Combine Yoga and Meditation on a Retreat and Live a Better Life
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Imagine living a life of total peace and tranquility, without any worries or anxiety even in the most difficult times. While it isn’t possible to control what happens in the outside world, it’s possible to manage your inner world.
True peace comes from the inside and there are many ways to connect with it. Perhaps one of the most ancient, accessible and effective ones is through mediation. However, learning how to meditate and setting a practice can be sometimes challenging.
But you don’t have to do it by yourself, you can join a yoga and meditation retreat. On it, you’ll be gently guided by an experienced teacher who will help you design a personalized routine and answer all your questions in the process. In the meantime, here are some helpful things to know about meditation.
What is meditation and how it all started?
Meditation is the exercise of training one’s attention in order to accomplish emotional stability and mental clarity. It’s a very flexible practice since anyone can do it regardless of race, creed, sex or level of education. No special skills or abilities are required, and it can be performed anywhere, at any time, alone or in a group.
It’s usually assumed that it was Buddha who invented meditation, but this practice existed way before he was even born. There are wall arts in India showing people seated in meditative postures with half-closed eyes that date back 5,000 to 3,500 BC.
Written mentions of meditation can be found in the Vedas, 1,500 BC. And during the 8th century BC, Dosho (a Japanese monk) traveled to China to study Buddhism. Then, he returned to Japan and opened a meditation hall dedicated to the practice of sitting meditation.
All of this happened before Siddhartha Gautama sat down to reach enlightenment; he learned meditation in the 6th century BC, creating the Buddhist Indian form of meditation. During the same century, other forms of meditation were developed in China, as the philosophical system of Taoism, taught by Lao-Tze through its writings about meditative practices and the idea of achieving wisdom in silence.
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How did meditation make it to the Western world?
Meditation first began to be known in the West around the 1700s; this, thanks to the translation of some Eastern philosophy texts that made reference to meditation techniques. However, at that time, meditation was only a relevant topic for philosophers and intellectuals.
But everything changed in 1893 when Swami Vivekananda (an Indian Hindu monk) gave a lecture at the Parliament of Religions in Chicago, sparking people's interest in Eastern mysticism and making spiritual Indian teachers migrate to America.
Over time, the religious part of it was removed and by 1970 meditation began to be researched by the scientific community. One of the most popular meditation techniques back then was the Transcendental Meditation, used by The Beatles themselves to help them cope with fame!
By the 1990s, meditation became mainstream thanks to authors like Deepak Chopra, who wrote about how to do it and why to do it. Celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey have also helped to spread this practice, while many others like LeBron James and Will Smith swear by it!
Nowadays, according to global statistics, it’s believed that between 200 and 500 million people meditate across the world. Big companies such as Google, Disney, Nike and Apple have introduced meditation into their workplace. Even some public places like the San Diego International Airport have dedicated rooms for meditation.
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In order to enjoy the practice of meditation, it’s essential to find a meditation technique that suits you well. Here are some of the most popular that you can explore on a yoga and meditation retreat.
- Vipassana meditation. It’s said that its origins date back over 2,500 years. Literally meaning to “see things as they really are”, the main goal of Vipassana is to achieve self-transformation by focusing one’s attention on the physical sensations of the body.
- Transcendental meditation. Developed by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi – also known as mantra meditation – it consists of comfortably sitting with the eyes closed, for 20 minutes twice a day. During that time, the person effortlessly repeats a mantra, which can be a word, a short phrase or a sound.
- Chakra meditation. Unlike other types of meditation, for chakra meditation, it’s a requisite to believe in the Chakra System and be familiar with it. The main goal of it is to align one’s energies through the use of relaxation, visualizations and the energy of the chakras.
- Mindfulness meditation. As its name implies, mindfulness meditation is about being fully present, which means that it can be practiced while doing any other activity. However, it’s recommended to start training your attention by finding a quiet place, sitting with your eyes closed and paying attention to your breath. Every time you get distracted by a thought, you just observe it and let it pass without judgment.
- Metta meditation. This meditation technique is also known as loving-kindness meditation. The practice starts by taking a few breaths, then directing love and kindness toward oneself by repeating slowly and steadily: “May I be happy. May I be well. May I be safe. May I be peaceful and at ease.” Afterward, you repeat the same words towards a loved one, then towards someone neutral, then towards an unpleasant person and finally towards all beings in the world.
- Guided meditation. Also called guided visualization, this is when a teacher or trained practitioner gives you verbal instruction based on some of the previously mentioned techniques. It’s usually accompanied by relaxing music and it can last for a few minutes or several hours. This is one of the most popular options you’ll find on a yoga and meditation retreat.
Benefits of combining yoga with meditation
Yoga and meditation truly complement each other. Therefore, when you combine these two practices you totally boost their benefits. While not all the people who meditate practice yoga, plenty of yogis do include at least a few minutes of meditation in their yoga routine.
Both yoga and meditation have similar scientifically-proven benefits, such as reducing stress and anxiety, strengthening the immune system, reducing inflammation, preventing disease, reducing chronic pain, improving heart health, providing better sleep, slowing aging and increasing sexual desire.
Using modern technology like MRI scans, scientists have also discovered that, when a person meditates, the beta brainwaves are lower than usual. The beta brainwaves are present when the person is alert and focused on mental activities, such as judgment, problem-solving or decision making. Therefore, regular meditation helps improve your memory, have better focus, be more creative and feel more compassion towards others.
Can you imagine having this level of focus while doing the most challenging yoga poses? That’s why both practices are a match made in heaven!
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