If you told me a year ago that I would be going to a meditation class, I probably would have laughed and thought you were crazy. But in the past year or so, I kept hearing how good meditation is for you and if you talk to anyone that regularly meditates I guarantee they will say something along the lines that it has changed their life. So I became intrigued and started reading and learning more about meditation.
The infographic below sums up a few of the benefits of meditation. Quite a few scientific research studies have been performed supporting these benefits. One research study on college students found that after an 8-week meditation program, students had a significant decrease in level of depression, consequently leading to less stress and worry. Another study by scientists at Harvard Medical School found that after 8 weeks of a meditation program, participants had altered gene expressions associated with increased energy metabolism and insulin production, as well as reduced inflammatory and stress-related responses. If you’re interested in learning more about scientific research relating to meditation, check out this blog solely on meditation research!
I read a great book on meditation and one thing they mentioned was that if you are just starting to get into it, it may be a good idea to go to a guided meditation class to get the hang of it and get the full experience. Since then, I have been looking around Columbus for places that have meditation classes that are relatively close to me. If you’re looking for classes you can probably find some yoga studios near you that offer some type of meditation. I found a few but hadn’t gotten the motivation to actually go to a class yet. Well, this past week in Columbus was FitWeek, which meant if you bought a $10 pass, you could go to classes at any of the participating studios/gyms for free the entire week! I thought it was a perfect time to try a meditation class because if I hated it, at least I wasn’t spending too much money going to the class.
My #1 goal going into the class: have an open mind. I had no clue what to expect going into the class. The class was call iRest meditation, which is a “research-based transformative practice of deep relaxation and meditative inquiry.” It seems like typically, in this style of meditation you lay down rather than sit which is not what I was expecting. Once I got there, the instructor told us to use as many props to make us comfortable. This part is actually pretty important since you are sitting/laying still for 45 minutes in the class. If you are uncomfortable, you will be miserable and not able to enjoy and fully immerse yourself in the experience. They had all kinds of pillows, blankets, and blocks. I ended up kind of following the crowd of more experienced members and set myself up with a pillow under my head and knees and a thick blanket under my back on top of my yoga mat to add a little extra cushioning.
When the class started the instructor told us she would be guiding us the whole time through the topic of beliefs and opposites, She talked about a LOT of aspects relating to that, but the main message I got was that sometimes we get these beliefs in our head that aren’t always true. We can work through those beliefs by thinking about them and then telling ourselves the opposite. When you think about a belief and the opposite of that belief, if you truly listen to your body and the sensations you feel when you think about these beliefs, your body will know which is actually true, even if your mind is telling you the opposite. I’m sure there was a lot more to the topic that I missed but that was my main take away. Everyone may have different take aways and that’s OK, actually good in fact! I think you take away from it what part of it relates to your life. Even though meditation classes are guided, its still YOUR meditation, which I guarantee is completely different from those around you.
Now for how I actually felt during class. 45 minutes is a long time, although honestly I thought it passed by a lot faster than I expected. At the beginning I was doing really well just focusing on the class, but as time went on I notice my mind starting to wander a lot more. From everything I have heard and read, this is the hardest part of meditation and honestly one of, if not the main goal of meditation practice is to eventually be able to let everything outside go and just focus on your mind/feelings/body. Another main part of the class is to remain still the whole time. Stillness of the body translates to stillness of the mind and soul. Similarly, I felt like I was doing a great job of this at first but near the end of class I was starting to move around a bit more, I think mostly because I was getting stiff from laying in that one spot the whole time. After class I felt a little tired, I think partly because I didn’t get as much sleep as ideal the night before, but also I was just still in a very relaxed/quiet/still mindset right after class. As soon as I got outside though into the sunny, beautiful weather I got more energy back and was ready to start my day.
Long story short — did I LOVE it..? I don’t think so, but I definitely didn’t hate it. I think meditation is one of those things you cant do once and love it because you aren’t great at it at first. The more you practice, the better you will be at relaxing your mind and body and more benefits you will get out of the experience. I definitely think a class is the way to go for first timers, not only to have someone guide you so that you have some clue of what to do, but it is also motivation to actually do it if you are going to a class! I would recommend it to everyone to at least try out. What do you have to lose?? If you don’t want to pay for a class there are a ton of books on meditation, as well as numerous Apps that you can get on your phone which will guide you through meditation. But the number one rule about trying it is that you have to have an open mind!! If you don’t, you will not get anything out of it. I am definitely going to be trying another class again.
Have you ever tried meditation? If you have, how was it? If you haven’t, what is keeping you from trying it out?
source for above images