There are many different styles of meditation. From the detaching yourself from your thoughts in Zen to the exploration of mindfulness. In this series I am going to explore fives styles of meditation, but before we get started why meditate in the first place. What is and what does meditation do for me?
A regular practice of meditation trains you mind to be able to focus clearly and allows you to redirect your thoughts. It can help you to become more resilient, increase you concentration, reduce your stress and improve your mood and increase pain tolerance if you suffer from chronic pain.
Your body produces a hormone called cortisol in response to stress. This hormone has an important role to play in the fight, flight and freeze response when we are in danger. In the past that might have been we are going to be eaten by a lion. Today our stress reactions are often to do with events such as bad traffic, being shouted at by a person who we believe has power over us. Or environmental stress such as being permanently being over stimulated by modern life. We were exposed to cortisol for short periods of time now however, with our hectic life styles. Cortisol produces many of the harmful reactions to stress such as increased inflammation in the body due to it increasing levels cytokines.
Using a style of meditation called mindfulness studies have shown the levels of inflammation was significantly reduced (1).
Other studies have shown by reducing level of cortisol helps with irritable bowl syndrome (IBS), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and fibromyalgia (2, 3, 4, 5, 6)
The most commonly meditation in the metta style is Loving Kindness. The aim is to cultivate an attitude of love and kindness towards everything. By increasing the feeling of love and acceptance this style of meditation can help to reduce:
Allowing the mind to flow over the body looking for areas of tension and then seek to actively reduce that tension by bringing awareness to it and breathing to the area. Or by over tensing the area then relaxing it often reduces the tension and bring relief.
The script often starts at the feet and moves up though the body.
This style can help to reduce pain and also to improve sleep.
The practice of mindfulness has increased hugely in recent times. In mindfulness you are encourage to remain aware of that is happening now in the present moment. To slow down and to fully enjoy or to notice the subtleties of the current experience. This is done in a non judgemental.
There is research that shows that regular practice will help with:
- Reducing fixation on negative emotions
- Improves focus
- Improves memory
- Reduces impulsive and emotional reactions
- Improves satisfaction with relationships
When you talk to someone about meditation it brings to mind for most people being seated on the floor in a cross leg position (easy pose, sukhasana). But meditation can be very powerful when coupled with movement. For some sitting still for a few minutes can be challenging. However by choregraphing a sequence can bring stillness to the mind and give feelings of deep reverence. The effects are similar to those of Mindful meditation.
Nidra is a style of deep relaxation form the yoga tradition. The practice starts with a progressive relaxation before moving into a guided visualisation. Nidra gives the practitioner an opportunity to learn deeply about themselves. The many benefits of Nidra include:
- Reduced stress
- Improved self-awareness
- Improved concentration
- Reduces impulsive behaviour
- Improve relaxation