Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard something about meditation (or maybe you’ve been meditating whilst under said rock), it’s never been so main stream. It’s no longer thought of as something mystical, performed by monks living high up in the mountains of the Far East, seeking transcendence to another plane of existence.
Nope it’s much simpler and easier and all the benefits can be had by anyone and everyone, no mountain or transcendence required.
So what exactly does meditation do and how do you meditate?
Well research has found regular meditation provides many of the same benefits as sleep, which is staggering really, considering all the benefits of sleep and the fact that, without sleep you die lol.
You are obviously not gonna die if you don’t meditate, at least not directly anyway. It can certainly improve your quality of life though.
I’ve listed below some of the benefits of regular meditation:
• Improved sleep quality. This is a HUGE biggy.
• Decrease in the amount of sleep you need, because of the above. Yep another biggy.
• Decrease in stress response, basically you won’t get stressed out as easily, and when you do become stressed, you get over it much quicker.
• Increase tolerance to stress, you won’t fall to pieces as easily, you can actually use the stress response to your advantage, as it was intended, giving you more energy and focus.
• Improved ability to concentrate and think creatively.
• Increased memory and ability to learn.
• Decreased instance of depression, due to improved natural brain chemistry.
• Improved testosterone to cortisol ratios.
• Improved weight management via improved hunger / satiety hormone ratios.
• Improved weight management via insulin sensitivity regulation, nutrient partitioning and use of energy. I.e. less energy is dumped in fat cells, instead being stored as muscle glycogen.
• Improved sex drive.
• Improved mood and motivation.
• Improved recovery ability from intense mental and physical activity / training.
• Increased potential to build muscle, due to several of the above.
Basically the list goes on and on. If mediation was a supplement, everyone would be taking it, it’s that beneficial to just about everyone.
Now the good news is, it’s not hard to do, not any more. You don’t have try and force your body, into a painfully contorted yoga position and repeat some weird little mantra over and over, whilst trying to force your mind to go blank. Yeah that’s just a load of bollocks for the average westerner.
Instead you have a few different options; such as mobile apps like ‘my headspace’, which is a series of guided meditations, that are so easy to use and just about anyone will be able to get on with it.
You simply sit or lie comfortably in a quiet, dark place and listen to instructions such as, focusing on your breathing and different senses, then just relaxing and not focusing at all etc.
Or even easier than that, is the binaural beats technology, which utilises different frequencies of sound in each ear (you need stereo headphones for this).
The different frequencies actually change the brain waves, changing your state to something very close to the state, only a master of classical mediation can achieve, after a lifetime of devoted practise.
While some of these claims may actually be exaggerated, ‘companies trying to market their product’, it is clear that binaural beats are a fairly easy way to obtain the benefits of meditation.
One slightly more challenging form of meditation is the ‘Wim Hoff Method’, a breathing method, combined with cold exposure and exercise. Wim Hoff is an extraordinary individual, who has been able to tap into and gain some control over his central nervous system, to enable him to achieve many remarkable feats with cold exposure, endurance endeavours and actually fighting off viruses with his technique. His complete method is beyond the scope of this blog post, however his breathing technique is a form of meditation.
He uses a controlled breathing technique involving taking a number of very deep breaths, followed by exhaling all your air and holding for as long as comfortable, then taking one deep breath, holding briefly again, then repeating the process for a few rounds.
Many followers of the Wim Hoff method, have reported feeling like they have reached higher states of consciousness using the breathing technique and have cured old injuries when combing with the cold water exposure. This method is obviously quite extreme and I would advise caution, to anyone thinking of trying it out, do your research and speak with your doctor.
To sum this post up, there are loads of really easy ways to get into meditation, things like ‘my head space’ and similar apps are a great place for the newbie to start, if you don’t want to commit to subscribing to a paid service, have a look on Google or YouTube, get a freebie and have a go. Personally I like to use a few methods, although 10 minutes a day of ‘my head space’ always works a treat, so give it a go, you won’t be disappointed.