How to maximize your meditation
By Erin Thorburn
What if there were a way to reduce depression and stress, increase mindfulness and concentration and even boost immune health and memory function – all without taking a single pill? Studies show there is.
According to experts, meditation offers a host of mind, body and emotional benefits. In fact, 18 million U.S. adults practice meditation and 8 percent of Americans make it part of their daily or weekly routine.
Kate Shipp, associate dean of yoga education at the Southwest Institute of Healing Arts, helps individuals of all ages and stages get the most out of their meditation.
“For those new to meditation, I suggest beginning with yoga nidra, a form of guided mindfulness meditation where all you need to do is listen and follow the guided process,” Kate says. “It’s so simple and the benefits are not only calming, but studies have shown that the nervous system, various organs and the brain begin to heal from imbalances.”
Kate adds that a beginner can expect the mind to be “busy” during meditation for a while. “It’s part of learning to be with the thoughts instead of engaging with the thoughts,” Kate says. “One of my favorite quotes is by Pema Chodron, ‘You are the sky. Everything else is just the weather.’ ”
To reduce brain chatter, meditation practitioners often imagine placing their stray thoughts in balloons or in boxcars of a train to merely observe them float or roll away.
“It’s not that the mind ever stops,” Kate says. “It’s that you stop reacting to your mind. Meditation teaches you that your mind does not control you. You control your mind.”
To help keep tabs on your mind through meditation, there are several guided and structured meditation apps such as “Calm” and “Insight Timer,” in addition to a variety of YouTube meditation videos.
Kate recommends the Kamini Desai’s, “I AM Yoga Nidra” app.
As students become more experienced and comfortable with meditation, Kate suggests they establish a disciplined routine.
“I recommend setting aside a seated meditation practice twice a day for 20 minutes,” she says. “By learning to sit with what you are feeling and thinking — without needing it to shift or change in any way — you begin to reconnect to the part of you that is always peaceful, whole and complete, just as you are.”
Learn more about meditation. Attend “New Year, New Mindfulness,” Thursday, Jan. 31; 1:30 to 3 p.m.