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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

9 Reasons to Incorporate Yoga Meditation and Mindfulness into Your Life

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9 Reasons to Incorporate Yoga Meditation and Mindfulness into Your Life

I’m mindful. Mindful in running down my to-do list, my wish list, my dream list, my ‘it seems impossible’ list. Mindful of the demands of life, work, relationships, communication, travel, meetings, traffic, and a constant conversation of positives and negatives having an NPR style narrative in my head.

Sure, I’m mindful. I’m a yoga instructor. It comes naturally, right? But the reality is, so much of the “mindfulness” in our mainstream is a cheap imitation of real connection, a desire to fast track our minds to a calm, focused space where we can be happy — but without much work, of course.

Being mindful is about being an impartial observer. It’s the ability to stay present in your moment without allowing the mind to get side-tracked. We all know that can be hard to do. Mindfulness is meant to be a state of awareness without judgement. Also, hard especially when we want easy happiness in the midst of a complex world.

Mindfulness isn’t exactly a new concept. It’s been a part of ancient meditations and yogic practice for centuries. Yoga started 5,000 years ago with the Vedic priests of India and yoga meditation has traces in 1500 BCE. Their original purpose was to train the body and mind to be self-aware. Not so different from what we want today.

Incorporating yoga and mindfulness into my lifestyle has not only allowed me to make it financially beneficial but it has shaped my body and mind in new and important ways. It is a full-time lifestyle, but it can be done with a few simple things. Here are nine reasons to help you increase your yoga meditation and allow everyday miracles to happen while connecting with real people and yourself:

1. On the Go Meditation Tools Are Everywhere

Downloading one (or a few) meditation apps is a good alternative to doing nothing at all. There is some controversy on the approach of meditation apps that are based in financial gain but have little to no incentive to get people to an independent place of stillness.

Many feel it takes away from the original purpose of learning with a trained coach. But for those on the go, they offer easy access to guided inspirational words to boost their day.

Mediation shouldn’t be a business about consumption, it should be about improving personal wisdom, real meditative yoga skills and mindfulness. If you’re a traveler these come in handy. Try Pocket Yoga and Universal Breathing apps.

2. It Allows Your Body to Physically Relax (Tons of Benefits)

Ever found yourself clenching your muscles, shoulders drawn up to your ears, without even being aware? This combination of muscle rigidity and stress can create a variety of connected issues including, sharp or persistent pain, body misalignment, and headaches, to start.

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Yoga, meditation and mindfulness allow a space to align your body correctly, lengthening and toning muscles that support long term health. Combined with breath, the body can release stress and finally relax.

Try Hatha or Vedic Meditation for deep meditative yoga options, and simple poses like Supta Tadasana to open hips, or Up Dog to open the chest and release the back. Five to ten minutes of simple stretching or holding an active resting position with deep breathing allows the muscles of the body to release. So, release those lines in your forehead and take a moment to try it now.

3. “Active” Silence Is Important

It’s a loud world out there, one that seems to distract from our true selves. One of the most powerful things we can do to be mindful is to take control of our thoughts. Our inner dialogue creates the reactions that drive our life, and they can dig in and take hold.

Taking a moment (5-10 minutes) to sit in stillness and breathe deep, activates the awareness to slow down. It oxygenates our muscles and tissues, improving real oxygen intake unlike our accustomed shallow breathing habits.

A moment of silence is best recommended in the morning. Before opening email, apps or swiping through dating profiles.

As a reminder, I enjoy spiritual leader and activist, Thich Nhat Hanh’s quote on active silence:

“This is not the kind of silence that oppresses us. It is a very elegant kind of silence, a very powerful king of silence. It is the silence that heals and nourishes us.”

I choose to find active silence in the outdoors hiking a mountain, or resting on my back in the ocean taking in the amplified sounds underwater. Nature is powerful.

4. Mental Breaks Not Mental Breakdowns Help Productivity

The brain naturally gives itself “time outs” by day dreaming. When you find yourself zoning out, your brain is taking time to reconfigure its complex maze of neurons. This usually happens when not involved in a detailed task, and the brain is tapping into its muscle memory. Basically, you’re on autopilot, and that’s a healthy part of our physiology.

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If we’re not taking time for self-awareness and self-actualization, we’re putting ourselves at a higher risk of mental and emotional stress. Leading to increased anxiety and pressure that affects our ability to concentrate.

If there are underlying genetic factors or negative experiences that spike emotional stress, this increases exposure to breakdowns. On the other hand, a scheduled time out allows our brains to take a break and be more productive.

If you’re new to yoga meditations, here are a few inspirations to start your own personal mantra:

What is my deepest desire? What are the emotions I’m feeling? What is my reactivity based in? What can I let go?

I invite you to take a moment to breathe deep, hold for five seconds, and breathe out, emptying the chest and belly. Namaste.

5. Brain Health

When we add time for yoga meditation and mindfulness, we tap into the brain’s state of “waking rest” or our default mode network. If done actively, we can take control of our thoughts and instead of our mind running us, we can run our mind.

The result? The ability to stay centered in many circumstances, circumventing ruminating thoughts, and added stressors.

Stress damages our body and brain. Here are just a few ways it does: anxiety and depression, emotional reactivity, eating disturbances, sleeplessness, weight loss, heart disease, chronic pain, affecting memory, over active cortisol levels in the brain, lower decision making and a shrinking pre-frontal cortex.

Luckily, according to Psychology Today, we can repair many damaged neurons and brain connectivity by reducing stress and cortisol production.[1] Yoga meditation is a simple, free, effective tool to do on your own time, almost anywhere.

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Yoga meditation is about observing our own thoughts and sensations in the body with real openness. I’ve had many yoga students share their stories of improved health and focus by adding this into their lifestyle, so I know the physical postures, breathing and mindfulness improve brain health.

We are more than our emotions, and there is a scientific chemistry behind our functions, let’s give ourselves the tools to be as healthy as possible.

6. It Allows Depth over Superficiality

We are all meant to create and enjoy deep relationships, leaving behind difficulties in our lives, childhood wounds and emotionally charged experiences. We do this inner work to allow authentic connections to happen and for a healthy mindset.

I believe most people want to go deeper, they just may not know how. Yoga meditation and mindfulness can help get you there. You don’t need to accept and stay around superficial relationships that don’t serve you, or worse, hurt you.

Start by evaluating your relationships. Which ones can you cultivate to be deep? Which ones lead you into superficiality? Which ones leave you feeling negative, depleted or insecure?

Evaluate your activities. Which ones cultivate deeper thinking, deeper relationships? Which ones benefit long term health and mental clarity? These may sound unoriginal, but ask yourself, when’s they last time you sat and really gave yourself an answer.

Here’s some meditation insight from Dr. Joe Dispenza,[2]

“Meditation opens the door between the conscious and subconscious minds. We meditate to enter the operating system of the subconscious, where all of those unwanted habits and behaviors reside, and change them to more productions modes to support us in our lives.”

Those supported lives lead to deeper everyday relationships.

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7. Connecting IRL with Others Looking for the Same

Most of the time it seems like the online world, mindfulness apps and practicing with others have been mutually exclusive. But they don’t have to be. Finding your yoga tribe at a local studio or wellness retreat can happen for you. There are so many options to choose from, and the increased desire to find more introspection is creating more outlets to explore.

According to neuroscience research, a subject I love, mindfulness increases the connections between the amygdala and prefrontal cortex,[3] ultimately helping us be less reactive and more resilient to stress. Real social interaction should be the heart of a meditation experience, not an add on, and there are plenty of welcoming tribes.

8. Eventually It Becomes a Habit

Productivity isn’t usually what you think of with mindfulness, but the more clarity you have the more productive you are. That starts with creating good habits and minimizing the ones we love to love; chocolate, snooze buttons, procrastination….and practicing regular meditation then becomes part of our lifestyle.

The habit of regular mediation is being explored by schools, pro sports teams and military units to enhance performance, according the Scientific American.[4] In addition, there are positive results with chronic pain, addiction and tinnitus. And because our emotional minds are so connected to our physical responses, there is evidence it helps with certain physical conditions, like irritable bowel syndrome,[5] cancer,[6] and HIV.[7]

Give yourself time to proactive adding meditation and mindfulness to your life daily. It can be as simple as 90 seconds of deep breathing in the car before work. Breathe, be aware, repeat. Soon those synapses will have new mindful pathways.

9. Sharing Your New-Found Stillness with Others

Like our life, the best advice I can give to share your mindfulness journey is to find the unique version that works for you and be supportive of others on their own journey.

The meditative technique that is the “stillness of the mind” is meant to pull us out of our self absorbed state and be more open. It’s basically in search on “mental fitness”.

Just like we would lift weights for physical fitness, accepting that mental health is important is part of the process. Allowing yourself to take a moment of stillness.

Final Thoughts

Yoga meditation is not a cure for everything or everyone, and it can unlock subconscious thoughts you’d rather leave alone. It’s not all rainbows and butterflies, sometimes it’s hard to face inner truths and feelings or get beyond the monkey mind.

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In the end, whether you decide to do this as a personal quest or share it with a partner or group, take the time to prepare your mind for yoga meditation and do the version that works for you. Make it yours. It takes some work, more than we may be used to, but it’s worth it.

More Resources About Meditation & Mindfulness

Featured photo credit: Ksenia Makagonova via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Liz Galloway

I'm an idealist, columnist & traveler helping people connect through personal discovery. Stay inspired!

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Last Updated on November 8, 2021

How To Do Focused Meditation Any Time

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How To Do Focused Meditation Any Time

Do you often feel stressed for most of your day? Maybe you always feel a burden that you just can’t get rid of? Focused meditation might be your answer.

In this article, I’ll explore what focused meditation is, how it differs in the pool of many styles of meditation, and how to implement and start this practice today. Likewise, I’ll highlight the benefits of a focused meditation practice for your overall health.

What Is Focused Meditation?

Meditation is the practice of becoming self-aware through breath and attention to connect the mind, body, and spirit.[1] Meditation as a whole can change the structure and function of our brain. That being said, focused meditation or a guided meditation for focus is by far the best one. Meditation for focus and concentration can come in different forms. Experienced meditators use the following:

  • Mindfulness – this meditation involves us to be focusing on your breath and observing thoughts. This allows us to focus on our feelings without becoming too absorbed in them.
  • Concentrative – a meditation that gets us to focus on a particular point; be it a word, breath, object, or a point in the space you’re meditating. This is meant for us to pay attention to that point and prevent our minds from getting distracted.
  • Moving – this meditation involves gets us to focus on slow and repetitive movements similar to yoga or tai chi. The goal is again to be focusing on your breath while relaxing your body and mind with the movements.

Focused meditation, also known as concentrative meditation, is the practice of meditating and bringing your attention to one single object. This object can be something practical and tangible, such as a mandala painting or a candle flame. It can also be something abstract, such as a phrase (also known as mantra) or a sound (such as Om).[2][3]

Whatever you settle your attention on becomes the focal point. None of these object examples are better than others—they are simply choices depending on what you’re looking to get out of your practice. For example, practitioners will choose candle gazing to interpret the images the flame makes in the shadows while others will choose a mantra because that particular phrase or word empowers or heals them.

How Does It Differ From Other Meditation Styles?

All meditation styles and practices overlap and build on each other. Their basic foundation is the same: to bring the practitioner insight and introspection.

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There is no right or wrong way to meditate, however, the various types of meditation can enhance particular qualities. Based on your personality and needs, one type of meditation may be more useful to you than the other. The 9 types of meditation are:

  • Mindfulness meditation
  • Spiritual meditation
  • Focused meditation
  • Movement meditation
  • Mantra meditation
  • Transcendental meditation
  • Progressive relaxation
  • Loving kindness meditation
  • Visualization meditation

Focused meditation, specifically, is the practice of focusing on one single object for the duration of the practice. How this differs from other meditation styles is that it gives the practitioner something tangible to do: focus. It’s almost like giving your mind an action to perform—listen to this sound, repeat these words, watch this flame, etc. This is also one of the reasons why this particular meditation style is great for beginners!

One of the biggest challenges in any meditation practice is that the mind gets carried away and we lose ourselves to random thoughts. This “obstacle” is actually a style of meditation in and of itself called Vipassana.[4] However, in focused meditation, we give the mind something to do so that it’s not simply left to its own devices. This type of meditation is beneficial for beginners and for practitioners who prefer some structure and guidance to their meditations.

The Benefits of Focused Meditation

In this style of meditation, what you’re really doing is exercising your mental muscles. Your brain is highly affected by dedicated and concentrated meditation practice.

Scientists have performed countless studies on focused meditation and have found that active meditators have more gray matter volume in their brain and, therefore, offsetting the cognitive decline that comes with aging. So, not only does practicing focused meditation help you learn how to focus better on certain tasks, but it also improves similar functions, such as memory. [5]

Likewise, it helps in reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety, which our society is currently crippled with.[6] By settling your attention on an object, you are essentially building your ability to observe your thoughts and sensations from a place of objectivity. This allows you to detach from negative self-talk that is often the breeding ground for depression and other mental illnesses.

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From a guided meditation for focus to practicing it yourself, daily meditation for focus comes with several benefits:

  • It’ll reduce stress
  • Help you to control anxiety
  • Enhance your self-awareness
  • Improve attention span
  • Helps you to focus on the present moment
  • Increase your creativity and imagination
  • And boost your patience and tolerance for things.

How to Practice Focused Meditation

Here are six tips to help you practice focused meditation. Based on your availability and interest, these tips may change and evolve. That’s the point: to create a structured practice that caters to your needs.

1. Find a Comfortable Seat

As with any meditation practice, comfort is truly key. The physical body responds to meditation practice by alerting you to whether it is comfortable and supported or stressed out and in pain. This is best observed in practitioners who tend to slouch and lose the tall, supported spine that is essential to meditation practice.

A simple rule in meditative sitting is to ensure that your hips are higher than your knees. Therefore, choosing to sit in a chair instead of on the floor may be a smart decision or perhaps propping yourself up on a cushion. For meditation techniques overall, it does not matter how you sit. All that matters is that you are supported and comfortable sitting for some time.

2. Choose Your Object of Focus

Every meditation training session is going to be different because no single day is the same for any one person. Therefore, experienced meditators know that choosing an object is more about listening to what you need at this time versus following any doctrine or “rule.”

If you’re not sure and have a hard time deciding, make focusing on your breath and pay attention to the inhale and exhale is a good option. Then, assign each inhale and exhale a number, and once you reach 10, start over. This is one of the simpler methods of keeping your mind occupied—by giving it a task. This also trains your mind, and over time and with practice, your mind will easily focus on an object without too much effort.

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3. Set Your Desired Time or “Go With the Flow”

If you have a structured routine and would like to stick to your schedule, by all means, set a gentle timer for how long you’d like your meditation to be. This is also your opportunity to throw out the notion that any meditation has to be a certain length of time to be correct—it does not.

Likewise, if you have the time, you can also listen to your body and come out of your meditation when you feel it’s right to do so. This is often a beautiful practice of listening and tuning in.

4. Relax Your Body as You Focus on Your Meditation

Typically, when we are focusing on something, we tend to tighten our body. Observe this next time that you’re concentrating on something: your jaw will tighten and your shoulders will squeeze up towards your ears.

As you sink into your meditation, keep this in mind and check in with your body every once in a while. Let your shoulders sink down your back and release any tension through your jaw and face. Lastly, relax your brow and let your eyes be heavy in their sockets. Then, return to your object of meditation. Observe if your meditation changes at all by relaxing your physical body.

5. Return to Your Breath and Object When You Get Distracted

Notice that I didn’t say “if you get distracted.” That’s because you definitely will drift off with random thoughts or get pulled away from your object of focus. In meditation, distractions are almost guaranteed. Therefore, it’s your opportunity to practice detaching yourself from feeling guilty or inadequate to continue.

Over time and with practice, you will find it easier to stay with your object of focus. In the meantime, however, notice when you get distracted. Pause and take a big breath in and out. Check in with your physical body and relax. Once you’re ready again, return to your object of focus. Meditation is simply one long cycle of wandering and coming back to yourself.

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6. Journal Your Experiences

When your meditation practice has ended, another powerful practice is to jot down any experiences that you felt. There may have been insights and “downloads” that you acquired during your session that you may want to record.

Likewise, you could write about any challenges that you faced. These are great lessons that will continue to show up for you, and it’s nice to keep a journal of them to see how they evolve and progress over time (and they will). Lastly, you can write about what works and what doesn’t, as far as picking your objects of meditation go. This way, you can learn what you most associate with and feel comfortable with.

While these steps are simple, it’s easier said than done. Whether you’re starting out with a guided meditation for focus, loving kindness meditation, or transcendental meditation, anticipating failure the first time you try these things is healthy. Furthermore, congratulate yourself for even making slight progress like noticing and returning to the present moment and noticing the sensations you experienced.

Final Thoughts

If practicing meditation causes you to feel distracted and unsupported, give focused meditation a go! With the help of an object to bring your attention to, it structures your meditation time and offers guidance and support.

Dedicating yourself to this style of meditation will help increase your memory, reduce stress and anxiety, and promote better cognitive function. Even though any style of meditation is a powerful way of taking care of your mental health, focused meditation gives your mind a tangible task with which to grow and strengthen.

More About Focused Meditation

Featured photo credit: Lua Valentia via unsplash.com

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Reference

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