If You Think Meditation Isn’t For You, Read This.

Meditation. In some circles, meditation has a perception problem. What many don’t know is that meditation isn’t limited to just sitting in silence and chanting. A lot of people, especially college students, find it difficult to find time to sit and practice meditation. Other factors, such as being restless or having ADHD, are also at play.

One misconception is that meditation is for older or spiritual/religious people. Actually, meditation is for everyone. The benefits are numerous, especially for college students. With the stresses of exams, assignments and life in general, it would be helpful to spend time relaxing, practicing mindfulness and meditating to relieve stress. All of these activities have both mental and physical health benefits.

According to healthline.com, there are 12 scientifically proven benefits to meditation. The first three are stress reduction, the promotion of emotional health, and anxiety management. Meditation works as a chain reaction. For example, it begins by reducing your stress which, in turn, reduces anxiety, which creates a positive outlook on life and alleviates depression, and so on.

These effects can improve someone’s quality of life, but are especially helpful for college students. It’s a good age to start forming habits to manage stress that can be carried into the rest of their lives. Furthermore, these practices will help keep students calm under pressure and stay organized with a clear head.

“Attending college is a high-pressure environment that can cause some students to develop anxiety from the constant demands. Studies show that practicing meditation regularly can help reduce anxiety by lowering the stress hormones in the body,” says Kenya Cullum from Affordable Colleges Online.

Excuses for avoiding meditation include restlessness, a busy schedule and intimidation. Here’s the thing, meditation looks different for everyone. There’s the stereotype: sitting silently, legs crossed. But for some people, meditation is going for a run.

Psychology Today defines meditation as “a mental exercise that trains attention and awareness. Its purpose is often to curb reactivity to one’s thoughts and feelings, which, though they may be disturbing and upsetting and hijack attention from moment to moment, are invariably fleeting.”

This means anything that allows a person a moment to be aware of their surroundings and be present could count as meditation. That’s why someone could meditate by jogging, stretching or exercising.

Health Promotion Perspectives conducted a study that shows results of exercise and meditation improving learning and memory skills in young adults. In this study, they had groups who did a guided meditation and some sort of physical exercise and, in a short amount of time, they already showed signs of improved memory and brain function. This implies that practicing exercise and meditation will have long-term improvements on brain function.

Here are some examples of college students who deal with their own unique stresses talking about how they’ve been able to manage it in their time here.

College Freshman: Apps/Technology

As a college freshman in her first semester, Aysia Lane has found herself thrown in a new world. She says she struggles with time management, balancing social life with academics, and finding time to decompress. She’s not the only one. College can be a difficult transition. Some students are excited for the social aspects, like new friends and late nights out, while others are homesick. For Lane, meditation has helped her cope with the changes that came with college. Lane has found solace in Headspace, a guided meditation app that helps Lane clear her mind and focus on being present.

“It walks you through a guided meditation, which is great because I think if I meditated on my own, I’d probably get distracted or I would just have thoughts running through my head so this is a good way for me to meditate and have my mind cleared,” says Lane.

Lane identifies as a go-getter who wants to move quickly, but recognizes the importance of slowing down. She says she plans to continue to use the app throughout her time at SMU.

College Senior: Exercises and Stretches

It’s undeniable that every phase of college is stressful in its own way. The first two years are about adjusting to a new place, making new friends, navigating classes and learning to balance it all on your own. The last two years are all about the future. They’re about making sure you’re on track to get a job after graduation, that the investment you made in school is going to pay off, that your GPA is good, finding internships, and deciding what it is you want to do for the rest of your life. You get the picture. This stress intensifies in the last two semesters of school. It makes it more difficult to focus on academics because students are either stressed or excited—occasionally at the same time—about the future. Like most stresses though, this is manageable.

Gabi Graceffo is a senior at SMU studying Studio Art, Art History, and Victorian Gender Studies. As she embarks on her senior year, she admits that it becomes difficult to try to control the nagging thoughts about the future.

“I think one thing that’s really hard, especially now that I’m applying to fellowships and grad school and taking the GRE and dealing with tons of advanced level English classes, it’s a lot and…there’s always time for yourself and if you don’t slot out that time, it’s really easy to fall into a bad path,” Graceffo says.

She says she takes 10 minutes twice a day, once in the morning, once in the evening. She’ll stretch, have a cup of coffee or tea, and recenter.

“I think seniors tend to think about the future in a way that feels like a different type of gravity,” she says. “I think it’s important to take a moment to feel a little bit weightless.”

Check out the full interview with Graceffo here: https://soundcloud.com/yanira-blackburn/one-on-one-on-air-interview-1/s-hedBF.

Yoga instructor: Iyengar Yoga/Meditation

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when someone says, “meditation?” Yoga, maybe?

Contrary to popular belief, there are different styles of yoga suitable for all kinds of people. Iyengar yoga, specifically, is an active type of yoga that was established in the 1970s often called “meditation in action.” This yoga focuses on the alignment of the body and getting into the positions without injury.

This one is especially beneficial for those who believe they are too restless to sit still or too busy to take a moment on relax. However, allowing oneself to enter a calm state through Iyengar yoga has both physical and mental health benefits.

Skyler Christensen, a 26-year-old yoga instructor at the BKS Iyengar Studio of Dallas, says she began her journey six years ago and was instantly hooked after her first class.

“After my first class, I realized how much I didn’t know about my body and it took my mind to a place inside of myself that I didn’t realize was there,” Christensen says.

Furthermore, Christensen has seen that Iyengar yoga has improved her daily life as well. She says she feels more confident, has a clearer head, and is able to manage her hectic schedule.

“What I learn on the mat, I can take into my life,” Christensen says.

One of Christiansen’s students, Valentina M., reported that after practicing Iyengar yoga, “everything becomes easier and you become stronger.”

Although this is a more traditional form of yoga, it is suitable for those who struggle to stay focused. The instructor encourages students to focus on their body and hold the pose for about a minute to relieve stress.

Liz Rosenblum, a writer at Do You Yoga, says that the main reasons she does Iyengar yoga include: a calmer mind, pain relief, better food and lifestyle habits, and protection from disease.

“Once you enter an asana or pose, Iyengar encourages you to focus on the alignment and ignore all other thoughts in your head and being in the moment,” Rosenblum says. “You can think of it as a type of meditation, and, like meditation, the more you practice it, the calmer your mind will be—on the mat and off of it.”

All in all, meditation isn’t as “boring” as people might think it is. The mental and physical health benefits are endless, and are worth taking a few minutes to relax. However, since meditation isn’t the same for everyone, it is important to find the style of meditation that works best for you. Quality of life can improve greatly from practicing meditation.

Ready to find out what kind of meditation works best for you? Take this quiz!