Chances are if you’ve ever started a meditation practice, you’ve started it more than once. As yoga and meditation become more popular here in the US, we see many images of fit, glowing people performing complicated poses and sitting blissfully in meditation. It’s true that meditation provides a host of wonderful, life-changing benefits. But it’s important to know that it’s okay if meditation doesn’t always make you feel amazing, calm, or refreshed. Especially not at first.
If you’ve been living in the modern age, you’ve been living with stress. Slowing down and allowing yourself to relax can often make you feel worse, at first. Believe it or not, this is a sign that meditation is working, and it often comes in conjunction with feelings of relaxation or an increased ability to cope with stress. It just means that you’re allowing yourself to process the stress, trauma, and buried feelings that you may have been holding onto (or avoiding) for a long time. It is also an affirmation that these buried feelings can be brought up in meditation, experienced, and will then pass away, leaving you refreshed. Think of it as a defragmentation process for your brain and emotions.
Most of us have very good reasons for avoiding a meditation practice; it’s just too painful to deal with all that buried stuff, and we don’t have the time to spend processing our feelings. But meditation is one of the smartest things we can do to preserve our minds, gain perspective, increase longevity, strengthen the immune system, and so much more.
While we may understand intuitively that meditation is good for us, it always helps to have some hard proof. Scientists are working hard to prove the health benefits of meditation, and they’re finding out some pretty amazing things. Here are just a few delights you can look forward to if you embark upon a daily practice:
- Reduced blood pressure
- Reduced anxiety
- Increased mental clarity, mood, and quality of life
- A better immune system, less colds & flu
- Reduced inflammation throughout the body
- Increased ability to cope with stressful situations
Remember, don’t be discouraged if you don’t look or feel like one of the people in the yoga studio promotions all the time. If the truth is to be told, meditation is not for the faint of heart. It is a courageous thing to do, and it is worth coming back to time and time again.
- Start Small
Meditation must be enjoyable for it to be effective, so don’t push yourself too hard. If your practice becomes a drag or something you dread, try again later. Many folks recommend 5-10 minutes for the beginner, but that can be a daunting prospect for many of us. In reality, “starting small” can be as much as just thinking about meditation and getting used to the idea in your mind. Sitting and breathing for 1-3 minutes is a fantastic start. Lying down on the floor is even better if sitting is uncomfortable. Inevitably, meditation becomes something to look forward to, a welcome bit of TLC before, after, or during a busy day.
- Take Holy Basil
Holy Basil has long been revered as an herb that helps us achieve meditative states. Chemically speaking, Holy Basil (or Tulsi) helps us relax by decreasing cortisol, a stress hormone released by the adrenal glands. Taking Holy Basil as a daily herb can increase our sense of calm and also help us feel more energetic by stabilizing our blood sugar levels throughout the day. Drinking a cup of Tulsi tea before meditation (or before bed) can help release stress and clear the mind.
- Consistency is Key
You can meditate anywhere, anytime, but it’s helpful to keep at least one factor consistent. This can be a small object that you carry with you to hold while you meditate. It can be the time of day, the location, the chair you sit in. Keeping one thing constant helps develop the habit and creates a signal that you and your body can rely on. Eventually your brain will go into meditation mode the moment you sit in your favorite chair or wrap your fingers around your favorite stone.