You’ve probably heard about the health benefits of yoga in improving mental and physical health, and in improving flexibility. Due to the shared benefits, the words ‘yoga’ and ‘meditation’ are often thought of as synonyms. Although meditation can be incorporated into yoga, they are different practices. While I was skeptical of meditation at first, it has indeed helped me to manage my stress and life while living with Multiple Sclerosis, chronic pain, and fatigue.
How Meditation Works
Meditation involves clearing your mind while maintaining a state of awareness. Or at least trying to! It is much more than sitting and concentrating in a quiet area for a designated amount of time; it involves calming your mind of all thoughts, achieving a deep inward peace, and maintaining attention and alertness in the process.
Have I gotten to the complete deep inward peace thing? Nope, not yet. But I have found that meditation is an excellent way to relax, to calm my anxious mind, and to take the focus off of my pain.
People often use certain postures, breathing techniques, and even chants to help facilitate the process of meditating, but these are not required. They are not the act of meditation itself, just the support tools. Personally, I like to meditate in my favorite recliner or in my bed because it’s most comfortable for me.
Stress as a Spoonie is Extra Hard On Your Body
Meditation makes the body less responsive to stress hormones, which lowers blood pressure, improves blood circulation, improves digestion and immunity, and establishes emotional and neurological “balance.”
How does this work exactly?
According to what I’ve learned, it mostly comes down to hormones. Stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenalin increase blood pressure and heart rate, while “feel good” chemicals, such as serotonin, (which are released in a state of relaxation), work to repair cells.
Tips on Getting Started with Meditation
As a beginner, taking a meditation class, watching a video, or using an app that introduces you to the concept of meditation is the easiest way to get started. A guided meditation teaches you various techniques for facilitating the process. It is not as easy as I thought it would be, but I’m glad to have another calming tool in my toolbox.
You may be able to find a class in your community that is specifically dedicated to meditation, but for me, it’s been easier to learn through online tools. Some meditation videos/audios can be found for free online. Try searching YouTube, or downloading an app. If you prefer a mix of yoga and meditation, the best types of yoga to focus on include Kundalini, Ananda, Jivamukti, and Integral.
Research shows that just 20 minutes of consistent meditation sessions can have tremendous health benefits. When my therapist suggested I try it, I was skeptical. There was no way I could do it for twenty full minutes! So I started with just five minutes at a time. Meditating before you go to bed can help you to fall asleep too. Personally, falling asleep is a struggle, and I have noticed that I fall asleep much faster if I meditate in bed.
Try getting outside! Many people find that sitting in nature – I just sit on my back porch – helps them to facilitate the process of meditation. It’s also a great way to get outside and absorb some Vitamin D.
Of course, everyone is different. To get started, experiment with different ways of meditating to see what work for you and what helps you the most. Also, try meditating at different times of the day and for different periods of time to find what works. It’s okay if you cannot calm your mind completely, (I rarely can!), you can still get many benefits from making the effort. Remember, you and your health are worth that effort!
Jenna Green is the creator Full of Grit & Grace, a blog and community for people who cannot work a traditional 9-5 job. She’s an outspoken spoonie with Multiple Sclerosis, Dystonia, Degenerative Disc disease, chronic pain, and a whole lot of grit. She strives to help others (and herself) to learn to give themselves grace while going through tough times. She’s a dog mom, auntie extradonaire, fashion lover, and (mostly) optimist.