in your day with some strategic maneuvering. Such as only watching one episode of a show instead of three, meal prep to save time cooking dinner, or get your kids involved in the practice with you. Clarity, peace, and awareness are available to all of us with practice, and patience.

 

 

6 Ways That Mindfulness Reduces Stress

By Meditation, MindfulnessNo Comments

 

 

Shifting into a conscious state of mind, focusing on the present moment, and increasing overall awareness is often referred to as mindfulness. Practicing mindfulness consistently has multiple benefits such as improved general health, pain relief, academic success, increased self-awareness, better attention span, increased sense of gratitude, and stress relief. Reducing stress is a common motivation to practice mindfulness, often through meditation, because it is truly effective at doing so. Stress is experienced by all of us, to some degree, and the good news is that there is a simple and holistic way to relieve it… through a daily practice mindfulness. Mindfulness can be practiced through meditation or simply through a more aware and conscious view of our experiences and feelings. There are many ways that mindfulness helps to reduce stress by making us feel calmer, allowing us to regulate our emotions, by reducing activity in the amygdala, and by teaching acceptance, awareness, and gratitude.

1. Developing a Calm Demeanor

It is not a surprise that practicing mindfulness makes us feel calmer; the question is how exactly? Mindfulness meditation reduces the production of a stress hormone called cortisol, resulting in relaxation. Most of us are continuously thinking about errands, social interactions, future plans, and responsibilities which can be anxiety-inducing and overwhelming. Thepresence of this ongoing, inner chatter hinders our ability to focus, be aware, and truly enjoy the present. Practicing mindfulness is a wonderful way to press pause, set everything aside, and re-connect with yourself. Setting aside even 5-10 minutes daily to breathe and meditate is incredibly beneficial for your physical, emotional, and mental well being. Ultimately, you feel calmer, more composed, and more focused.

2. Better Emotion Regulation

The ability to regulate one’s emotions is important because it can lead to mood improvement (ideal for those who experience many ups and downs) and long-term well being. Emotions directly affect our moods which is why it is important to develop another sense of awareness of ourselves through mindfulness. By practicing mindfulness, you can condition yourself to pay more attention to the different feelings and sensations that you experience on a daily basis. Overall, by being more aware of emotions, we are able to experience more compassion, empathy, and understanding while not allowing negative emotions to affect us as much. One incredible benefit that mindfulness meditation offers is resilience which is a buffer when dealing with emotional highs and lows. Set time aside, especially during moments of stress, and simply become aware of what you are feeling. Without trying to suppress anything, observe the effects of your emotions on your body and your mind with patience.

3. Acceptance

The practice of mindfulness has a beautiful way of teaching acceptance and essentially, how to be at peace with your surroundings without trying to alter them. Passing judgment is a common human tendency that is difficult to shake off however, mindfulness allows us to develop a neutral stance towards the feelings and thoughts that we experience. The ability to observe your thoughts passing by, one by one, without trying to alter or criticize anything can be achieved through mindfulness meditation. Accepting feelings of stress and allowing them to pass instead of fighting those feelings makes stress more bearable. The imperfections and difficult moments of life make the good moments even better which is why accepting adversity is so important in terms of combatting stress.

 


4. Less Activity in the Amygdala

To put simply, the amygdala refers to a set neurons in the brain which is responsible for the processing and regulation of emotions, memory, and survival instincts. This part of the brain is also stimulated when we experience stress and fear. Practicing mindfulness consistently can actually allow us to be more self-aware and concentrated while making better decisions to the decreased activity in the amygdala. Other benefits also include better problem solving skills while facilitating learning and of course, relieving overall feelings of tension and stress. Simply mindfulness habits such as becoming aware of how food tastes and eating slowly, breathing deeply, listening carefully, and focusing on how your body feels while working out can provide these benefits.

5. Increased Awareness

The concept of increasing your overall awareness has already been briefly mentioned but let’s dive deeper into this concept. Most of our actions tend to be automatic due to habit and routines such as eating, drinking, resting, walking, talking, etc. Basic human functions are often taken for granted and of course, this is normal. When we are exposed to something long enough to repeated stimuli, our response decreases just like how we notice the scent of a candle in a room but after a while, we do not notice it anymore. By increasing awareness through mindfulness, we are able to notice and uproot negative tendencies while choosing not to respond with stress or panic in difficult situations. With awareness comes appreciation of the wonderful things we experience daily along with a newfound sense of well-being. That being said, when mindfulness is implemented, awareness eliminates stress.

 

6. Increased Sense of Gratitude

It’s easy to overlook the beautiful scenery that we see every day and it’s easy to take things for granted. It’s also easy to forget the blessings that exist in our lives because we are used to them being there. Gratitude is an incredibly powerful feeling that can overpower stress. With a mindfulness practice, you become aware of absolutely everything, internally and externally. Then, you go on to accept everything that you are experiencing as part of your journey. After awareness and acceptance, comes gratitude for everything, physical and nonphysical, that surrounds you. It’s difficult to feel stressed and tense when the feeling of gratitude overwhelms you; although your adversity is valid and should not be suppressed, focusing on the good things and people in your life makes difficulties seem manageable and temporary.

Practicing mindfulness, either through meditation or other habits, on a daily basis can provide incredible benefits for your mind and body regarding stress relief. By accepting, becoming more aware, feeling grateful, and embracing a calm demeanor through mindfulness, stress can be reduced.

 


Stella Versteeg was exposed to yoga early in life from her father – traveling to India to practice yoga with her family. Living in ashrams and being surrounded by the beautiful and intricate Indian culture, from a young age, Stella was able appreciate and learn about the origin of yoga as well as meditation. Stella received her 200 HR yoga training from YogaRenew in 2018. She currently runs a blog, Ride Your Wave Yoga, which shares yoga tips, poses, nutrition, travel and mindfulness. Her goal is to spread honesty, love and awareness about a yogic lifestyle through her blog posts as well as create a supportive, inspired community. She aspires to share as much information as possible about the wonderful lifestyle that yoga has to offer and continuously evolve in her personal own practice.

 

 

5 Daily Mindfulness Practices

By Meditation, MindfulnessNo Comments



Mindfulness is a term that is often brought up but… what does it really mean? Mindfulness refers to a state of awareness of the present moment and it arises from paying close attention to current experiences without judgement. Practicing mindfulness can of course be done with meditation which is the ultimate way to slow down, become aware, regulate emotions and thoughts, and relieve stress. Mindfulness, however, does not necessarily require a meditation practice which is good news if you have a busy schedule and do not have time to set aside to meditate. Let’s explore some simple yet effective ways that you can practice mindfulness on a daily basis.

1. Being Mindful During Conversations

Have you ever had a conversation with someone and while they are speaking, finding your thoughts drifting elsewhere? How about glancing at your phone while talking to someone or even worse, scrolling through social media or texting during a conversation? Sometimes it’s not a matter of disrespect and maybe instead it’s due to the fact that our minds are racing, we’re distracted, and not aware of the present moment. If you find yourself distracted and distant in conversations, practice mindfulness by maintaining eye contact and turning off your phone or keep it far away from you. Additionally, when the other person is speaking, listen to their tone of voice and the context of the conversation carefully and reply accordingly. This might seem like an unnecessary step but often times, people aren’t truly listening and instead they are constructing what they are planning on saying next. Truly listening, with judgment, and adding value with your response instead of a random statement is a wonderful way to practice mindfulness.

2. Being Mindful During Exercise/Yoga

This same concept applies to exercising and doing yoga; is your mind elsewhere during this time? Practicing a mind-body connection during a work out actually makes the exercises more effective. For instance, while you are lifting weights, if you focus on how your muscles feel as well as your breathing instead of a random thought, you will be able to lift more weights. Bringing your awareness to your body during strenuous activities allows your body to perform at its best by engaging your muscles to their fullest ability. If you find this difficult, try working out without headphones and simply focusing on deep inhales and exhales while exercising and bringing your attention to how your body feels. Practicing mindfulness on the mat might seem intuitive but you might be thinking about an array of different things while doing yoga without even noticing it. Shifting your attention to your breath and the alignment of your body during yoga allows you to receive the full benefits while immersing yourself in the present moment and connecting with yourself on a spiritual level.

3. Being Mindful While Eating

How long does it take you on average to eat a meal; 30 minutes, 1 hour? Many of us are eager to sit down and eat when we’re hungry and often times, we don’t even chew our food appropriately let alone consciously enjoy every bite. By eating slowly and chewing thorouhgly, we are able to enjoy the flavors of our food far more than when we rush to empty our plate. One way to practice this is by eating 3-5 small meals throughout the day so that you have an appetite before eating, but you are not starving and you can control the speed at which you are consuming the meal. Apart from how fast we eat, mindful eating also has to do with what we eat. Cooking is a wonderful way to incorporate mindfulness into our lives because we are aware of each and every ingredient that is going into our body. Being vegetarian or vegan is also something to potentially consider in the context of mindful eating because of multiple health benefits and the effects on animal welfare and the environment.

4. Being Mindful While Breathing

Practicing mindful breathing is simple in theory but not that simple in practice. Breathing is an ongoing and automatic function of the body that we usually don’t put too much thought into. By bringing our awareness to every inhale and exhale, our breathing becomes more conscious rather than passive. The idea is to simply observe the breath without necessarily altering it. By shifting attention to the breath, especially during stressful or overwhelming moments, you will feel more relaxed, collected, and calm. Another way to practice mindfulness while breathing is by taking a deep inhale, holding your breath for a few seconds and then releasing any tension through a deep exhale. Repeat this as many times as needed in order to relieve stress. The beauty of mindful breathing is that it turns a reflexive behavior that we take for granted into a conscious act.

5. Being Mindful of Daily Experiences

Routines lead to habits which lead to a decreased response to stimuli in our daily lives. To put simply, when we do the same thing day after day, we sometimes forget to fully enjoy every aspect of it and actions become automatic. There are some simple changes that you can incorporate into your routine that will allow you to become aware of and appreciate everything you experience. When you make a cup of coffee or tea in the morning, feel the warmth of your mug on your hands and enjoy every warm, delicious sip that you take. While taking a shower or bath, observe the way that your body feels and how wonderful it is to feel warm and clean. Overall, learning to pay attention to the little things in our daily lives allows us to enjoy them so much more.

Increased awareness can be applied to each and every thing that we do that we normally take for granted such as driving, walking, eating, drinking, resting, breathing, talking, and exercising. Practicing mindfulness heightens our senses and enriches our experiences while teaching us that nothing should be overlooked or taken for granted.


Stella Versteeg was exposed to yoga early in life from her father – traveling to India to practice yoga with her family. Living in ashrams and being surrounded by the beautiful and intricate Indian culture, from a young age, Stella was able appreciate and learn about the origin of yoga as well as meditation. Stella received her 200 HR yoga training from YogaRenew in 2018. She currently runs a blog, Ride Your Wave Yoga, which shares yoga tips, poses, nutrition, travel and mindfulness. Her goal is to spread honesty, love and awareness about a yogic lifestyle through her blog posts as well as create a supportive, inspired community. She aspires to share as much information as possible about the wonderful lifestyle that yoga has to offer and continuously evolve in her personal own practice.

4 Ways To Meditate As A Beginner

By MeditationNo Comments


4 Ways To Meditate As A Beginner Yoga

Close your eyes; inhale and take a deep exhale. Wonderful; now watch your endless thoughts, important and unimportant, pass before your eyes without letting them control you. Focus only on your deep breathing and stay absolutely still. Difficult, right? Naturally, your mind will become distracted and your thoughts will stray. Meditation is a practice that incorporates mindfulness and awareness of a particular focal point, such as the breath, to transition into a calm state of mind. Although it might be challenging at first, meditation becomes easier and easier with practice and there are a few ways that can make the beginning of your practice easier. Let’s get right into it!


1. Reserve A Quiet Space For Your Practice

As a beginner practicing meditation, distractions can definitely get in the way. Your goal should be to settle down somewhere with the least amount of external interference. Find a space in your house with the least amount of distractions and if you live with other people, let them know when you will be practicing to avoid other sudden interruptions. I suggest decorating your meditation area with candles, a meditation cushion, perhaps a yoga mat and whatever else you may need to feel comfortable and relaxed. It might be helpful to avoid your bedroom, office or anywhere that may trigger sleepiness or stress. Try to find a brand new space, even if it’s just a different part of a room, to set up your meditation haven.


2. Listen To Guided Audios

Sitting in complete silence at first can be… unsettling. We are always surrounded by auditory and visual stimulations which can make it difficult to accept the simplicity of silence. Think about how much you multitask; do you play games on your phone or text while watching a TV show? Do you doodle on a notepad while talking on the phone? Do you browse through your emails while listening to your favorite podcast? Our minds are conditioned to receive multiple stimulations at once which makes it very challenging to focus on just one thing at a time, thus, leading to challenges when trying to slow down and meditate. To alleviate your struggles, try exploring the wonderful world of guided audios which can be found on Spotify, YouTube and many other places online for free. Many guided meditation audios consist of a calming voice walking you through the process of slowing down your thoughts, witnessing your thoughts passing by passively, focusing entirely on your breath as well as feeling reassured. Music and nature sounds are also often used in these audios to further induce feelings of relaxation. If you have difficulty immersing yourself in silence, guided audios might be for you.

3. Use Aromatherapy

Using aromatherapy during meditation can also help to induce relaxation, stimulate the senses and create a soothing space for your practice. There are several ways that you can incorporate calming scents into your meditation practice; essential oil diffusers, direct essential oil application, scented candles and incense. Essential oil diffusers are wonderful because you can combine multiple scents at once if desired such as calming lavender oil and lemongrass. Another thing I love about diffusers is that they can be timed to consistently release a fragrant mist for as long as you wish. For an even more intense scent, you can also apply essential oils directly to your skin for more potent inhalation. Essential oils can be applied on the palms on your hands and any areas that you would apply perfume such as your wrists and your neck. Scented candles are also lovely during meditation not only due to the pleasantly aromatic nature but also due to the candle-lit, soothing ambience that they create. Incense is also more than just an accessory to meditation; incense often triggers a sense of serenity and connection with oneself. Incense has been used for hundreds of years, especially in Buddhism, and although spiritual leaders have known the benefits of it for years, science is finally catching up and actively supporting those claims. Incense can promote anti-depressive behavior, relieve stress, increase focus, boost the immune system and increase creativity.


4. Practice, Practice, Practice

Practicing is key. At the end of the day, meditation is called a practice for a reason. Consistency and patience will give you the best results so stay focused and be patient with yourself through this process. To avoid becoming overwhelmed, begin by practicing for 10 minutes daily and work your way up to 15 minutes, 20 minutes, etc. If you begin attempting an hour of meditation in the very beginning, you may become frustrated and give up so it’s important to start with baby steps . Another useful tip is scheduling your meditation sessions at specific times of day to train your body to let go and relax during those times. For instance, meditate consistently in the mornings when you wake up or in the evenings depending on your schedule and when you feel like you need to recharge because essentially, you’re recharging your batteries by meditating.

Now that you have the tools to begin your meditation practice, you ultimately have the freedom to decide what kind of practice you are going to build regarding consistency, times of day, duration, presence or absence of props and scents, the use of aromatherapy, etc. It’s important to remember that this is for you. Through your practice, you are able to finally escape the chaos of your routine, your responsibilities and other factors causing your stress. This is your time to grant yourself permission to set time aside to recollect your thoughts, focus on your breath, feel rejuvenated and reconnect with your spirituality. Once meditation becomes second nature, and I promise you it will, you will be able to transition into a calming, meditative state whenever you feel overwhelmed or stressed, for instance, before an exam or an important meeting. Try to be understanding of your progress in your meditation practice, as fast or slow as it may be, and enjoy every moment of it.



My name is Stella Versteeg and my travels, diverse ethnic background, and passion to teach as well as learn have allowed me to generate a creative and expressive outlet. What I love about my blog, Ride Your Wave Yoga, is the ability to share all things from yoga, nutrition, lifestyle, meditation to travel. Thanks to YogaRenew Teacher Training, I am a certified 200HR yoga instructor and a lifelong student who loves to write and inspire while creating a community through my blog. My goal is to spread honesty, love and awareness about a yogic lifestyle through my blog posts as well as create a supportive, inspired community. Living in Los Angeles can be hectic and fast-paced but there’s nothing that yoga can’t fix. Come along and let’s ride your wave, together!