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All About Meditation | A Guide for Beginners


May is National Mental Health Awareness Month and we are showing you how to use Woodside to boost your mental health. Meditation is a great way to become more aware of your mind body connection to help navigate through some of life’s challenges and uncertainties. With a better understanding of how your body reacts to some of life’s common stressors you can then, with practice, start to change the way in which you react to them when confronted with those stressors in your daily life.
While it is hard to pinpoint an exact date in which meditation practices started, it has been traced throughout the world by many cultures and civilizations as far back as 5000 BCE.  One of the most prominent examples of meditation used in history is with the Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama. Meditation and/or mindfulness became more popular in western civilizations in the 1970s and is still used widely to combat stress and anxiety today.
Meditation is a skill that takes practice with the goal of helping you connect more with your body and become more aware of your thoughts and feelings so that you can help control them when life’s stressors come your way. There are many types of meditation such as: mindfulness, spiritual, visualization, guided or movement just to name a few. Meditation can be as quick as focusing on your breathing for five minutes, or a two-hour guided meditation – there is no right or wrong way to meditate, it’s all about finding the right meditation practice to fit your needs such as a yoga class.
Getting started with meditation can be difficult for some. We are not used to shutting our mind off, sitting still in silence and focusing on our breathing and only our breathing. The most important thing is redirecting those wandering thoughts when you notice them creeping in and return to focusing on your breath. Learning to meditate and becoming more mindful is a marathon not a sprint, so it is important to remember to give yourself grace when starting your meditation practice. An easy way to practice meditation is with the body scan technique or taking a yoga class. Yoga is a great way for those new to meditation to begin to practice as it incorporates meditation and breathing.


Close your eyes and imagine your body. Then, starting at the top of your head begin to mentally scan your body working your way down from head to toe. As you scan, notice which parts feel relaxed or tense, comfortable or uncomfortable, light or heavy or feel off in general. Take note of what you notice as you scan. Are you clenching your jaw? Are your shoulders tense? Does it hurt your hips to lay down? The scan should take about 20 seconds. Thoughts may well arise and distract you. If so, simply return to the area of the body where you last left off. In making the body scan a part of your meditation, you are familiarizing yourself with bringing awareness to your thoughts and feelings. Soon, you can start to adjust those areas that might feel off and can implement a body scan into your daily routine.
The benefits of meditation are numerous and varied and can have a large impact on your mental, emotional and physical health.


When we carry too much stress it can create a multitude of negative impacts on the body. It can raise our blood pressure, disrupt our immune system and impact our sleep. When the mind and body are relaxed through meditation or other techniques the parasympathetic system is stimulated which stops the body from producing stress hormones. With regular meditation practice many people can start to regulate and condition their body to relax when they encounter a stressor, thus combating the negative effects of holding onto stress.


Meditation helps to decrease negative neurological connections to the part of our brain that focuses on ourselves (medial prefrontal cortex). Here, we hold onto all of our fears, stresses and anxieties. With the decrease in these negative connections your brain can also start to rewire our brain by building positive neurological connections which can help us increase our emotional regulation, memory, focus and ability to make decisions. Meditation also helps us combat our negative emotions and understand that they will eventually pass – thus, we can start to learn how to change and adjust our negative mindsets and perspectives for more positive ones.  


Regular meditation has a huge impact on your mental well-being. It increases your awareness, clarity, focus and general sense or feeling of calmness. Regular meditation is also proven to help with mental disorders like anxiety and depression and pain that is related to stress.
Click on the arrows below to learn more about some of the most common obstacles many people face when getting started with meditation. 
Building new habits and routines are not easy. For many of us, we are living busy lives and carving out 15 minutes to meditate can sound overwhelming. When starting, try to take 30 seconds to a minute and slowly build up to longer sessions. Maybe begin your mornings with 30 seconds of focused breathing or try ending your day with a body scan. Soon, it will start to be a part of your daily routine that you can build upon and grow.
Before you begin meditating it is important to narrow down WHY you want to meditate? Do you want to decrease anxiety? Do you want to start sleeping better at night? When you have a clear and concise goal or purpose for meditating it will be easier to stick with it in the long run. Of course, your purpose can morph and change over time but setting your intention can help you get the most of your meditation practice.
Some people might feel higher levels of sleepiness when starting their meditation practice and might even fall asleep. This is because your brain is confusing the practice with relaxation. Eventually, with training it will begin to tell the difference, but if you start to feel too tired try meditating while sitting up or in the morning when you are more rested.
A common misunderstanding with meditation is that you have to be in a completely silent space. This is not the case and can actually make you over sensitive to distractions and sounds – meditation again is about training the mind and body to resist the urge to interact with the sounds around you and teach yourself to let the sounds come and go without resistance. This helps us apply the techniques we teach ourselves in “quiet” meditation to our real lives which are filled with noises and distractions.
Woodside is proud to offer many spaces and ways in which our members can incorporate meditation into their wellness routine. Whether it is hopping into one of our Yoga or Meditation classes, scheduling time with a Woodside Personal Trainer or joining small group Pilates Reformer session or simply just taking time to sit, relax and breathe in the Indoor Pool Area – we have a wide range of ways to implement meditation into any wellness routine.
All members have access to all of Woodside’s Yoga and Meditation classes with their membership. To view the class schedule, click here. All Group Fitness classes require a reservation. You can register via MyWoodside or the App. Registration opens 48 hours in advance. To learn more about Pilates click here. To view the Indoor Pool Area and its five temperature zones click here.

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