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Beginner's Guide to Mindfulness & Meditation

Watch Episode 16 here 👇

If you would prefer to read a text version of Arron's latest vlog - check out the video transcript below 👇

Amy Williams:

Hi, it's Amy Williams here for the U Perform channel. Now I have Arron our fitness expert. Last week, Arron was talking about top tips for winter training. Now, today we've gone a little bit calmer because you're going to talk to us about meditation and mindfulness. That's quite a big subject, isn't it? There's quite a lot of areas that we could cover. Where are you going to take us today?

Arron Collins-Thomas:

It's a big, scary subject for many people. Most people really have no idea what it is. They know mindfulness, they should be doing it, but what is it? And how do you even get started?

And that's where most people fall down. They Google it and there's so many different things that come up and it's quite confusing. When we think about meditation, we think maybe we've got to sit quietly and calmly for at least 45 minutes with no thoughts entering our mind to have a good practice. But that's really difficult, right? In our hectic lives, we've got 1,000,001 things going on in our brains. We are overstimulated all the time. Think about your day, how many stimulations do you have your phone, your television, your conversation with someone you've got work stuff going on, kids, a car drives by you, whatever. You're constantly on the go.

There's so much information to have to process the whole time. So it's trying to switch that off and go quiet. It's near on impossible for most people. It's happened to me once or twice in all my times of meditating and I'm quite a chill person. So I can only imagine how difficult it is for many other people. And so that's the first stumbling block, right? You do a meditation class, you do something online and you think, well, I was rubbish at that. I couldn't do it. I couldn't quiet my mind. So many things came in. I'm not going to bother again how many times that happened.

And so yeah, people thought at that first block, but it doesn't need to be as complicated as that. And we don't need to be as hard on ourselves as that, right? Because we know that there's so much going on on our day to day. Of course, it's going to be hard to quiet the mind.

So just like any other part of your body, you have to train to get better at it. Right? If I want to get stronger arms, I've got to train to get better at that. So I can't just expect my mind just to do it straight away. We know there's these different apps out there for brain training to get better at maths and different things. It's exactly the same for meditation. Does that seem to quiet the mind and switch it off? We've got to train to get better at it.

Amy Williams:

What would you say as a very beginner? I have tried it before and I just got really frustrated that I could not switch the brain off at all. And I haven't done it since. What would you suggest to me? Where would I start? What is a good place, I've now got, let's just say I've got half an hour of the day. What is it that I can go off and do to get into that right head space.

Arron Collins-Thomas:

So I think mindfulness and meditation is such a big area that you can find something in there that's going to suit you. Okay. So it could be that when you are doing a meditation, you're doing a movement with it as well.

So Qigong, that's what I teach. It's moving meditation. That's perfect for me because I'm distracted by my movement. I'm distracted. What's going on in my body. I'm thinking about things internally. I'm thinking about my emotions or an organ or something I'm trying to heal. So even though there's still some things going on in my mind, it's internal, it's quietening the mind away from the other thousand things that would normally be going on.

So that's a great place to start. Find something that distracts the mind a little bit. We can think about Buddhist monks, they often have meditation beads. They're counting and they're meditating. Even those guys who are, you know, the most chilled, Zen people, you think they can meditate perfectly. They do have distraction tactics. So find those distraction tools for you.

Guided meditations are brilliant. There's some brilliant apps out there. That will talk you through a meditation. So a sensory meditation is really great. So a sensory meditation, you might start doing some breath, thinking about how that feels. Then you'll think about how your toes feel. Then you think about how the wind or the air fills on those toes or how the clothing feels on the skin and then move around the body. And just by taking your mind to a different place and moving on before you get bored of that spot and distract it as you go through, would allow you to stay a lot calmer and a lot quieter in the mind than you would do in a normal meditation or a time where you're just focusing on the breath and trying to quieten it down.

And then the other side of things is actually mindfulness and meditation can come from stuff that you enjoy, that you love. Those things that you do, that the time just flies by. And you just didn't really realize what you were doing or what you were thinking about. That's a meditation.

So it could be that when you go for a walk and maybe hopefully don't have your phone distracting, but go for a walk, just do some breathing and just gazing into the trees. And just thinking about what surrounds you more than all the other distractions. Some people, it might be ironing. That's not for me, but a lot of people would love ironing. They love the kind of quietness and the calming aspect of just being repetitive with that movement. Often repetitive movements are very easy to meditate into because you don't need to think about what's going on too much. Other people it might be cooking. Some people can find that they get a nice meditation from a run because it quietens their mind enough.

Amy Williams:

Yeah. Like playing the piano? I guess something like that. It's something that, like you say, you can just switch your head off, sitting there. If you play the piano, if they're just playing their music, something like that, maybe doing something with the head, but they're so skilled at it potentially that they don't have to think about it.

Arron Collins-Thomas:

Yeah. Anything that quiets your mind and takes you into one thing and where we're focusing on one thing like, you know, candle meditation is another big one that people do. They focus on a candle and they focus on the flame. I know that's not internal. But you're focusing on one thing, taking your mind, hopefully away from everything else that is going on around you.

Amy Williams:

So Arron, have you got any good techniques that we can go through now that we can use just to be able to take a beginner through some mindfulness and meditation?

Arron Collins-Thomas:

Yeah. So a lot of my clients, like everyone really, struggled with it straight away, but I really want to work on breath work with people at the beginning of their journey with me in the gym. So we do some very basic breathing techniques.

I think the word meditation scares a lot of people effectively in meditation. You're just breathing for long periods of time. And if you breathe and you work on those breathing exercises, you can get stronger and therefore you'll start to get stronger with the mind as well. So we're going to give you three really simple things that you can do. They don't look too weird. So you can do them when you're sat on a train, when you're waiting in a queue, you can just go through them. And they're not going to be too dangerous. So when you're driving, you can focus on some belly breathing whilst you’re driving or some chest breathing without it being detrimental to your focus.

So what you need to do is if you're sat down, I'm going to sit away from the back of this chair. So you're supporting your own spine, and you're own posture. Place one hand on your belly, one hand on your chest. This is so you can feel the breathing areas in your body. You can close your eyes if you want, you can relax into this.

Those are some amazing breathing exercises. And I say the word exercise, because the more you do them, the better you get at them. And the more benefit you'll have from them as well, rather than thinking about what we said earlier, I can't do it. You've got to train it. So you've got to put yourself through the exercises, to make it better and stronger, and you can do those anywhere.

So belly breathing, five minutes, chest breathing, five minutes, then put them both together. Amazing before bed. If you had a stressful day, you can't quiet that mind, someone who really struggles to get off to sleep, get rid of the devices, lie in bed. It's not going to disturb anybody who might be led next to you. You can just do belly breathing for a bit, chest breathing, but them both together and more often than not, you would just fall asleep.

Amy Williams:

I'm going to try it tonight. Yeah, that was definitely relaxing. It was funny to combine the two together was a lot more of a challenge. I found it a lot easier, separating them. And then to try and relax the shoulders because obviously when you breathe through that chest, I felt like my shoulders were rising up and I felt like I couldn't expand that greatly. You know, felt like I didn't have quite the same deep breath, but definitely the more you did it and you tried to sort of relax into it at the same time. You could feel the shift.

Arron Collins-Thomas:

Yeah, you're right. It just takes practice. So well done that you've started to feel that already. I think a lot of us really struggle to breathe into the belly. A lot of practices like yoga are great for helping to people to do that. But a lot of people hold that area in because they're conscious about how this area looks. So we hold tight through here and then we tend to breathe only into the rib cage.

We've got to breathe into here. Most of the gaseous exchange tends to happen towards the bottom part of the lungs. So we need to open up into this area so the lungs can expand and we can get air all the way to the bottom of it. So if we're holding this consciously, we're not going to be breathing there. So by taking away from that, focusing on breathing into that area, creating range, strengthening these breathing muscles here, then opening up the ribs, these muscles, the intercostal muscles get really, really stiff and tight if we take short, shallow breaths all the time our posture for a lot of us doesn't really help that either.

You might have noticed that your back was releasing a little bit there. You feel like you could expand more because your posture was coming back. So there's all these little added benefits and just having skill, in controlling the different breathing areas will help you when you're doing physical performance as well. Being able to control those areas independently is harder than it looks. So again, that's a really good distraction for the mind. Give those a try because they're really, really simple and can be done anytime, anywhere.

Amy Williams:

Well, thank you, Arron. I am nice and chilled and calm and I might go and have a little nap before we wrap up. Well thank you for tuning in again. Please set those reminders, hit that bell and we will see you next time on the U Perform channel.

Tune in next week for even more from Arron and Amy

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