After such a tumultuous year, has there ever been a greater time to learn how to better manage stress? If you listen to local yoga and meditation experts, that answer would be a resounding, “No!”
“Meditation is an ancient discipline that helps us pull away from the busy, chaotic world and connect to our inner self, to realize peace and bliss and come to a state of relaxation,” says Dee Mathis, the founder and owner of Free Spirit Yoga Studio and Meditation Sanctuary in Oklahoma City. She adds that there are many types of meditation, and she believes it’s very helpful to have a guide or teacher when learning the discipline.
Some of the benefits of meditation can include better breathing, soothing pain, calming nerves, increasing brain power, allowing better sleep and improving one’s concentration.
“Meditation calms your mind, calms your body, calms your brain and calms your nervous system,” says Mathis. “Stress is well known to lead to much disease and illness. Meditation helps to calm frustration and depression and helps us drift into peaceful sleep.”
When Mathis was confronted with an stressed parent who had an 8-year-old daughter having panic attacks, Mathis agreed to put together a relaxation program for the child so the little girl could avoid taking medication for her anxiety.
“I also teach a more advanced form of meditation called heartfulness,” she says. “We meditate on the divine light in the heart, the place of love.” Mathis urges would-be practitioners to visit the website to learn more at heartfulness.org.
Victor M. Parachin is the director of the Tulsa Yoga Meditation Center. While he says there is no single definition of meditation that is complete or exhaustive, he finds a definition by John H. Clark to be useful which, in part, states meditation is ‘a method by which a person concentrates more and more upon less and less.’
“The most effective way to learn meditation is to take private lessons with an experienced meditation teacher and/or to sit regularly with a group,” says Parachin. “After that, regularly meditating will deepen one’s practice.”
For those with a tendency to fidget, there are several options.
“Not everyone is comfortable sitting silently,” says Parachin. “So other styles of meditation include chanting meditation, mantra meditation, visualization, guided meditation and trataka meditation, which involves gazing at a candle or image.”
Parachin says simple experimenting can lead a person to find the right fit.
“Try silent meditation, and, if that works, keep doing it,” he says. “If it doesn’t work, try another way. Trying a variety of styles will generally lead a person to something that resonates with their personality and needs.”
Want to break a sweat and center your mind? Yoga, according to Parachin, is a meditation practice in and of itself when done alone, when each movement is done mindfully, linked to the breath.
“It’s a little more challenging to do yoga as a meditation in a group class setting, though a good teacher will offer some meditation at the beginning or at the end of the session,” he says.