‘Breath is the life force, it is our first experience, observe its flow’
There are many different forms of meditation, formal seated or laying practices with a focus (often the breath), and the informal practice of mindfulness. Meditation usually has a single point of inward focus, for example the breath, a word or phrase, or a sensation. It is a peaceful state where the mind is calm yet alert, it is a state of awareness. Breathing is part of any meditation, it is important to be able to sit with the breath, without judgement and observe it under its usual unconscious control before bringing it into conscious control.
Meditation allows you to just be in the relaxation response, this is a response from our parasympathetic (rest & digest) nervous system. This is a very peaceful state and deepens our self-awareness, as our focus changes it frees us from worries and pain. You many have felt this before, for example when in harmony with nature, in love, or any other time you felt calm and peaceful.
A common misconception is that to be able to meditate you have to be able to stop thinking, this is not the case the mind is meant to think though can become over active. Meditation enables thoughts to be defocused from by not interacting with any that may appear, breaking the chain of everyday thoughts and taking the attention to the present moment. Your thoughts can be considered to be like waves in an ocean and can be observed with all their changing tides.
There are no set guidelines for duration of practice based on current research, one study found a minimum of 10 minutes makes changes in brain function & attention. We learn by repetition, so alongside the longer daily practice it may be helpful to consider using moments of stillness by using short bursts of meditation, maybe a minute whilst the kettle boils or even 30 seconds before a presentation could be helpful. Meditation is like exercise, you start at the level that is right for you and gradually build things up, and the more often you do it the stronger and fitter you become. Meditation can be part of an overall plan to help you manage pain and stress, and ultimately look after your health and wellbeing.
Ann integrates meditation into 1:1 treatment sessions and pilates classes. Watch out for some guided breath practices being added here soon.