Hannah:
Welcome to the Burn Pod, listeners. I think this is such a great time of year to really dig into this particular topic a little more, and we’re going to chat all about meditation on the first part, and start digging into a little bit of self care as well. And I’m so happy to bring Dani back into the podcast to join us. So welcome, Dani.

Dani:
Thanks for having me back.

Hannah:
Anytime. Very easy having you to jump in, isn’t it? Now for those of you who don’t know Dani, she’s actually our studio manager at BurnTheory Studios. We recently did a podcast all about Dani’s story so if you wanted to jump back a few episodes, probably about three or four and check that out, do so. She’s an incredible instructor of all of our modalities bar, boxing, core, and yoga, plus some that we don’t offer.

Hannah:
She runs our role and release sessions like self massage for those that haven’t done those ones before and is, I’d like to say, guru at meditation, and absolutely loves this topic. I’m really super happy to have her join us.

Hannah:
What is meditation, I guess is the first question that I’d like to chat about. And usually, well, previously I’d say I used to think of meditation as a bit of a woo woo topic, and I guess that’s, cause I didn’t really understand what it is, but I guess, Dani, what is meditation?

Dani:
Meditation is … It’s really about just focusing your attention, clearing your mind and finding a sense of calm and also finding a stable state of emotion. A lot of people think that you need to sit there cross legged, not thinking. And that’s possible if you are a monk that lives in a cave and meditates three hours per day, but for the average person, certainly that’s not the case. We’re not actually trying to turn off our thoughts or our feelings or our emotions, but we’re observing them. And we’re doing that in such a way as to not judge how we’re feeling or what we’re thinking. And over time you will notice your thoughts and you will become aware of them. And you’ll learn actually how to understand why you think a certain way and just get to know yourself on a deeper level, which is an amazing benefit of meditation.

Hannah:
Mm. It’s about being still with your thoughts really isn’t it? Or calming the mind. I kind of think of it as calming my mind. Because I guess I’m not sure about you, but most other people and me it’s like crazy minds, racing mind all the time. Like thinking one thing and doing something else. And it’s sometimes really hard just to take that space just to be.

Dani:
Yeah. Yeah. And you can … Look, you do need to practise meditation to harness your mind, but it doesn’t kind of end once you get up out of your practise. Some people kind of muddle meditation and mindfulness. They are different but they are similar. So meditation is your actual seated practise, but mindfulness is the ability to be present with whatever you’re doing in the moment and they feed off each other. If you have a daily meditation practise, even if it’s two minutes, you will be able to incorporate more presence into your everyday life and your everyday tasks. And you know, it will allow you to become more aware of your thoughts even when you’re not actually sitting down to meditate.

Hannah:
Mm, mm. And it’s a learned skill, isn’t it? I mean, I remember when I first started even trying to empty my mind, for example, I couldn’t do it. There’s no way I could not focus on something like, oh, I could hear a bird. And then I go start thinking about the things I have to do that had nothing to do with the bird. But somehow that related in my mind, and it took so long for me to get to the point … And I still can’t maintain it for very long, but to the point where I have those moments where I find an inner calm and I’m relaxed, and there’s not anything that I’m holding onto. And it lasts for … To be fair, it’s only lasting about five or 10 seconds. And then your thought creeps up again. And then you focus on getting back down, but it is a learned skill, isn’t it?

Dani:
It definitely is. It’s just like any new thing that you do, you have to practise. And for a lot of people, just the idea of sitting still and doing nothing is really daunting and that you couldn’t do that. I have so many people say to me, I can’t meditate, I couldn’t meditate. But yeah, you just start small and you just try and keep trying and keep trying. Well actually, one of my teachers once said to me, there’s no such thing as a bad meditation, only the one that you didn’t do. I guess it’s the same kind of thing with there’s no such thing as a bad workout. Only the one that you didn’t do. It’s exactly the same thing.

Dani:
And the other thing is, I should mention, it’s not your meditation journey. It’s not linear. You might have one day, you wake up and you already kind of feel a bit more calm and you’ve had a really good sleep and you do a great meditation where you do feel like you had less thoughts. And then the next day you wake up your mind’s racing for whatever reason and your mind is full of chatter. It’s not linear, but the more that you practise it, it does get even just a little bit easier or even just easier to actually still be able to sit there whilst your mind is going and having all these thoughts. That being okay with actually just sitting still and not judging that you are not meditating properly.

Hannah:
Yeah. Yeah. And I guess for those of our listeners out there that meditation is very new or foreign or a little bit daunting, what are the benefits of meditation? What does it actually do for us? Because we do hear about it and we hear about mindfulness and meditation a lot. And I know that I was like, “Oh, I should do that.” But, but I guess for those people wondering, why should we do it? Or what does it do for us?

Dani:
Well, there’s so many benefits. We probably all heard that it’s great for managing stress and anxiety and your emotions, helping to cultivate peace of mind, clarity of mind. It increases your focus. If you do in the morning, that’s a really good way to increase focus and helps you get to sleep at night and helps you get to know yourself. That’s one of the biggest benefits that I’ve gained is a really deep inner knowing of myself and how my brain kind of operates. And then there’s physical benefits as well. Obviously the stress side of things, that is a physical thing and a physical benefit that we can get from meditation is reducing stress. But I find it really useful to actually just explain to people how stress affects your physical body in order to understand how meditation can actually have a physical effect on your body.

Dani:
Stress is simulated by our sympathetic nervous system, which is one of our [inaudible 00:08:11] nervous system. And that causes a surge in our stress hormones. We have a few of them, but the main ones that most people are familiar with are adrenaline and cortisol. Adrenaline is the hormone that increases your heart rate and your blood pressure. And it’s that fight or flight hormone. We’re all familiar with that feeling.

Dani:
And then cortisol is your primary stress hormone. And now your fight or flight is actually really important. Say there was a crazy dog chasing you down the street. We would want that fight or flight response to kick in so that we could get away from that danger. But that’s an actual danger, right? Nowadays with our busy lives and just the way that we’ve evolved as a race, we have a lot of perceived dangers that are caused just by our thoughts.

Dani:
So they’re not actual dangers. You know, when we think about … I guess if you would think about a dog chasing you down the street, trying to attack you, you could actually get those same physiological responses happening in your body just by thinking about it. We have this all the time when we are stressed, when we are worrying about out something that hasn’t happened yet, or thinking back to something stressful that happened to us in the past. Those stress hormones can be activated just by our thoughts. That creates chronic stress, which can lead to that increase in blood pressure, elevated risk of stroke or heart attacks, even headaches and especially anxiety and insomnia. To help control those hormones, we need to activate the parasympathetic nervous system. That’s the rest and digest system. So that’s the opposite of that fight or flight mode. And it helps to promote that equilibrium in the body and allows your body to actually rest and repair itself. And we can actually do this with meditation.

Hannah:
That’s pretty cool. And I mean, we might have said this to some of our clients, but increase in cortisol levels, generally leads to increase in weight gain as well. Just on a really basic one that most people are very conscious of and particularly coming into Christmas and all that kind of time is weight gain. And stress is a pretty bad factor around that one. Meditation can be something that can support your physical health and your weight as well as all of those mental benefits, too.

Dani:
Yes. And cortisol will, or can, I should say, can cause you to gain weight around your stomach area.

Hannah:
This is not where you want it.

Dani:
No, we don’t want it there because it’s around those organs. Yeah.

Hannah:
Yeah. That starts ending up towards a visceral fat end of the scale. Yeah, yeah. We mentioned the difference between meditation and mindfulness, but what’s the difference between meditation and breath work because I know that I get confused between those two.

Dani:
Mm, yeah. In me you can focus on your breath, but in breath work you actually change the way that you’re breathing. There’s lots of different breathing techniques that you can do with your breath work practise. And I do really love breath work for people that have quite a busy mind or think that they can’t just sit still and do nothing because you are doing something. It gives your mind something to focus on other than your thoughts. And another reason why we might want to consider breath work is that when we breathe deep into our belly, it uses our diaphragm. It’s deep belly diaphragmatic breathing, and that activates your vagus nerve, which is the nerve in your body that triggers that parasympathetic nervous system that rest and digest mode and lowers your stress response so lowers that sympathetic nervous system and the best way to activate that parasympathetic, the rest and digest, is to do a really long slow exhale because when we inhale our heart rate actually speeds up a little bit. And when we exhale slowly, it slows the heart rate down and activates that vagus nerve to help us move into that rest and digest mode.

Hannah:
Is breath work then, would you say, a form of meditation or does it sit quite different or quite separate to meditation?

Dani:
It depends on what you’re doing. In my opinion, if you’re doing a really calm breath work and you’re sitting still, and you’re sitting upright, that is a form of meditation. But there’s lots of crazy breath techniques that you can do as well, that are a bit more active. I would say it just depends on what practise you’re doing.

Hannah:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). And before we, I guess, get into how to actually go about meditation, all the different types of meditation and steps to meditation. I like this idea of just digging, if it’s possible, to dig a little bit more into the idea of breath work, and then we can have a chat about the steps to meditation. Is that okay?

Dani:
Sure.

Hannah:
Cool. If we go back to … You said there’s two … Kind of depends on the way you do it, but if we look at your deeper breathing practises, how does that work?

Dani:
Well, again, there’s lots of different techniques, lots of different practises. The one that I often do in my meditation when my mind is kind of racing is three counts in and six counts out. And then if that’s feeling comfortable for me, I’ll try to increase that to four counts in and eight counts out.

Hannah:
Mm. And that breath work. What does that do internally? Slowing the breath, is it just slowing the heart rate? It’s slowing down that circulation system and the digestive system, is that actually what it’s doing?

Dani:
Exactly. Yeah. It slows the heart rate. It calms the body and it brings us more into that parasympathetic and out of that sympathetic. So moving out of the fight or flight mode into the rest and digest mode. That’s a really good way to do it because also you are not just focusing on your breath, but you are also focusing on that counting. It’s really to anchor the mind.

Dani:
For that one, all you need to remember is that you are counting your breath and you are exhaling for double the length. If you inhale for three counts, you exhale for six. If you’re inhaling for four, you’re exhaling for eight, if you’re inhaling for five you’re exhaling 10, it doesn’t matter how many counts you get to. If you count quicker or slower, it’s up to you, but just make sure that you feel comfortable. It shouldn’t feel strained and just double the exhale so that the exhale is twice as long as the inhale. That’s a really good one. And other than that, a couple of simple techniques you can try is simply inhaling for four and exhaling for four and just counting in 2, 3, 4 out 2, 3, 4, and just keep that syphon through. That’s probably the easiest one to do.

Hannah:
I was just doing it then when you were talking and you were counting. I’m like, “Mm, breathing in, breathing out.” Yeah. And people can use this in any stage of their day or their life. And it can support anything that you’re wanting to do. If you’re wanting to … I was about to say, for example, going into a really big meeting and you’re a little bit nervous, it’s a really good way of just calming the nerves, slowing the heart rate, getting focused. Alternatively, I can assume that you can do a breathing practise to really once again, focusing to get yourself ready and amped, ready to go into, I don’t know, the big meeting with the different form of excitement instead of wanting to come as stress, you can increase that energy. I’m assuming you can work it both ways.

Dani:
You can. I haven’t really delved into that side of things myself, to be honest. But I do know that yes, it is possible. For me, my journey has been a lot of anxiety in the past. I really focus on just that calming.

Hannah:
Yeah.

Dani:
That’s been my focus for the last couple of years and I would actually like to look into those other practises to increase energy and that sort of thing, but I never miss my chance to calm my [inaudible 00:17:38] first.

Hannah:
Yeah, yeah, no, I know those feelings. Now there’s a lot of information that we’ve just given our listeners. What I’d like to do is wrap this one up and move into our next podcast that can focus on specifically how to do the meditation. But before we wrap up, do you know any good resources or are there websites that you use or apps that you use that people can start getting familiar with meditation?

Dani:
Definitely. There’s an app and a website called Headspace. Some people might have heard of that. They actually have a Netflix series on how to meditate as well, it’s quite cute. But they have really great information on their website and they have some guided meditations and things like that on their app. There’s heaps of guided meditations on Spotify, if you want to sift through. But the app that I use is called Insight Timer, and that has lots of different meditations on there, but you can kind of filter with the length that you want to do. You can also just put on a timer if you just want to do your own practise and you can look up certain teachers and things like that if you find someone that you really like, and then you want to try some of their different meditations. Now there’s also an app called Reveri which is R-E-V-E-R-I, which is not technically meditation, it’s self hypnosis.

Dani:
I’ve tried this out a few times and I do really like it because it’s more interactive. It’s almost like you are sitting in a chair, opposite someone and they will guide you through. And then you kind of have to answer some questions just about how relaxed are you feeling on a scale of one to 10 and you speak. It’s a bit more interactive, which I find quite helpful for people who are a bit daunted by the fact that they just have to sit down by themselves and do nothing. That’s just something different to try. And then for people that are really interested in diving deep into this subject, there’s an amazing guy called Dr. Joe Dispenza. And he’s actually a quantum physicist, which is so incredible because he is like meditation’S biggest advocate, but he also comes to the table with all of these scientific facts around quantum physics as well, which is just amazing. He has a great book called becoming supernatural, which I think is his first book on the topic. And then he goes and writeS a few other follow on books from there. That’s cool.

Hannah:
Well, thank you so much for joining us and chatting about meditation. And as I mentioned, for those that are listening to this podcast, on the next one we’re going to get into meditation and how to actually do it. And also the forms of meditation that Dani likes and my version of meditation as well so get excited for that one. What we thought we might be able to get it all in one, but I think there was a lot of information there that people can just sit on and get used to and start understanding the idea behind meditation before we throw how to actually do it at you. Thanks so much for joining us, Dani again. Got to chat to you shortly anyway. I really appreciate your time.

Dani:
Thanks for having me.

Hannah:
Awesome guys. Get excited about the next podcast and have a wonderful rest of your day.


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