6 of the Most Common Meditation Myths and Misconceptions
Meditation might seem like it has a bunch of rules. You have to be still. You have to be sitting. You have to close your eyes. You can’t move (and you definitely can’t think)!
In actuality, meditation is simply what you make of it. The main goal is to calm your mind, center yourself, and focus on one thought or intention. Read on for the debunking of six major meditation myths.
Myth 1: Meditation Is Something You Do.
We often talk about meditation as an activity. In reality, meditation is not something you do, explains Openfit Master Trainer Brent Laffoon, one of the world-renowned Yoga52 instructors.
“It’s something that happens to you when you create the right conditions for it to occur,” he says. “The thing most people think of as meditation is actually a variety of practices meant to help our minds enter meditation, or a meditative state.”
Understanding the difference between the practices themselves and the intended result of the practices can give us a better sense of what it is we’re aiming for when we sit down and begin to breathe deeply, chant a mantra, or take a mindful walk.
“The meditation is not the practice itself,” he says. “The meditation is what happens when we practice properly.”
Myth 2: Meditation Is Done One Certain Way.
We’ve all seen the social media posts with a typical meditation pose — a person sitting cross-legged and super zenned out — but that isn’t how all meditation must look. (This is the easiest of the meditation myths to bust!)
“Meditation can be done in a variety of ways,” says Jennifer Fuller, an Openfit Live Trainer and yoga instructor.
Try a walking meditation, a yoga sequence that incorporates meditation (like yoga nidra) or any other way or place where your mind can work toward calmness. And really, there aren’t any rules — if you want to lie down on your back or sit in a chair, you can.
“It’s about giving yourself the opportunity to view your internal experience and to calm your mind, whether that is with walking, hiking, or listening to ocean waves,” says Fuller.
Myth 3: Meditation Is Antiquated.
Even though meditation is thousands of years old, the benefits are still applicable today. Recent research touts benefits that include supporting brain health, decreasing stress and anxiety, improving memory and attention, and supporting healthy blood pressure.
What’s better is that, thanks to technology, you can have a meditation guru right on your phone or computer screen. If you’re new to meditation or want to try something different, check out the Openfit Sound Meditation program. Within each 10- to 45-minute video, Scarlett de la Torre creates soothing frequencies using “singing bowls,” a harp, a didgeridoo, gongs, and more.
Myth 4: Meditation Is a Religious Practice.
Meditation began with a spiritual context; however, you don’t have to be religious or practice a particular religion in order to meditate. You don’t even have to be spiritual in any way. (Boom! Another of the meditation myths, busted.)
“A meditation practice is for any individual and is void of direct religious connotation,” says Maya Breuer, a certified Vipassana meditation instructor and vice-president of cross-cultural advancement for Yoga Alliance. “Practicing meditation will not make you religious, but people of all faiths incorporate meditation into their lives. Meditation is often practiced today with the goal of improving one’s health, well-being, and to relieve stress.”
Myth 5: Meditation Requires You to Stop Thinking.
Everyone has days where their thoughts just won’t stop. That’s OK, even during meditation.
“The goal or the result of a meditation practice may be to quiet the mind, yet it is important to allow your meditation to be just what it is each day,” says Karin Ebner, an E-RYT 200 yoga teacher. “Some days, your brain will be chatting away the entire time. Simply sit down regularly, as often as you can, and allow the meditation to be what it is that day.”
Even if your mind isn’t clear, aim to observe your thoughts without judgment. Fuller recommends having a single-pointed focus, whether that be your breath, a mantra, or an intention.
Myth 6: Meditation Must Be a Daily Practice.
Meditation is often called a practice, and as with any habit, daily dedication is an ideal way to train your mind and body. That doesn’t mean you fail or don’t reap the benefits if you don’t practice every day, though.
Even with a few minutes or moments of mindful breathing, your body notices changes in your sympathetic nervous system. When the sympathetic nervous system is on alert, your heart rate, blood pressure, and even adrenaline levels increase. Studies show that even for novice meditators, taking a moment to center yourself helps decrease your blood pressure.
“You don’t have to meditate every day and you don’t have to meditate for hours on end,” says Fuller. “If five minutes is all you have, sprinkle it in through your life. No matter where you are or where or how you choose to practice, you are getting the benefits. You are choosing to give yourself this gift of mindfulness and slowing down.”