Much like yoga, mindfulness has become increasingly popular in the West over recent decades, and is now promoted by doctors, celebrities, and everyone in between. But it still can feel foreign and esoteric, and many people hold misconceptions about mindfulness or just don’t get what it’s all about. These five facts about mindfulness should help clear up some of the confusion.
1. Mindfulness is compatible with any religion.
Though it has ancient roots in Hinduism and Buddhism, mindfulness is not a religion. In fact, the way it is now commonly thought of in the West, it is more akin to a mental exercise. While some people use mindfulness for spiritual exploration, many others use it simply to release stress or improve their focus. As such, followers of any religion can practice mindfulness, and dedicated practitioners include Christians, Jews, and Muslims, as well as atheists.
2. The benefits of mindfulness are scientifically proven.
The past decade has seen a surge of scientific research on mindfulness. In 2011, a widely-cited Harvard University study found that eight weeks of mindfulness practice increased the amount of grey matter in brain regions related to learning and memory, emotion regulation, and other processes. Other studies have found that various mindfulness practices are useful in reducing stress and anxiety, improving mood and quality of life, and even promoting recovery from eating disorders. Mindfulness doesn’t just give you that nice glowing feeling; it has real physical benefits.
3. Anybody can practice mindfulness.
When people think of mindfulness, they might imagine monks living in silence at a remote monastery. While those monks are probably masters of mindfulness, the truth is that it can be practiced by anyone. Tens of thousands of people in the West have participated in programs like mindfulness-based stress reduction and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, not to mention classes in yoga, meditation, or chanting that emphasize mindfulness. More and more people are also developing their own mindfulness practices, often through journaling, breathing exercises, or music.
4. You can practice mindfulness anywhere, at any time.
Mindfulness can take an infinite number of different forms, and it does not have to mean sitting cross-legged with your eyes closed or listening to Tibetan singing bowls. Rather, it can be as simple as bringing your attention to the present moment, taking notice of your surroundings, or bringing awareness to your breath or posture. Nobody around you will even know you’re practicing mindfulness.
5. There’s an app for that.
If you’re interested in trying mindfulness but not sure where to start, there are loads of apps to help you. HeadSpace is one of the best known, with multiple series of guided meditations that teach different techniques and focus on different topics. Insight Timer is another popular one, and has over 4,000 guided meditations you can use at any time. If that’s too many choices, Aura releases a brand new daily meditation each day, and they never repeat. Lastly, Mindfulness Daily provides audio-based mindfulness lessons and includes different exercises for morning, day, and night. These are just a sampling of available apps, so do some research to find the one that’s best for you.
About the author
Kosta Miachin is the creator of VIKASA Yoga method – a unique, challenging and effective approach to yoga. He is also the founder of VIKASA Yoga Academy. You can find him online: http://www.vikasayoga.com