Join the Women's Health Online Training

Learn More

Most Popular Articles

Basics of Meditation: Busting 4 Common Myths

A Foreword from the DIY Active Editor: We have a sneak peek inside a truly great book! This excerpt is from the book Meditate Your Weight: A 21-Day Retreat To Optimize Your Metabolism And Feel Great, and really breaks down the basics of meditation, and how meditation could be the missing piece to your health puzzle. Be strong physically and mentally!

Meditate Your Weight - Amazon

Some Myths About Mediation and the Truth

Though meditating is simpler to do than many believe, it is also a mysterious process— how does it work, exactly? Even scientists are not exactly sure, but they’re getting closer. That mystery sometimes causes a bit of a PR problem for meditation, but I’d love to clear up a few of those misunderstandings.

Myth: “Meditation is a spiritual practice.”

Truth: Meditation is, first and foremost, a mental practice.

Meditation is not voodoo. Meditation is not New Age or mystical. Yes, meditation has been used in many forms in religious traditions and cultures throughout history and throughout the world—but the act of meditating isn’t inherently spiritual.

At its core, meditation is a means of training your mind. It has direct physiological effects on the brain and nervous system that can be studied in the lab, tracked by sophisticated fMRI brain scanners, or analyzed with a blood test, stethoscope, or heart rate monitor. In fact, over the last twenty-five years, more than three thousand studies on meditators have been conducted at some of the most respected research institutions in the world, including Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and the universities of California,  North Carolina, and Wisconsin, among many others. The conclusion from these studies is very clear: Meditation helps people lead healthier, happier, and more fulfilling lives.

Myth: “Meditation just doesn’t work for me.” Or: “I can’t meditate.”

Truth: Meditation works for everyone, and everyone can do it.

I hear it all the time: “I can’t meditate—it  just doesn’t work for me.” Imagine  if a baby who was just learning  how to walk tried to take a step and fell down, then turned around  and said, “Sorry, Mom and Dad—this  walking thing just doesn’t work for me.” Silly, right?  But meditation is like walking—it’s an activity we learn to do in very short spurts,  then continue to practice and improve upon for the rest of our lives.

Once you’ve mastered  the basics of walking, you can go in any direction  you’d like—you can run the fifty-yard dash in gym class, you can train  for a 5k, you can become a marathoner. Or, like many people, you might just stick with basic walking to get you through  your days. But the core mechanics  involved in each of these activities is exactly the same: You put one foot in front of the other, and you move forward.

Meditation is just like that.  You might just do three minutes a day; maybe you will work up to twenty. You might fall in love with it and decide to dig deep and do a retreat. But at an elemental level, no matter where you find yourself currently,  you are a meditator. From the very first moment you sit, take a breath, and  notice  that  your  mind  is wandering,  you’re  already doing it—you’re meditating.

Myth: “The real type of meditation is [X] – and if you don’t do [X], you’re not really meditating.”

Truth: Any type of mediation is “real”; No one type is better than another.

When  we start  meditating,  a common  trap  is to get caught  in thinking  we have to follow a specific type of meditation.  When  I first got into meditation back in the early nineties, people were very specific about it. I heard all kinds of dictums:

  • You can’t be sitting  on a chair—you  have to sit on a cushion.
  • Your legs need to be in this position.
  • You have to have your right thumb  on top and your left thumb on the bottom.
  • Your right heel must be in front.
  • Your spine has to be right over your pelvis.
  • You have to chant this or think about that.

All  of  these   might  be  helpful   suggestions   to you—or not. To use meditation to reach your health goals, there are truly no absolutes of this kind. What works for you is what works for you. It doesn’t matter if you do a visualization, or count your breaths, or simply take a moment to close your eyes and be still while riding on the bus—all of these are just tools, and all of them  are forms of meditation. Anytime you take a moment to just sit there—voilà, you’re meditating.

And that’s the ultimate  goal of meditation: that, with  practice,  you will get to a level of comfort  in which you can just tip back into that same relaxed, focused mental space on the drop of a dime, anytime you notice that you’re getting stressed. By developing your meditation skills, you become able to step out of the stress loop and remain  cool, calm, and collected as often as you’d like.

If you’re drawn  to one specific method  of meditation,  that’s  great—stick  with  what  works for you. From a scientific perspective,  and for the mind and body, there are many “right” ways to do it.

Myth: “You have meditate for twenty minutes or more, or it’s not worth it.”

Truth: Any amount of meditation can make a difference in your life.

The length of time you spend meditating  is absolutely secondary to frequency. If you have to struggle and force yourself to stay still for twenty minutes, you’re not going to get the health benefits  that  you would simply sitting for five minutes and just paying attention to your breath. The effort you expend to sit in that spot longer than your tolerance can take will stimulate a stress response in your nervous  system. I would so much rather you meditate once a day for three minutes than once a week for twenty.

Yes, that little time  really  does  make  a  difference. One study found that as few as five minutes of meditation a day for four weeks significantly reduced…

Want to finish the rest? Click here to get your copy of Meditate Your Weight today!

Click here to view the original article on DIY Active.

About the Author

Yoga Medicine Ad

Yoga Medicine Ad

Yoga Medicine® is a thorough, anatomically based training system that trains teachers across the globe to work more powerfully with their students. Yoga Medicine® is a community of teachers who are trained to understand the function and dysfunction of the human body in order to work more effectively with healthcare practitioners. Yoga Medicine loves to post articles based on yoga teacher's experiences, yoga-related research, the relationship between yoga and healthcare, and much more. We welcome guest submissions as well - please contact Jenna@YogaMedicine.com to discuss further details.

Train With Us Online

– Shoulder Intensive (55HRS)

– Women's Health (24HRS)

– Innovation Conference (20HRS)

– And Many More!

Upcoming Courses and Events

Join The Yoga Medicine® Community

Subscribe to our newsletter to stay up to date with
our latest trainings and resources.

Yoga Medicine
Scroll to Top

Find Out More