Not Everyone wants to be a Bloody Tree!
Hear the word Meditation and you probably imagine someone sitting up, eyes closed, probably in tie dye clothes, fingers touching in a circle and humming out loud! Then I hear my Mum saying in a hippy style "I just want to be a tree Man" .
Not a great stereotype these days and yoga can potentially be seen as a conflict between faith and simple scientific physiology. In other words, not everyone buys into the philosophies of Yoga practise on grounds of culture, faith and stereotyping but increasingly we need to understand the link between the body and mind.
Me? I prefer to say visualisation or mindfulness practise, I have avoided phrases such as meditation as it can literally freak people out. This has happened in the past in my sessions, in which I learnt that some Christians feel that by practising meditation you can empty the mind which gives the Devil an opportunity to enter: I am certainly not judging but that particular incident highlighted to me that this can be a touchy subject and I opted to find another approach towards an essential part of our life balance.
As an exercise scientist, I have spent many years loving anatomy and physiology, understanding the nervous system and teaching around the subject. To understand how you are feeling and connecting that to your health will help you become aware of your body, your mind and your relationship to the world around you.
Generally speaking you have two elements to your nervous system, the fight and flight system and the rest and digest system. Sadly more and more of us are spending too much time in fight and flight, which causes a chemical storm of hormones in our bodies, this not only encourages us to eat cake but also tops up our stress levels. It also has an impact on our mood, which in turn puts stress on liver function, kidney function and heart health (the list goes on..). This really is a simple description but is sufficient to make the point that we are increasingly suffering from stress and need to understand beyond anatomy.
So what about the rest and digest system? You can only be in one system at a time, even eating can be stressful, watching a scary film or the news or driving and eating whilst shoving food in can often still keep us in a high state of adrenalin, which is simply not good for nourishing our bodies. Rest and Digest is also known as the para-sympathetic system. That is the "sciencey" term (made up word sciencey) I tend to use para-sympathetic to help people get over thinking they have to be a Yogi in order to de-stress themselves and meditate.
So what has all this got to do with being like a tree?
Not all of us buy into visualisations, where in order to ground yourself you have to visualise your arms are like branches of a tree and feet become the trunks. Surely as practitioners we should spot that in some of our customers? It is often about being authentic and true to our values. I am sure I would sound fake if I started saying that. My clients wouldn't buy that off me. Yet I have practised meditation and mindfulness since I was 18! I just don't look that way! lol!
Recently a client of mine announced that he was referred to a course of mindfulness and was put off for life because the practitioner made him, in the first session, visualise being a tree. He turned off and refused to embrace the fact that de-stressing using breathing and visualisations could improve his mental wellbeing.
And thats it! One bad experience can prevent people moving forward in life. Mindfulness holds you in the present often using techniques at the start around breathing and counting. Once you begin to feel the benefit as you master breathing for relaxation, then it is possible to consider other techniques such as visualisations, story telling, colour therapy....
I rarely sit and mediate, I often stand in my quiet corner and focus on grounding myself or I lie down. I find that even 3 or 4 minutes can give me clarity and turns off the noise in my head. It helps me sleep and stay sleeping, it helps me to control anxiety levels and decision making. Just as clients react differently to fitness and strength programmes (some like Zumba others prefer Pump) so too a wide range of approaches should be tried with the subject I have generally referred too as mindfulness: it may take a few abortive attempts before you find the style you are comfortable with.
I will never assume everyone is comfortable with this practise but I know that the research strongly evidences the boost this can give the body: as such I strongly urge you to try a few techniques out. Taking time out daily can help you manage your stressful, often hectic life. There are always a few minutes in this crazy world for inner peace. Take a look at the website or contact me directly for more information.