If you haven't got the memo, meditation is the new yoga. Max Henderson of Hot Pod Yoga says: "Five years ago, mediation was for monks in Tibet. Now we have global business leaders doing it, top celebrities and possibly more importantly… the general public."
And it's true. Mounting scientific evidence has shown the relationship between meditation and improvements in cognitive ability is stronger than previously anticipated. On top of the cognitive benefits, more studies are emerging that suggest meditation has a lot more benefits for your body and mind as well. As a result of this growing scientific interest, meditation's popularity has practically exploded, so much so that a whole host of Fortune 500 companies, like AOL, Google and Apple all offer meditation and mindfulness classes as part of company benefits package.
Not sure what meditation means exactly? It's the practice of focusing your awareness on something specific - usually your breath, a mantra or a soothing mental image. There is no right or wrong way to practice meditation when you keep these three things in mind and you can combine your meditation with yoga practise and mindfulness techniques - the options are endless.
So how much should you meditate to feel the benefits? Max says, "There’s no hard and fast rules, as everyone is different. Some people may feel the benefits after one 10 minute session (particularly in terms of the immediate mental calm) but I believe it’s common to say that 4-6 weeks of daily meditation (10-15 mins) will really begin to reap rewards and have a significant impact."
Not convinced yet? Here are 10 other benefits of meditation you need to know about.
We weren't joking when we said that meditation is good for the brain. Max explains that "meditation has been shown to literally physically change your brain - it’s shape and makeup, as it learns to deal with your thoughts and demands better."
This process is actually called neuroplasticity, which is defined as the brain's ability to alter itself functionally and structurally as a result of environmental input. So when you're meditating, Max says to just think of it as "the gym for the mind."
Meditation's main aim is to achieve clarity in your life. We spend everyday inundating our brains with constant information, unwanted thoughts and sensory overload. In light of all this mental chaos, Max urges us to escape to serenity. "It's just essential that sometimes we give ourselves a chance to step away from that."
Using meditation as a way of "calming down and unclothing of the mind," Max says that we are able to process our thoughts in a much more productive, clear way.
"Meditation is great for slowing down what’s going on in your mind and helping you be mindful of what’s important, playing a great role in helping manage, counter and prevent stress," Max tells us. It's no coincidence that people will tell you to breathe when you're getting too stressed out.
If you haven't already picked up on this, meditation is basically brilliant for positive thinking. As a result of being more in tune with your thoughts and emotions, Max explains that the majority of people who practice meditation will see an improvement in their mood and self esteem.
"Being aware of our thoughts and therefore having less unwanted or unconscious thoughts (according to a recent Harvard Study), has a real impact on our happiness. Mediation is fantastic for enhancing the awareness we have of our own thoughts and emotions," he says.
One of the primary causes of poor sleep is the inability to switch off. As a result of having more control over your thoughts, Max has observed that "meditation is great for helping those with sleep problems."
According to a study published in the Journal Of Neuroscience, meditating for little over an hour per day can significantly reduce feeling of pain and pain related brain activity. Where typical pain relief drugs like morphine can reduce pain by around 25%, this study found that the effects of meditation reduced pain intensity by 40% and pain unpleasantness by 57%.
Although that study only had 15 participants, using meditation to reduce pain and harness the power of mind over matter has long been a well documented option.
Improved All Round Health
It comes as no surprise that meditation "often as an ancillary or knock-on benefit, makes us more aware of how we look after ourselves physically," according to Max.
But it's not just through your new healthy outlook that meditation can improve your health. Studies also suggest that regular meditation can reduce the rate of heart disease, lower blood pressure, and reduce heart attacks. Pretty powerful stuff.
FTSE companies don't just offer meditation to their employees for nothing. Matt says that "meditation is used in many creative organisations to help bring the best out of creative minds."
Are you super scatterbrained? Well, you can remedy your forgetfulness without tying strings to your fingers or putting post-it reminders all over your desk! Daily meditation helps with improved memory.
Meditation has always been used as a way to relax but Max says that meditation is specifically "great for helping prevent and manage anxiety." This is because studies have shown that meditation significantly reduces the production of cortisol in the body - the hormone linked to stress.
It's Easily Accessible
Best of all, meditation is cheap and easily accessible - which are the two building blocks of anything we love.
Max confirms that "there are superb, really accessible apps and programs available to make it easy for anyone." If you're looking for inspiration then Headspace, Walking Meditations and Simply Being Guided Meditation are three good places to start!
Tweet us at @wewomenCA and let us know if practicing meditation has changed you!