I've been trying to get myself to meditate for, oh, about two years now. I was almost sure I'd like it, too, because I imagined meditating would be similar to that relaxed, zoned-in feeling I get after yoga, when I'm lying in Savasana completely centreed and calm. But I couldn't get myself over the hump to try it until this year, when I got so stressed and anxious — over the pandemic, the election, personal health issues; take your pick, honestly — that I basically turned to meditation as a last-ditch attempt to find some calm, somewhere.
I didn't imagine I'd discover it with Beachbody, a brand I knew through high-intensity workout programs like Insanity (my first love, when it comes to fitness plans) and Morning Meltdown 100. But Beachbody gave me the chance to try its new three-week meditation plan, and, knowing that a set program would keep me on track, I put in my Airpods one night, plopped down on the floor of my bedroom, and hit play. Here's how it went.
What Is Beachbody's Unstress Program?
Unstress, Beachbody's meditation program (available on Beachbody On Demand; $39 for three months), is a three-week plan with one 10-minute guided meditation per day. Each meditation is led by a different teacher and has a different focus, including "Silence and Stillness Within," "Cultivating Gratitude," "Morning Positive Mindset," and "Body Scan," my personal favourite.
Each video starts with a short introduction from Suze Yalof Schwartz, the founder and CEO of Unplug, a meditation app that partnered with Beachbody to create the program. Schwartz briefly introduces the focus for the day, then hands it over to the teacher, who invites you into the practice and sets you up physically (sitting, lying down, or whatever posture they recommend). When the meditation begins, the video fades to a clip of a calming, natural landscape, usually a lake or an ocean, as you close your eyes. Deep tonal music plays in the background and the teacher leads you through the meditation. Each video is different, but there's a lot of focus on breathing, setting intentions, and feeling sensations in different parts of your body.
So, it's a pretty simple setup. Every day, you click to the next meditation (they're all labeled, Day 1 through Day 21), sit down, and sink in.
What Is the Beachbody Unstress Program Like?
I actually loved this program, and I say "actually" because I had a couple of concerns at the start. For one thing, I thought having a different teacher every day would bother me, since I love consistency in my fitness routine; I'll go back to the same trainers and workouts over and over. Surprisingly, though, I liked all the different instructors and styles. I loved how there was a different focus every day, because it made me excited to see what I'd be concentrating on tomorrow or in a few days. And I never knew what each new teacher would be like, so I went into every video curious.
That brings me to the meditations themselves. What's fun about this program is that you get to explore different kinds of meditation. In day eight's "Body Scan," you lie flat on your back as you shift your focus through different parts of your body, relaxing from your toes to the top of your head. For the "In Your Zone" meditation on day 14, an NFL-player-turned-meditation-instructor helps you set intentions by actually physically feeling them travel through your body. For "Balance and Flow," you float your hands back and forth in front of you, as though trailing your fingers across water.
Even when the physical cues were the same (you're usually asked to sit on the ground or in a chair), each practice has a unique goal. Sometimes you're looking for total calm, other times you're setting intentions for the day, letting go of tension, or finding gratitude. The overall theme is to "unstress," but the program shows you how many different ways you can do that.
How Did I Use Beachbody's Unstress Meditation Program?
I would love to come here and say that I did one meditation every day and finished with flying colours in 21 days flat, but that didn't happen. It took me about a month to finish and I took days off here and there — some days, ironically, I was too stressed to de-stress.
I also wasn't sure where I'd even fit meditation into my day. I started off meditating right before bed, and let me tell you, day one's "Superpower: Calm" meditation knocked me out cold. I finished the video, crawled up on my bed, and passed out on top of the covers, lights still on, face not washed, after that one. I switched to the mornings a few days later, when I saw that many of the meditations are morning-focussed, and liked that even more; I really did feel more calm and focussed afterwards.
As a true beginner, I had doubts about jumping right in with a three-week meditation program. With Unstress, though, I didn't feel pressured to do everything perfectly. I mean, I didn't even know the right way to sit for a meditation, which is why I loved the Unstress teachers who assured me it was OK to shift position, scratch an itch, or roll out my shoulders whenever I needed to. There's no expectation that you're going to meditate just right, or even that there is a "right" way to meditate; another tip the instructors repeated over and over was that, when your thoughts wander, just notice and bring them back to your breath or your intention.
The idea that you don't have to judge yourself for losing focus, that all you have to do is see it and then come back, was actually what helped me finish this program. When I missed a day, I tried not to shame myself for it; I just came back to the plan the next time I could. By the end of the first week, I looked forward to meditating every morning and was even starting to feel the effects. My stress didn't magically disappear, but I felt like I had tools to manage it. I've already started Unstress over because I'm excited to see what even more consistent meditation can do for me.