Meditation has become a hot topic of late, especially as most of us are trying to incorporate new habits into our lives for 2015.
However, there are many myths that come along with it.
Have you heard meditation is only for flexible yogis, for the religious, or that it doesn’t work for everyone? Here are four common myths debunked:
1. You have to be flexible.
Meditation isn’t about sitting in a full lotus pose. There are many types: walking, chair, or sitting with props supporting you. A little known fact: yoga (as we understand it, vis-a-vis the postures or asanas) was actually intended to help our bodies adjust to sitting in meditation. As such, meditation will become easier with practice, and the sitting practice (if this is your preferred method) might become easier with a bit of stretching or yoga incorporated into your routine.
2. It’s religious.
While all religions have some type of meditation component (Buddhist, Hindu, Christian) meditation has recently taken a secular stream. Specifically, mindfulness meditation, and its derivative “mindfulness-based stress reduction” or “MBSR” is taught in an entirely secular way. So, it is indeed for everyone—not just monks or new age hippie folks!
3. It doesn’t work for everyone.
No such thing—at the core of mindfulness meditation for instance, is “non-judgment”—being aware of your thoughts (including those fleeting moments of “its not working for me” or “I am terrible at this”) is part of the process. Soon those thoughts become less frequent and attention can be cultivated to bring awareness into the present moment alone.
4. It requires a lot of time, over a long period, to be effective.
Research around meditation has exploded in the past few years. We now know that even 5 minutes a day could be effective, immediately. Overtime, our tendency to choose the “fight-or-flight response” (or “stress response”) to everyday occurrences becomes less frequent, and a sense of “calmness” becomes our default. MRI studies have corroborated this, with frequent meditators showing a increased prefrontal (executive functioning) cortical thickness in their brain compared to amygdala (our emotional area) activity.
So try to work your way up to 10 minutes a day, twice a day. Consistency is more important than the length of time, and keep in mind that you can try a walking meditation on your way to work, a mindfulness meditation on public transport, etc.
It’s 2015. If your New Years resolution (remember those?) was to be less stressed, take time for self-care and nourish relationships.
Meditation is worth a try—give it a week of practice, and see if you notice a difference!
Center for Mindfulness website, UMASS Medical School.
Meditation’s positive residual effects. Harvard Gazette, November 13, 2012.
Author: Amitha Kalaichandran
Apprentice Editor: Aisling McAteer / Editor: Renee Picard
Photo: Caleb Roenigk/Flickr