Mindfulness and Meditation

If every 8 year old was taught to meditate, world violence would end in one generation” Dalai Lama

When it comes to all things wellness, you often hear buzz words like ‘mindfulness’ and ‘meditation’ being used, but what exactly do they mean? According to the Oxford English Dictionary:

Mindfulness (Noun) “A mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations”.

Meditate (Verb) “To focus one’s mind for a period of time, in silence or with the aid of chanting…  as a method of relaxation”.

Meditation (Noun) “The action or practice of meditating”

Tibetan singing bowls are often used as a tool to promote relaxation

Mindfulness and/or meditation practices, form one of the seven steps in our Mini Me Yoga Foundation programme. In order to achieve an overall sense of wellness, we need to take care of our mental health, as well as our physical health.

So, what happens in our brains when we practice mindfulness or meditation? The table below shows an EEG (electroencephalograph) image of electrical activity in the brain during different states of alertness. When we practice mindfulness, our brains waves slow down from Beta state to Alpha state; where we are aware of ourselves, our bodies and our surroundings, whilst feeling a sense of calm and relaxation in the present moment. You will often hear mindfulness teachers say “in this moment, there is nowhere to go, nowhere to be, nothing to do, except to just ‘be’“. When we practice meditation, our brain waves slow down even more to enter Theta state, where thoughts start to become infrequent; a little bit like the way we feel just before we fall asleep.

And what happens in our bodies? Mindfulness and meditation practices are often used to counteract the body’s stress response. When we feel stressed, our bodies are flooded with chemicals that prepare us for “fight or flight”. Whilst the stress response can be useful in emergency situations where we may need to act quickly, if we don’t learn to relax and calm down, stress can start to have negative effects on our physical and mental health. We we meditate or practice mindfulness, our heart rate decreases, our breathing becomes slower and deeper, our blood pressure stabilises, our muscles relax, and our body enters rest and recovery mode where our cells start to heal.

Of course we know meditation and mindfulness practices have a huge number of other benefits. Here are some of the most commonly reported:

  1. Encourages you to relax whilst staying alert
  2. Helps you to gain a sense of control over your thoughts (‘butterfly mind’)
  3. Encourages you to observe your thoughts and feelings but not become lost in them
  4. Helps you to manage your feelings
  5. Helps to give you a greater sense of control of your responses
  6. Helps to balance energy- release tension in muscles, blood circulation improves, more oxygen into cells in the body e.g. into digestive system
  7. Helps to reduce stress
  8. Helps to improve focus and concentration
  9. Helps to improve sleep
  10. Gives you a greater sense of overall wellbeing

So you see, meditation and mindfulness are more than just ‘buzz words’, they are essential practices for a healthy body and mind.

About Fiona Roberts

Fiona is the Mini Me Yoga Ambassador for West London. She has been working with children and families for over 15 years, in various teaching, health promotion, and therapeutic support roles. Fiona has trained with the Institute of Arts in Therapy and Education (IATE), to facilitate therapeutic groups for children and parents, promoting healthy attachments and communication within family relationships. For details of parent workshops, or wellness sessions for children and families in West London, please visit www.facebook.com/minimeyogawestlondon.

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