For as long as I can remember, I have experienced anxiety on a daily basis. Stressors can range from minor things, like a plan falling through, to major events, like travelling. Well-meaning friends and family members have often suggested that I give meditation a try, but I've never known where to begin amidst the seemingly endless selection of mindfulness apps, YouTube channels, and books available.
The new Alo Moves Explore Meditation series, which launched this week, is the perfect guide for beginners. Available with an Alo Moves membership, the series consists of nine 5-minute classes. As mindfulness advisor Jackie Stewart explains in an introductory video, it is intended to make meditation accessible by introducing different approaches to the practice and helping people discover what works best for them.
One of the most helpful aspects of the program was the background information provided in the first two videos — "What is Meditation?" and "Meditation FAQ." Stewart defines meditation as "a way to become familiar with the nature of our mind, which is inherently open and clear."
She also offers a definition of mindfulness from the Greater Good Science Centre at the University of California Berkeley, which describes it as "the maintaining of a moment-by-moment awareness, or the ability to pay attention to our thoughts, our feelings, our bodily sensations, and our surrounding environment." For me, these definitions simplified the goals of meditation. Rather than magically curing my anxiety overnight, practicing mindfulness would help me on a much smaller and less daunting scale.
Similarly, the FAQ video answered questions I didn't even know that I had. For example, I hadn't considered the likelihood of falling asleep during the meditation until I actually did fall asleep doing the Listening Meditation class. The clip provides suggestions to prepare beginners to tackle the classes, like choosing a relatively quiet location and closing your eyes.
None of this is to say that more experienced meditation practitioners can't also benefit from the series. In addition to standard breathing exercises, Stewart talks through several different types of meditation focusing on various aspects of daily life such as self-reflection, listening, walking, and even smiling.
The first guided session, the Focussed Breath Meditation, is the simplest class and teaches the breathwork necessary for the other, more involved forms of meditation. I immediately felt calm and clear-headed afterward. Stewart encourages participants to place their hands on their chest or stomach, which I found particularly helpful in connecting with my breath. As someone who sometimes struggles to fall asleep at night, I definitely plan to incorporate these breathing exercises into my bedtime routine.
While some of the classes prompt inward reflection and self-growth, like the Compassion and Mantra Meditations, others focus on engageing with the outside world, like the Listening and Walking Meditations. The Smiling Meditation pushed me out of my comfort zone, but it certainly lives up to its name — I couldn't stop laughing at myself, sitting alone with my eyes closed and trying to force a natural smile on cue.
Overall, the Explore Meditation series delivered on its promise of making meditation accessible and unintimidating. The short length of the sessions made it easy to find time in my schedule, the introductory videos were informative, and the diverse array of classes introduced me to forms of meditation I didn't even know existed.
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