Eager to learn how to meditate but don’t know where to start? As a new study reveals that anyone can benefit from mindfulness and meditation (with a little practice) in order to cope better with emotional situations, we asked a pro about her top meditation techniques for staying mindful and present when life gets particularly stressful.
Psychologist, Buddhist and Get The Gloss Expert Elaine Slater has been a long-term advocate of the benefits of meditation for nearly twenty years. So in order to see how we could incorporate it into our lives too, we asked Elaine for her guide to meditation to help us take the first steps in developing our own practices. From what it is to the correct breathing techniques to how it can better equip us to deal with stress and anxiety, this is one daily ritual we’ll be glad to add to our to-do lists.
What is meditation?
Meditation is a systematic technique to draw the attention powerfully within to experience a settled state of human awareness and a fundamental unity at the basis of mind and matter.
When you practice a focussed set of techniques, that which remains when everything else has disappeared is meditation. When your perception of the body, thoughts, emotions and breath has faded and only consciousness remains without an object, that state is called meditation.
What are the benefits of meditation?
Meditation techniques offer an approach that can be practised by people from all walks of life to help them cope with health problems, anxiety, emotional issues and the stresses associated with living fast-paced and pressurised lives. The techniques are designed to promote relaxation, build internal energy and develop patience, forgiveness, generosity, compassion, love and unfold the full potential of life.
The fundamental meditation principles of quiet thought, contemplation and reflection offer an antidote to hectic 21st century living through the expansion of an indestructible sense of wellbeing whilst engaging in any life activity.
What are the different types of meditation?
There are some basic, fundamental differences among the kinds of meditation practices and these differences ought to be carefully considered while you’re deciding what is right for you. In order to be successful, meditation needs to be simple, comfortable, and offer results and benefits that make you want to keep practicing every day.
Some of the most common meditation techniques are:
- Transcendental meditation
- Qi Gong
- Buddhist meditation
- Guided visualisation
- Kundalini yoga
- Breath meditation
What are the different types of breathing?
There are three types of breathing:
- Clavicular breathing: a breath that comes from high up in the shoulders and collarbones – it is associated with anxiety and stress.
- Chest breathing: a breath located in the centre of the chest.
- Abdominal breathing:a breath that comes from the belly known as diaphragmatic breathing – associated with relaxation and calm.
Conscious diaphragmatic breathing
Conscious diaphragmatic breathing is extremely relaxing and a way of maximising the amount of oxygen that goes into the bloodstream. It activates the vagus nerve that comes from the brain and controls the part of the autonomic nervous system known as the parasympathetic nervous system; responsible for healing, repair and renewal of the body. It is a proven way of interrupting the “fight or flight” stress response triggered by the sympathetic nervous system and rebalancing the autonomic nervous system.
When you take a deep breath, relax and expand your diaphragm, your vagus nerve is stimulated, instantly turning on the parasympathetic nervous system; reducing levels of cortisol and other stress hormones. In addition, activating the vagus nerve can stimulate stem cells to produce new cells to repair and rebuild your internal organs and heal your brain.
How to master diaphragmatic breathing
- This deep breathing is marked by an expansion of the abdomen rather than the chest when breathing.
- Deep breathing or belly breathing is achieved by contracting the diaphragm, a muscle located between the chest and stomach.
- Allow the breath to flow continuously, with no pause allowed between breaths.
1. Sit comfortably in an upright position.
2. Breathe in through the nose for the count of four. Breathe with the diaphragm, allowing the ribs to slightly flare out to the sides, while the shoulders, upper chest and abdomen remain motionless.
3. The breath must remain consistent and smooth, allowing no jerkiness or irregularities to disturb the steady flow.
4. Breathe at a comfortable depth; deeply not shallow, but also not exaggerating the depth.
5. Feel the breath expand in the belly – like a Buddha belly.
6. Slowly release the breath and exhale through the mouth for the count of six as if you were blowing out a candle.
7. Repeat this process for five minutes morning and evening.