An integral part of performing at peak fitness actually stems from having the right mind-set. As anyone who’s ever played a sport knows, the biggest opponent tends to live within us, and meditation gives you the keys to effectively battle such obstacles to see you perform at your optimal best on and off the field.
Even if you’re not the biggest athlete, there’s no denying that the fast-paced lifestyles we lead here in the UAE are regularly taking its toll on our wellness, even causing us to become physically ill. Agreed? We couldn’t ignore it any longer, and so this month we’ve been exploring some of the many benefits and techniques of meditation.
Hundreds of studies over decades have confirmed its power.
We all know, if done correctly, it’s a wonderful stress-relieving technique, but there’s more to it than that. Meditation can increase mental strength and focus, memory retention and problem solving skills; improve your immune system, energy levels, and your ability to fight against such health issues as high blood pressure, asthma, arthritis and inflammatory disorders.
It can also drastically enhance your emotional intelligence, improving your resilience against pain and adversity by eliminating fear, anxiety and depression, among other concerns.
Needless to say, with regular practice, it can pretty much make you invincible – on top of your game.
Somewhere over the course of the past few months, this particular journalist was suffering from a mysterious full-body skin rash, itching and swelling of the face. No doctor could recommend the right remedy and the issue continued for a month, before finally, a yoga teacher friend suggested that I might just be stressed.
Suffering immensely for so long, I was almost offended when she suggested it. Stress can’t leave me with itchy red bumps from head to toe, chronically dry skin, and swollen lips. Can it?
Yes, said doctor number three, who coincidentally was a practitioner of Ayurveda and yoga. And so I found myself staring at an image of a bright light in a hushed room full of people desperate to find some sense of serenity.
Guided (Open-eyed) Meditation
At Inner Space Abu Dhabi, they practise a unique form of open-eyed meditation that’s quite difficult to start with if you’re as anxiety-riddled as I am, and a beginner to meditation. But their sanctuary is practically free to the public (well, technically donation-based) so I started there.
Obviously, closing your eyes while meditating eliminates your ability to be distracted by everything in the space around you.
That being said, it’s also easier to fall asleep or get lost in some cosy dream world, defeating the purpose of the practice. So, while it was tough-going finishing the three-session beginner’s meditation course Inner Space offers, in the end it was useful to learn to calm my “monkey mind” anytime, anywhere.
That mild panic attack I was suffering one day while stuck in traffic, I found a point to stare at and just tuned out.
I found that the practice had this incredible ability of slowing my heartrate, and even the world around me. I learned that moving more slowly and purposely through my day-to-day activities was heaps more effective.
I worked smarter, not harder. It was as if a window in my head had opened up further to allow me more space to breathe and function properly.
Contact: www.innerspaceabudhabi.org, 050 515 9646
Nadi Shodhana Meditation
In another class I tried at Hiltonia Abu Dhabi, Pranayama, or breathing techniques, was more the focus of the session.
The teacher led us through alternate nostril breathing, an ancient Indian technique found in Ayurvedic medicine. In Western contexts, diaphragmatic breathing is the most commonly known breathing technique, but, as it turns out, inhaling through your left nostril while holding a finger over the right, then exhaling through the right while holding the left (and vice versa, over and over) has wonderful benefits of its own.
It’s called Nadi Shodhana (Nadi means ‘channel’ or ‘flow’ in Sanskrit, and Shodhana means ‘purification’), and we found it’s a good idea to try and incorporate a few rounds of this every morning before breakfast.
Nadi Shodhana allows fresh oxygen to sweep through the body in this cyclic motion – nostril to body to other nostril – to literally purify the blood and respiratory system of any built-up waste.
At the same time, you’re encouraged to count off your inhalations and exhalations, as a means of focusing on the breath, so it clears the mind as well from all external matter. It really balances the workings of the nervous system.
Contact: www3.hilton.com, 02 692 4205
Finally, I attempted one session of Gong Meditation at Dubai’s Heart & Soul Spa in Al Barari. The gong is a sacred and ancient instrument associated with healing, rejuvenation and transformation, and the one they’ve got at Heart & Soul is massive.