In times of trouble…
Our present times are challenging. With the threat of the pandemic sweeping across our lives, stressed finances, curtailed professional opportunities and lack of social life, the situation might appear disappointing.
However, we can take advantage of this period where our comparatively rapid pace of life has been forced into a slowdown. It can be an opportunity for self-evaluation, personal growth and re-aligning our goals. But, for the thoughts to align themselves properly, the mind must be at peace. Practising meditation is a useful tool that can serve this purpose.
Meditation can be a confusing term and to many it might mean spending hours in stillness. Nothing can be further than the truth. At a basic level, it can simply be defined as possessing the ability to bring your attention to the present.
Any process that can slow down your thoughts and emotions, make you aware of your mind (as if in third person), ground your attention to what is real and immediate and bring you mental relief is a practice of meditation. So, let us look at some ways in which we can embed meditation into our everyday routine.
1. Body scan: Sit in a comfortable posture (sitting on a chair is fine!). Close your eyes and focus on your breath. Identify the feeling of breathing as the air enters your body, expands your lungs and finally, observe the process of exhalation. Then gradually start scanning each part of your body from the top of your head to your toes. It’s possible to feel each part of the body when you put your attention on it. This also opens up the possibility to let go of tension and become more internally relaxed and present. Set an alarm on your mobile phone for 3 to 5 minutes when you perform this exercise. Gradually increase the duration with practice.
2. Box breathing: As an extension to your body scan, you can try “box breathing”. This involves counting to a specific number (let’s say 5), while you inhale through your nose. Then hold your breath as you count up to 5 again. Make sure you are relaxed while holding your breath. And then exhale through your mouth while counting to 5. Repeat this cycle a few times and you will find your mind is automatically focused on your breath.
3. Progressive body scan: In this process, instead of focusing your attention to each body part, try contracting and then relaxing one muscle/muscle group at a time. Working down your body is a great way to unwind.
4 Group activity: Get your friends and family involved. Share insights with each other about how you’ll feel after each session. Practice is only possible if progress is apparent. Sharing thoughts about the feeling of calmness and wellness associated with the practice of meditation will motivate the group. Initially keep each session short (up to 5 minutes) and then with time, increase the duration gradually.
5 Use technology: Several apps can help you with your practice of meditation. Most of them offer a one-week free trial, so you can test which one suits you the most. Headspace and Calm are two highly-rated meditation apps.
Meditation can be practised at any time. But I recommend that you practise this in the morning or at night before bedtime. One great way to combine meditation with your fitness regimen is to include it after every workout session.
The writer, a martial arts and fitness coach, is the founder of Mike’s Martial Arts, a Calcutta-based martial arts and advanced functional fitness studio. Contact: email@example.com