Meditation and exercise. On the face of it these two things seem to be completely opposite. When you meditate, you’re normally sitting still, without moving at all and exercise involves moving your body. But meditation and exercise actually have a lot more in common than people realise.
They both take a little effort. Think about going to gym for the first time. You can’t expect to do one workout and suddenly sprout a six-pack, you’ll more likely be feeling tired, stiff and a little sore. But if you keep going to gym regularly, you start to build strength and you start to enjoy your workouts more. It’s the same thing with meditation. With regular practice you’ll begin to see changes in yourself and in the way that you relate to other people and events in your life.
One of the biggest mistakes that people make with meditation is having unrealistic expectations. Everyone has different experiences during meditation. So don’t judge yourself if you don’t see bright lights and hear choirs of angels. Meditation can range from being blissful to boring to harrowing. And often when it’s hardest, it’s at its most beneficial. Just like when your muscles are burning at gym.
Another quality that meditation and exercise share is that they both have the power to change or transform your physical structure. Just like exercise can substantially change your body, meditation can actually change the physical structure of your brain. A study at the University of Massachusetts used MRI scans on the brains of a group before and after an eight week meditation trial. Subjects that meditated for 30 minutes a day experienced visible changes to their brains with an increase in grey matter in the areas associated with learning, spatial orientation and memory and a reduction of grey matter in the amygdala, the fear, stress and anxiety centre of the brain.
There are many different type of exercise, from rock climbing to salsa dancing to soccer to yoga. And it’s helpful to find the type of exercise that you enjoy the most – it makes it much easier to stick to. In the same way there are many different meditation techniques and it makes sense to try out a few when you’re starting out to see which one resonates with you. So maybe it's time you started exploring meditation, you don't need to wear activewear, unless you want to.