(Image Provided by Hoame)
Practising meditation had never been on my bucket list of things to do. I practice yoga quite regularly - so early on I decided that I had conquered the art of "finding inner peace" or "understanding my inner self", which to my dismay was far from the truth. During hourly yoga sessions, I found my self taking a seat in Child's Pose more than once to simply sit still and "be". I started realizing that I really enjoyed the instructors who would take more time at the start and end of classes to focus on breathe work. It was calming and I felt my self feeling more at peace with my body than I did when I was trying to avoid sliding my feet off the matt in downward dog.
Shortly after my revelation of finding "peace" in "mindful moments", I received an email about the launch of a modern meditation center opening in Toronto and I felt like the world was screaming "Try Meditation!!!". Eager, I booked my class and I haven't looked back ever since.
Over the course of several weeks I've learned a great deal about the art of meditation and the unbelievable capabilities that it holds. I would even argue that it is a practice that every person should try at least once in their life.
Today, in order to enlighten those who have contemplated meditation before - but argued against it - or those who just have a keen interest to learn, we've designed this article to help break down what meditation really is, the benefits and how you can incorporate it into your life.
With that, to ensure accuracy and a deeper knowledge of meditation and mindfulness, we enrolled the help of two clinical practitioners, teachers, and founders Carolyn Plater & Stephanie Kersta of Toronto's very own modern mindful meditation centre Hoame. So without further ado, let's begin.
What Is Meditation?
To start with the most standard definition, the word meditation, as stated in The Healing Power of Meditation, "derives from the root verb medeor, meaning "I cure" or "I heal". As a widely used practice around the globe Dr. Frederic Rosenfeld, from that same publication, states that meditation can mean a number of things to a number of people; that "there is no single form of meditation. .. there are many meditations - different approaches, perspectives and practices."
As I'm sure to many, that definition can sound confusing so to avoid being too vague or obscure, I had Carolyn and Stephanie from Hoame talk me through their own personal definition of meditation. Through their unique practice, they define meditation as "Taking time to yourself. Tuning into your mind and your body and being aware of your thoughts without judgement. Meditation is being in a space where you are not being pulled or negatively impacted by thoughts or actions - so you can just "be"." Meditation can then be said to be a form of self-care, and a wellness tactic to uncover and heal your inner self.
Before we delve further I think it is also worth mentioning it's relation to yoga, as for many people - including myself before I had been introduced to it - meditation and yoga are words that are often used synonymously. Yet while they both practice inner/outer wellness and focus on breath, yoga and meditation are very different. As Carolyn from Hoame stated "In modern day, we sometimes take yoga and focus primarily on the postures. If you know yoga philosophy its one arm of the practice - the physical postures" she continued, "meditation, however, has more focus on the mind and the mental aspect. We think of what’s going on within the body rather than actually putting emphasis on the physical posture." Between the two, meditation delves deeper into the mind and spends less time correcting physical movement. While some meditation classes allow moving on a cushion, it isn't the focal point of the practice.
(Image Provided by WIX)
How Can It Help?
So, what exactly can meditation do for you? Is a question often asked. And as stated by Carolyn Plater & Stephanie Kersta "the benefits of meditation are endless." Meditation, much like many holistic and centring practices house a range of benefits that go far beyond the physical. Here we break down a few of many:
In a day and age where people are constantly bombarded by their phones and we glorify being busy all the time - mental health commonly takes a back seat. Now in most instances, this isn't a conscious decision, it's easy for our lives to get busy and for us to get distracted - however this constant sense of urgency can have a substantial effect on our wellbeing. Multiple studies from Doctors and Psychologists alike "conclude that anxiety and depression are markedly higher than they were in earlier eras" due to our very nature of being busy and the amount of time we spend online distracted. Illnesses like anxiety and depression have risen so it's important to not only figure out how to find treatment but also to find methods of preventing it.
In my interview with Hoame's founders, Carolyn stated that "practicing meditation early on is a preventative to anxiety in addition to being an effective treatment." She went on to state one of her biggest reasons for getting into meditation in the first place was the major mental health benefits. She continued "as a clinician I work with a lot of young teenage girls who deal with anxiety. What really drew me to meditation was all of the clinical literature that supports using mindful meditative practice to calm anxiety. After much research and practice I started using it with all the clients that I had. Even in the emergency department we started looking at literature and finding that meditation and breathe work can actually help and work faster than anti-anxiety medication. It's ability to calm somebody down if they're having an anxiety attack is powerful." She continued "when clients would come in hyperventilating, we’d guide them through a guided breath practice to calm them down and to centre. ...meditations health benefits are ones that shouldn't be overlooked."
And they're not the only practitioners who claim meditations mental health benefits; In fact in an article by Psychology Today, James Lake MD unveiled that "93 percent of patients (322 total patients) who started a 10-week Mindfulness-based stress reduction program, once successfully completed, reported significantly decreased physical and emotional distress, improved quality of life, a greater sense of general well-being, increased optimism and increased feelings of control" (Abbey 2004). A monumental discovery.
Another major benefit that arises from meditation and that has a lot of supportive literature is its ability to alleviate insomnia or lack of sleep. With mediation geared toward insomnia, “you create a reflex that more easily brings forth a sense of relaxation, that way, it’s easier to evoke the relaxation response at night when you can’t sleep" states Dr. Benson of Harvard University. Co-founder, Stephanie in particular, does a lot of work with insomnia at Hoame. In our interview, she stated "meditative practice has proven to help keep you grounded and go to sleep which is why we actually added a class to our schedule that focuses on that and helps people sleep better." With proven results, by starting a meditative practice, you can have a better nights sleep and reduce daytime fatigue.
And A Lot More. ..
These benefits are just the tip of the iceberg with Stephanie and Carolyn stating, "meditation also helps cardiovascular health, blood pressure, gastrointestinal issues, dementia, insomnia, and pretty much anything and everything else." Stephanie further stated "It actually helps grow grey matter (a major component of your central nervous system) in your brain which is really outstanding. Grey matter is what keeps your brain young and fresh." Stephanie continued "I used to say this joke, that meditation is like botox for your brain, it’s the fountain of youth! As we grow, as we age, we don't grow brain cells so the fact that we have a practice that can do that is really amazing." Going past the physical, Carolyn also stated that "meditation has been used by a plethora of athletes to enhance their performance, in addition to artists who have said that it helps them focus and enhance their creativity".
How You Can Meditate Effectively.
With meditation, "there are so many applications" stated Stephanie, "what we love about meditation is that it cuts across all demographics - even children have used it as a preventative treatment for anxiety particularly to help build resiliency." Regardless of who you are as a person, you can practice and benefit from meditation. No restrictions.
Meditation can be done any time any where - and most often you can take mindful moments through out your day. As a rule of thumb however, Carolyn and Stephanie suggest that you "practice most days and that an everyday habit is great." Additionally they stated "a lot of the research that we see hovers around the 10-30 minute arm and so we know anything above 20 minutes is great."
When you have your first session, both Carolyn and Stephanie said " to let go of the 'you can’t' or 'it won't work', be gentle with yourself." Meditation is a personal journey that you'll have to uncover yourself. As I've learned through my practice, every time you practice your journey isn't necessarily going to be the same and in fact can be quite different every time. The key is to tap into that moment of relaxation to be calm and clear.
Although we can sit here and make recommendations, it's always great to let your body and mind dictate how you want to meditate and for how long. There shouldn't be any pressure.
Through my time at Hoame and self-guided practices, I've learned to live a more peaceful and less hectic lifestyle. I've completely balanced my life out and feel like I can take on more without over-stressing myself. Through meditation you learn to be more aware of your limitations and better understand the mind and body - which will make all the difference for any type of lifestyle. Through my research and conversations with some highly accredited individuals I couldn't recommend meditation - and more specifically Hoame - more.
When contemplating writing a piece about meditation and it's enormous effect on the human mind and body, I had a natural gravitation towards Hoame. They're an expert in their field and speaking to the Founders one on one, it was obvious their passion for their studio and the knowledge they have behind the actual practice.
For those based in Toronto and looking to join a meditative practice, Hoame is located in the heart of downtown and is led by some of the best meditation teachers in the city. In addition to meditation, the center also offers infrared sauna sessions, salt cave sessions, and fun interactive classes every so often. So if you're curious or you're in the neighbourhood, "relax, restore and recharge at Hoame".
(Image Provided by Hoame)