Local yoga and meditation instructor Kelly Smith shares tips on how and why to start meditating.
Reduced stress levels, improved sleep and sharper focus—according to Kelly Smith, founder of Yoga for You, host of the Mindful in Minutes podcast, and local yoga and meditation instructor, a meditation practice offers these benefits and beyond.
“Meditation helps promote mental health and enhance self awareness,” Smith, a Bloomington resident, says. “It trains you to be aware of what’s happening within you and around you.”
But what exactly is meditation? Smith defines it as “single-pointed concentration.” With meditation, she says a person uses all their mental power to focus on one thing—which could be one’s breath or emotions, or listening to a meditation guide’s words.
With its abundance of benefits, everyone could gain from the practice, claims Smith, especially those who feel that meditation would be particularly challenging for them. “It’s good for everyone,” she says. “But extra bonus points for people who don’t think they could do it.”
According to Smith, people often stop themselves before they even start due to meditation misconceptions—you have to sit a certain way or practice for hours a day, for example. “You, yourself … That’s the biggest roadblock,” Smith says.
Just in time for May, which is Mental Health Awareness Month, Smith provides tips on how to start meditating (and stick with it).
All you need is eight to 12 minutes a day to experience the positive effects of meditation, Smith explains. “The short-term benefits can be felt right away,” she says. “You may feel calmer [and] more relaxed. The mental chatter gets quieter.”
In Smith’s experience, it takes about eight weeks of regular practice to notice the long-lasting benefits—though for some people it comes sooner. These long-term benefits may include better sleep, increased compassion, better concentration, reduced feelings of depression and anxiety and feeling less reactive.
Keep it Simple
Smith likes to think of the meditation process like a lightbulb. Your mind outside of meditation represents a lightbulb; however, when you’re meditating, you’re turning it into a laser pointer. “As long as you’re practicing single-pointed concentration, you’re meditating,” she says.
Stick to a Schedule
Try syncing your meditation schedule with your sleep. “Meditate in the first 10 minutes of your day or the last 10 minutes of your day before bed,” Smith says. “The more structured your practice is, the less likely you are to let other things get in the way.”
Smith recommends using guided meditation because, she says, “All you have to do is hit play, and let your guide or teacher lead you.”
Find the Right Guide
Finding a teacher or style of meditation that resonates with you is crucial in sticking to the practice. Smith shares that meditation should be “beneficial and enjoyable at the same time.” If it’s not, try something new.
Smith teaches classes at Barre3 in Edina and at Blooma in Minneapolis. She also offers private classes, retreats, mentorship and more through her company, Yoga For You.