Meditation – it’s a practice we’re constantly encouraged to make time for these days, but why is meditating so important to our wellbeing? Fernwood Yogi Emma knows a thing or two about meditation, so we sat down with her to ask all the burning questions, including the benefits of meditation, how long to meditate for, and often the most popular question, what if I can’t meditate?
What are the benefits of meditating?
“For me, the most beneficial aspect of meditation is when your mind and your body go into what we call a parasympathetic state, which is a more restful state. We live so much of our life in the sympathetic – in the yang, more high-stress drive. In this day and age, the main benefit of meditation is to put us into the complete opposite of that high stress state that we normally function in.
“Other studies have shown that meditation actually helps in re-wiring our brain so we can extend our brain health as well, and really it helps us with problem solving. That old saying ‘when you want to solve a problem you should sleep on it’ – it’s the same kind of thing. When you meditate you go into that subconscious state and that’s often where the solutions will come to you. It gives you space to be more mindful and more reflective.”
Do you practice mindfulness?
What if I can’t meditate?
“This is one we hear a lot. When people say they can’t meditate, it’s not entirely true. Everybody can and everybody does. But they just might not know they are meditating. Anytime you zone out, or go into autopilot mode, you’re in a meditative state, so we all have the ability to do it.
“To consciously or actively bring yourself into that state (especially if you’re someone whose mind is really quite busy and wanders easily), the easiest thing to do is to focus on your breath, or practice counting.
“Usually when your mind wanders it’s because you’re not aware of your breath anymore. When this happens, bring your consciousness back to the breath and take note of where you are, then return to focusing on your breath again.”
Interested in trying yoga? Read our beginner's guide to yoga here.
How do I meditate?
“Meditation is about focus rather than a sense of nothingness. The key is to not over think it. You don’t have to clear your mind – it’s about focusing. To do that you want to limit any physical things that might distract you, like getting uncomfortable, getting pins and needles, back pain – those sorts of things.
“The biggest thing is finding a comfortable seat, and by seat, I mean posture, so you can lay down, sit in a chair or sit on the floor. And then it’s about finding props like cushions and blankets that can make you feel comfortable.
“It's often best to create a fairly quiet and relaxed environment to stop distraction and ideally, it’s a place where you feel comfortable and warm.”
How long should I meditate for?
“You can get benefits from one or two minutes of meditation. There’s no optimal time, it’s whatever amount of time that will serve the purpose. If your intention for the meditation is to feel calmer or take a mental break from something, then that might only need to be one to five minutes. If your purpose is to have some real introspection, maybe it’s longer – 10 or 20 minutes.”
When is best to meditate?
“Traditionally meditation was said to best be done in the early hours of the morning as the sun rises. People don’t always have that luxury, so meditate when you need to and create the space you need.
“When you meditate your brain waves changes – you’re bringing your brain into a calmer state and that’s conducive to sleep, which is why meditation before bed can be encouraged.”
What should I do when I’ve finished meditating?
“For me, it’s nice to acknowledge that you have taken time out for yourself. So, it’s best to ease gently back into things but if that’s not possible, physically we can drink water. Water is a really good way to transition from that meditative state. You’re bringing another physical energy element in and that helps with the transition.
“The other thing is just slow movements. Whether you’ve been laying down or sitting up, just wiggle the toes, wiggle the fingers to start inviting that energy back into the body, because when you go fully into meditation your energy does shift so it’s like bringing everything back into the physical space.”