Menu

Blog

Slide background
Call Us

Yoga and Meditation: What is the Difference?

yoga and meditation: what's the difference

 

Yoga and meditation; meditation and yoga. Of all the holistic activities in the zeitgeist, there are none that are mentioned together more frequently than yoga and meditation. Indeed, they’re combined so frequently that they’ve come to seem, at first glance, like the cheese and crackers of the contemporary wellness diaspora – a natural pairing. Both are feel-good pursuits that – let’s paint with the broadest possible brush strokes possible at this stage of discussing them, and their relationship to one another – have something to do with syncing the energies of the body and mind. 

However, the constant pairing of the words “yoga and meditation” can be misleading. They can be synergistic concepts, and indeed can be practiced simultaneously. Complicating matters, however, is the fact that, as individual terms, both “yoga” and “meditation” contain almost infinite multitudes of different techniques, lineages, and ways of thinking. These myriad meanings are accrued across millennia and cultures. To make matters even more intricate, most recently, these words have, separately and together, undergone a process of fathomless diversification in the Age of Social Media. 

Defining these terms in a way that means something to you will empower you to engage with them on your own terms. This space voyage through the cloudy cosmos of “yoga and meditation” will introduce each of the two concepts, in its most basic format, paving the cosmic highway for you to explore their relationship, as well as deciding to take up yoga – or meditation – independently from one another. 

 

Yoga and meditation: define your terms, or save your prana

 

Mentioning yoga and/or meditation without specifying types and contexts is the height of mindlessness; they are such broad terms that they have ceased to be semantic signifiers. In short, without more details being provided, both terms are obscured by an ever expanding nebula of possible identities, meaning that it’s totally okay – indeed, to be expected – if you’ve heard them together, or separately, and haven’t the foggiest idea what the actual practices entail. 

Depending on who’s using the words “yoga and meditation,” they might be purposed on conjuring up conceptions of Buddhist monks or trendy Silicon Valley tycoons – with the listener independently conceiving of something else entirely, like yummy mummies in yoga pants. It doesn’t help that the clan of concepts contains relative misnomers like “kundalini yoga,” which, with its heavy focus on meditation and the chanting of mantras is, essentially, a physically intensive meditation practice. 

The right pairing of yoga and meditation could be like cheese and crackers, but these two words connote so many different modes of practice that an alternative combo could just as easily be like chalk and cheese. Let’s start by stripping away the sociocultural layers, to reveal the base definitions of both yoga and meditation – turning them back into words you can work wonders with.

 

Yoga: a way of living

 

In its purest essence, yoga is a way of life. It is one of many possible approaches to healthy living, but it encompasses more than just physical health. Traditional yoga, or Ashtanga yoga has eight branches, also known as limbs or steps, which together, target aspects of your being in a totalistic sense. As well as your physical health, yoga, in the true sense of the word, curates your overall mental wellbeing, moral fibre and deep inner world. 

Eight limbs sounds like a lot, but there’s no need to get them in a twist. The eight steps, or elements, of a life yogically lived are as follows: 

 

  • Yamas – your codes of self-conduct; how you see and move through the world, including making commitments to truthfulness and nonviolence
  • Niyamas – your practices of self-discipline; for example, maintaining your studies and cleanliness
  • Asanas – the postures you practice regularly to attain strength, stamina and boost your overall physical health 
  • Pranayama – the art of learning to control your breath, the life-force which sustains you
  • Pratyahara – focussing your senses inward, to develop your inner self
  • Dharna – learning to concentrate deeply
  • Dhyana – in order to meditate effectively, in order to achieve
  • Samadhi – the sensation of transcendence; the ultimate goal of yogic meditation

 

Many people have a misconception that the term yoga refers solely to the asanas which they might encounter in a class at the gym, perhaps with a smidgeon of pranayama practice thrown in, for “authenticity,” if there’s a particularly well-travelled teacher. 

The fact that people practice the asanas without being aware that they are just one of the eight interconnected wellbeing techniques that make up yoga as a whole is not necessarily problematic. In our contemporary society, people experience all kinds of positive effects from doing what they think of as “yoga.” These include, but are not limited to, improved self-esteem, alertness, posture, digestion, and strength. 

One of the many (octo)plusses to be gained from looking at the asanas as part of the eight-limbed entity that is yoga as a whole, however, is the sense of connection between yoga and meditation becomes apparent. 

 

The Savasana: where yoga and meditation meet

 

Although it is eminently possible to practice the asanas and reap some benefits, without also necessarily allocating time for meditation, one reason that they are often paired together is that they can be synergistic. Moving through a sequence of yogic poses, particularly if you incorporate pranayama breathing techniques into your practice, can help relax both the body and the mind, serving as excellent preparation for meditation. 

Most sequences of asanas end, traditionally, with the Savasana, or “corpse pose,” a position in which you lie flat on your back with your arms by your sides and your palms facing upwards. In this position, you can concentrate on feeling the full force of the vibrations which you have encouraged into your body by the means of your yoga practice. 

This is considered to be an optimal point from which to begin meditation, with many people opting for an “extended Savasana” and spending ten to fifteen minutes in this pose in order to enjoy its meditative benefits. If you’re already practicing yoga poses, and are considering taking up meditation too, the Savasana could be an excellent place to start.

 

Meditation: a way of thinking

 

Meditation is part of the yogic way of life, but it’s also something you can practice in its own right. So, if even hearing the term “downward dog” makes you feel like you’ve had a full body workout you never asked for, there’s no need to look away. In its most basic form, meditation is a means of interacting with your mind. There are many different techniques which constitute meditation, and which vary in complexity, and in the extent to which they coalesce with particular physical yoga practices. 

If you’re not yogically inclined, but you do like the sound of some of the benefits of meditaiton – which include reduced anxiety and increased awareness, improved creativity, boosted mood and inner peace, to name a few – you might wish to explore one of the forms of meditation which is entirely effective in its own right, such as mantra-based meditiaton. 

An entirely self-contained process which contains the formula for a more fulfilled self, mantra-based meditation can be practiced any time, anywhere: all you need is your mind and your mantra. In Beeja meditaiton, which is based on the oldest form of meditation in the world, your mantra is specially chosen for you from among thousands by dedicated meditation teachers, ensuring that, when you come to your practice, you are in full posession of the one and only tool you need to succeed. 

If you would like to explore Beeja meditation, whether this is your first encounter with yoga and meditaiton, or whether you’re considering adding this technique to your existing yoga practice, you can visit us in London, or book a course.

Words by Rosalind Stone

This entry was posted in blog.

Staying Positive While Trying to Get Pregnant: Meditation for IVF

meditation for ivf

 

For many of us, there comes a time where suddenly all our friends are starting families, and our social media feeds become a deluge of happy announcements and chubby-faced cherubs. But when we decide to take the plunge ourselves, falling pregnant doesn’t always happen as easily as we might have imagined – and if you are facing fertility issues, you are far from alone. 

Around 1 in 7 couples may have difficulty conceiving, with around 16% of couples not falling pregnant after a year of trying. This can feel hugely unsettling – while some of us may have been aware of long-standing fertility issues, for others it’s entirely unexpected. With the majority of people taking extensive measures not to have children for much of their early adulthood, being suddenly faced with a struggle to conceive can be extremely disruptive to our peace of mind. 

For those who have tried to conceive naturally for over a year, (or a shorter amount of time, if they are older) fertility treatments up to and including IVF are often recommended – taking couples of a journey of hormone treatments, hospital appointments, blossoming hopes and lingering anxieties. In amongst this upheaval, using a practice such as meditation can provide an anchor – helping us to find a point of emotional stability at a time when we need it most. 

 

IVF and stress

 

Laura Click, who wrote extensively about her experiences with IVF for Medium, said that this process was “one of the most grueling and gut-wrenching experiences I’ve even been through in my life. And, I’ve ran marathons, started a business and supported my husband through cancer”. While this isn’t necessarily going to be everyone’s experience, it’s likely to ring true for many people who are undergoing IVF – especially if they’ve waited a long time and tried other methods before arriving at this point. 

One of the common challenges people face through the IVF process is loneliness and social isolation. There are still widespread misapprehensions and even prejudices regarding fertility treatments (there are few people who haven’t encountered teeth clenching moments with well-meaning but insensitive phrases like “if you just relax, it will happen” or “at least you can adopt”). And while happy events can cheer us up and provide a break from the daily grind, it can sometimes be hard to attend events like baby showers or kid’s birthdays. 

Feeling that other people don’t understand what IVF truly entails can put many off socialising, and discourage them from talking about their fertility issues. But no matter how strong the urge is to hermit ourselves away, the inevitable result of this feeling alone – something that can worsen feelings of depression and anxiety. It can be really helpful, if this is the case, to seek support groups and couples who have gone through (or are going through) the same thing. 

Juggling our professional responsibilities around frequent appointments and the side-effects of hormone treatment is also very draining, especially as we try to maintain our work performance with so many other things to think about. The notorious “fertility rollercoaster” of hopes and disappointments – complete with seemingly endless waits between consultations, referrals and results – can leave us in a state of physical and emotional exhaustion, and stress is a key factor of this experience. 

The comforting news for people understandably stressed out by the IVF process is that, contrary to popular belief, studies have shown that stress doesn’t appear to have any impact on the success of IVF. It’s theorised that this is because, while stress certainly can affect our fertility when we’re trying for a baby, during IVF hormones are administered which override our natural processes in this regard anyway. This vastly reduces the negative influence of stress hormones, so couples needn’t add “being too stressed” to the list of things to worry about. 

Stress does, however, have a very big impact on our wellbeing. While we can’t expect life to go smoothly, (and IVF is one of those moments that many find problematic) we shouldn’t have to put up with being extremely stressed and unhappy for extended periods of time in any circumstances. Meditation lets us feel better in the moment while also helping us to build resilience over the long term, and is an ideal stress-reduction method for couples going through IVF.

 

Meditation for IVF

 

For some, especially if they have already been through many years of fertility treatments and rounds of IVF, the main focus is to emotionally survive the next step on their journey. However, staying positive while trying to get pregnant needn’t be a huge struggle, where you fight against yourself see the best in every situation – and absolutely shouldn’t involve pushing down your true feelings in order just to get through. 

No matter if you are on your first round of IVF with a great prognosis, or facing your fifth and battling to retain confidence, you are going to have worries and this will be an unavoidingly hard time. It’s likely if you have faced fertility issues that you have been recommended and explored a variety of complementary therapies, with one eye how much they may help you conceive, but it may be best in this instance to think of meditation as something that’s just for you. 

With all the aforementioned deluge of appointments to get to, you may have found that you are busier than ever – and with a lot of worries that make the idea of focusing or emptying your mind simply impossible. This is where a meditation technique like Beeja can be so helpful. While mindfulness can be very helpful and may work very well for you, you may be struggling with it, simply because it requires quiet, focus and concentration at a time where your mind is busy with apprehensions and to-do lists. 

Beeja meditation, on the other hand, simply requires you to repeat a personalised mantra in your mind and flow effortlessly into a deeply relaxed state. So rather than trying to body scan, be aware of your thoughts or focus on a leaf, you simply repeat a mantra, and guide yourself back to it if you become distracted. 

The benefits of this for our state of mind and general wellbeing are manifold, and meditation for IVF really can help us stay positive simply by making us actually feel that bit happier and less anxious; we aren’t just telling ourselves to look on the bright side, it’s happening naturally. 

By allowing us to comprehensively escape negative self-talk for 20 to 40 minutes every day, with its regrets over the past and fears for the future, meditation allows us to quieten our irrational worries and accept the things that are out of our control. We find ourselves more able to let the little things slide and be kinder to ourselves, seeing things for how they really are, rather than how we fear they may be. 

For example, rather than spiralling into a spin of panic if your employer mentions that your performance has suffered during the absences and distractions that come with IVF, you can see that this situation a) isn’t urgent b) is perfectly understandable given the circumstances and c) can be rectified. Forgiving yourself for not being at your best and letting go of the small stuff will make going through IVF that little bit easier to deal with. 

Meditation will also help you sleep at a time where an overactive mind can easily keep you up at night. Everything seems that much greyer and more difficult when we are exhausted, creating a cycle of stress that further compromises your ability to sleep once bedtime rolls around. By meditating every day, even those living with chronic insomnia have been able to achieve deep and satisfying sleep and move on from their constant wakefulness. 

With a full nights’ sleep behind you, naturally more positive outlook and fewer worries rushing around your mind, you should also find that meditation makes it easier to connect with and support your partner. Fertility treatment isn’t easy for any couple, and with so much strain it’s no surprise if we sometimes snap at those closest to us. Meditation removes the barriers of stress and tiredness that so often get in the way of true communication, making it that bit less difficult to be giving and considerate when you need to be. 

If you are currently going through IVF and feel that meditation could be beneficial to you, get in touch with a member of our team

 

Words by Holly Ashby

 

This entry was posted in blog.

What Not To Expect From Meditation

what not to expect from meditation

 

Mantra to Moksha: 7 Misconceptions about Meditation, Dissolved!

 

Are you intimidated, or perhaps unsure where to begin, when it comes to learning about meditation? Fair enough. The practice of meditation winds gracefully back through the last 6000 years of history, and through the sands of time. It is no wonder, therefore, that the strands of tradition woven through this ancient art subdivide infinitesimally into different lineages; each steeped in its own mythologies. 

The manufacture of myth is an intrinsic part of the human psyche – indeed, it is one of our internal mechanisms of meaning-making. Making up stories which alchemise into hearsay is how we make sense of ourselves, each other, and the world around us. It is no wonder, then, that the mythos of meditation is as old as the practice itself. A facet of this dynamic that is often overlooked, however, is that the mythic lore surrounding meditation continues – to this day – to evolve and grow. 

 

Folklore or falsity: what’s in a myth?

 

Just as it has been throughout history, the word “myth” today is an umbrella term for two different entities: myths are folkloric legends that populate our collective consciousness, and they are also beliefs which are demonstrably untrue, yet inexplicably widely held. Among the meditation myths that just won’t die, for instance, is the idea that you have to have a calm mind to meditate; not true, but regularly reposted nonetheless!

Contemporarily created myths about the ancient practice of meditation abound, confusing and repelling many millions of people who would benefit from it, if only they understood how complicated it isn’t. Although the misconceptions keep being generated, the basic core values of mediation have been the same since its inception. Here are some of the most common myths and misconceptions about meditation, which – once deconstructed – should no longer serve as obstacles to taking it up.

 

Myth 1: Meditation requires a clear head

 

The idea that you need a clear head to practice is one of the most pervasive misconceptions about meditation. It stems from widespread conflation between what meditation entails and the effects it can produce. Meditation is an umbrella term for a wide variety of different techniques that involve either occupying, or observing, the workings of your mind. 

As many of the characters in the 7th century BCE Sanskrit epic mythological poem Ramayana find, it is actually particularly useful in a crisis, such as when you’ve been banished to a forest in exile or kidnapped by a demon. Now as then, there is absolutely no need to start meditating with a clear head. Achieving some mental clarity, and the ability to think straight and see the bigger picture, is one of the most sought-after benefits of mediation rather than a requirement for practicing it. 

 

Myth 2: Meditation involves sitting still for hours at a time

 

Although the archetypal conceptual image of meditation involves a person sitting, cross-legged, in tranquil surroundings, one of the principal characteristics of meditation – and a factor in its indomitable endurance as a human pursuit – is the fact that you can do it anywhere, in any context. Although there are some traditional poses which you might like to adopt, the salient characteristic of your meditation position is that you feel sufficiently comfortable in it to concentrate during your practice – this can vary depending on factors like your age, body type, and any physical limitations. 

From Sufi whirling to kundalini yoga, meditation can be practiced in all manner of traditional positions and movements, but – for the less contortion-curious – it is also perfectly possible to access the benefits of meditation by bringing techniques into your consciousness as you move through the day. With mantra meditation, for example, the time it takes to wait for the bus can become a glade of restorative possibilities within a seemingly back-to-back, hectic schedule. 

 

Myth 3: Meditation is a challenge to relax 

 

You’ve set aside time to meditate. You’ve listened to today’s exercise on your new meditation app. Just like you did yesterday. And the day before. And now you’re exhausted, because you’ve been up since 6:30 am. You’re also infinitesimally more anxious by the second about how you’ll manage to do everything tomorrow, on top of everything you didn’t quite finish doing today. If this sounds familiar, you may also be acquainted with a sensation of having “failed” or “missed the trick” to meditation. 

The chances are that, technically, you’re doing everything perfectly, and you are perhaps simply yet to find the right meditation technique for you. The potential benefits of meditation are so great, however, that it’s worth exploring a variety of techniques, and consulting a well-respected teacher, in order to discover your personal pathway into meditation. 

 

Myth 4: Done properly, meditation should stop you thinking about other things

 

Akin to the common misperception that you need to start your meditation practice with a clear head, there is also a widespread myth that your meditation practice is somehow unsuccessful if your day-to-day worries, wonderings and current groundswells of emotion crop up. In actual fact, some forms of meditation, particularly mindfulness meditation, are specifically designed to interact with whatever thoughts and feelings arise. The technique involves learning to observe your ideas as they burgeon, rather than letting them take you on new journeys. 

Many people consider it easier to jump aboard one particular train of thought than to resist boarding any of the other trains that pass through the station of your mind during the session. In Beeja meditation, which is based on the oldest form of meditation in the world, rather than attempting to not get sucked into any of the tunnels offered by your thoughts, you concentrate your mind on silently thinking your own personal mantra. And, liberatingly, there is no “done properly” to aim for. Your mantra becomes deeply imbued with your personal energy the more you use it, rendering everyone’s meditative experience unique. 

 

Myth 5: Meditation produces instant results 

 

Of all the meditation myths, this is the one that sends most people, confused and a bit disgruntled, into the toxic “tried it; it wasn’t for me” headspace – a realm it can take years to emerge from before you’re ready to dip another toe in the shallows of your higher consciousness. Once you’ve found a meditation practice that works for you, you will start to feel subtle – and then increasingly profound – shifts in your thought patterns and the way you process situations. 

The unfolding of these changes, and your awareness of them, might span days, weeks, or months. There is no set of prefab targets to hit for “effective meditation,” and neither will you emerge from your first session – nor your 120th! – with “all the answers.” Instead, there’s time to chill (even if, like meditation itself, this is an art you’re yet to master…). 

 

Myth 6: Meditation is a surefire way of having ‘otherworldly experiences’

 

From many of the viral depictions and descriptions of meditation, you’d be forgiven for thinking that you’ll leave your body during the session, entering a nebulous starlit hyperspace. 

The keys to spiritual enlightenment will glisten invitingly on little gossamer pillows, you imagine, proffered by invisible, galactic agents of the cosmos. As you reach out your tentacle – tumescent with unfamiliar energies, yet strangely familiar; it’s yours, after all – you will grasp each key with a wave of deep recognition. “Well done,” you’ll say to yourself as your timer beeps and your 20 minutes of meditation is up, “you went for ‘the Classic’ again, and you smashed it.” Unless, of course, you didn’t. Which, for most people, will be the case every time. 

Transcendental experiences in meditation can and do occur, but they’re different for everyone, and very rarely fit – or even remotely resemble – any of the stereotypes. As you get deeper into your practice, it is increasingly likely that new and unfamiliar experiences will open up to you. However, preparing for, or worse, courting, these experiences is a surefire way to be disappointed. Let the cosmos, and any stray cephalopod fantasies therein, come to you. 

 

Myth 7: Meditation is a religious practice

 

There are so many religions, and traditions, which involve meditation, that it’s easy to see where the misconception that it is a religious practice comes from. However, although it is frequently practiced in a religious context, there is nothing religious about meditation itself. Especially, if it is taught and practiced in a secular setting. Becoming familiar with a meditation technique in its own right will allow you to begin reaping the benefits of meditation in a way that is meaningful for you, without reference to any of the myriad religious schools of thought associated with it.

 

From myth to urban legend: Beeja is meditation for everyone 

 

Having thoroughly delineated what meditation is not, we’d like to leave you with an idea of what it is. Although there are as many definitions of meditation as there are traditions and techniques, at its essence, it is a means of befriending your mind. 

Beeja meditation, for instance, is a relationship that you create between yourself, and the words that form your mantra. While other meditation practices out there may draw on religious principles or symbology, mantra-based is truly a technique which is about the individual. It is a personal journey with a holistic focus on you. Contact us today to find out more about how to begin your exploration of Beeja meditation, or to sign up for our courses and classes

Words by Rosalind Stone

This entry was posted in blog.

The Best Spots in London For Summertime Meditation

best spots in london for summetime meditation

 

Meditating outside has to be one of life’s great pleasures – and with summer well and truly settled in, it’s something we’ll get to do a whole lot more in the coming months! Luckily, London is one of the world’s greenest cities, so the opportunity to relax in nature is never that far away. If you would like a little inspiration for taking your meditation practice out into the wider world, here are some of the best spots in London for meditating under blues skies and sunshine.

 

Hoxton Square

Sometimes, the best place to be is right on your doorstep. Our meditation centre is situated on Hoxton Square in Shoreditch, and if we fancy unwinding outside, then the green space outside our door is the perfect place. 

As this garden was laid out in 1683, it is thought to be one of the oldest squares in London. Now a buzzing community hub which is the centre of the arts and cultural scene in Shoreditch, Hoxton Square is rarely quiet – but with our meditation technique, that doesn’t matter.

 

Regents Park

We have a particular affection for Regents Park, which combines airy open spaces with manicured gardens and elegant tree-lined pathways. There are more than 12,000 roses in Queen Mary’s Gardens, and contemplating the perfection of these flowers will put you in the ideal mood to settle down and let your meditation practice take you to a place of pure tranquility.

 

St. James’s Square

St. James’s Square is perhaps one of the most famous, and most impressive, squares in London. With such fascinating history and architecture surrounding this location, as well as admirable public art within it, exploring for half an hour before meditating on the grassy lawn is a great lunch-break option.

 

Epping forest

Head a little out of the city to discover Epping forest, an ancient woodland and former royal hunting ground. There have been trees here since 1000 BCE (which makes you wonder if you’ll spot a Green Man, or even a couple of Ents) and archaeological investigation has unearthed some of Britain’s oldest human activity here, in the form of worked flints. They aren’t many places where you can just minutes from a motorway but feel immersed in glorious countryside, which makes this a great location for nature-loving Londoners.

 

Tavistock Square

Got a spare hour before jumping on a train from Euston or St Pancras? Head to Tavistock Square and catch a bit of a breather. Designed in 1806, the highlight of this square is the statue of Mahatma Gandhi, sculpted by Fredda Brilliant and installed in 1968 – and there’s lots of other art to enjoy here too.  

 

Queen’s Wood

Another ancient woodland situated in Haringey, this nature reserve is another retreat from the city that offers the perfect opportunity to enjoy meditation under a canopy of leaves. This wood is thought to be a descendant of the original wildwood that stretched across the majority of Britain 5,000 years ago, and any keen birdwatchers among you will have the chance to spot one of the three species of woodpecker that live here.

 

Along the Thames

One of the pleasures of living in London is all the fantastic walks you can take along the length of The Thames – the heart of this city. Make this experience all the more wonderful by choosing a couple of particularly lovely places to stop and practice your daily meditation. Not only might you get a bit of a tan in the process, you will also discover places you may never have visited by allowing yourself to wander where the river takes you.

 

Mayfair, Brown Hart Gardens

Found yourself feeling overwhelmed on Oxford Street? Escape to The Brown Hart Gardens, a peaceful raised terraced garden in Mayfair that’s located (rather surprisingly) above an electricity sub-station. This small oasis isn’t as grand or leafy as other spaces in London, but it is beautifully designed and a convenient antidote to shopping stress.

These are just a few of our suggestions, but with Beeja meditation, you really can meditate anywhere you want – the power of your mantra and the simplicity of the technique lets you find quiet even in the busiest of settings. So whether you head to a gorgeous Royal Park or duck into your favourite cafe, you can enjoy the peace and stillness of meditation wherever you are.

Words by Holly Ashby 

This entry was posted in blog.

Beeja Recommends: Our Favourite Restaurants in London

favourite London restaurants

 

If you’ve ever been on one of our meditation retreats, you’ll know that we take dinner pretty seriously here at Beeja. In fact, we’d go as far as to say that we spend a good 30% of our time thinking about it. The enchanting alchemy of cooking is a whole constellation of joy, whether we’ve bubbled and stirred to create something ourselves, or have come together to enjoy a meal that another person has lovingly prepared.

Witness people sharing a feast together, and you often see humanity at its most happy, present and generous (well, until there’s only one poppadom left, in which case prepare for some steely-eyed rivalry!). This is why we think that good restaurants deserve recognition – they pour untold levels of energy into creating something wonderful, and in turn they bring out the best in us! Here’s a short selection of our favourites, right on the doorstep in London.  

Note: The majority of our choices are vegan and vegetarian-friendly.

 

Ganapati South Indian Kitchen – Peckham

http://www.ganapatirestaurant.com/index.html

Inspired by the home-cooking and street food of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, Ganapati is a colourful and laid-back restaurant which really stands out from the crowd. While “authentic” is an overused word, is really does apply here – with their select menu showcasing some of the best of south Indian cuisine. With moreish homemade breads, tangy pickles and luscious curries, there’s so much to enjoy here. 

Ganapati isn’t fully vegan or vegetarian, but everything including dairy is clearly labelled, and much of the food on offer is vegetarian – as well as utterly delicious. 

Unsurprisingly, it’s very popular, so it’s best to plan ahead if you want a table!

 

Spinach – East Dulwich

http://www.spinach.london/

This South London gem is a beautifully designed, vegetable-centric restaurant that serves everything from spinach and cumin pancakes at breakfast time to roasted cauliflower kormas over a leisurely evening meal. The bright and leafy interiors are lovely to relax in, and while (once again) it isn’t a vegetarian restaurant, the meat-free options are varied and carefully considered. 

 

Ottolenghi – Various London Locations

https://ottolenghi.co.uk/

Ottolenghi is such a legend in plant-focused cookery that he should probably be crowned and ascended to a vegetable throne – and luckily he has restaurants all across London! His sleek and well-loved delis serve Middle-Eastern inspired food which aim to showcase veg at its best, and each is slightly different from the other. You can dive into a beautiful bounty of food, with the use of Ottolenghi’s signature spices (za’atar, dukkah, sumac and mahlab) making everything you decide to indulge in sing with flavour. 

 

Caravan – Various London Locations

https://www.caravanrestaurants.co.uk/

Caravan facilitates all-day dining at their five London restaurants. With their interesting fusion menu offering sourdough pizzas, buttermilk hotcakes, chilli-salt tofu and all sorts of other treats, it’s a great place to enjoy something informal and relaxed. If nothing else, it’s very worth popping to your local outfit to see why The Telegraph is raving about Caravan’s cornbread, which the reviewer insists “changed my destiny”. 

 

Hemsley + Hemsley Cafe – Selfridges

http://www.hemsleyandhemsley.com/home/cafe/

Jasmine and Melissa are a pair of foodie sisters who have a passion for nutritious, healthy food, and Hemsley + Hemsley is their first eatery – opened after the success of their books and TV show. Boasting a minimal, Japanese-inspired aesthetic and a menu of organic, seasonal food, everything served here is gluten free, uses no refined sugar and steers clear of hydrogenated fats. But these health credentials are far from the only draw  – Hemsley + Hemsley’s meal are both substantial and delicious, with none of the dry fussiness sometimes associated with healthier cooking. 

Try their golden chai latte for something warming and soothing, and go for their full afternoon tea to experience an interesting twist on an English classic. 

 

100 Hoxton – Shoreditch

https://100hoxton.com/

100 Hoxton is one of the coolest-looking places in Shoreditch and has lots of great morsels – includings plenty of vegan and vegetarian choices. The food is served tapas-style, and the prices are very reasonable so you can fill up your table for a real feast. 

 

Chutney Mary – London’s West End

http://www.chutneymary.com/

Chutney Mary is another exceptional Indian restaurant, with a menu that’s full to the brim with vegetarian goodies. Their food changes with the seasons and is, as described in Time Out, of “astonishing quality” – while the decor is another marvel. Perfect for a special occasion, this upscale restaurant is known for impeccable service and elevated cookery, spoiling diners with gourmet versions of Indian classics. It’s a unique experience, and one that has earned Chutney Mary a certificate of excellence on Tripadvisor. 

 

Deliciously Ella’s Deli – Mayfair

https://deliciouslyella.com/our-delis/weighhouse-street/ 

Deliciously Ella is everyone’s’ favourite wellness writer, and her popularity has continued to soar with her vegetarian London deli. Just 100 yards from Oxford street but hidden on a quiet corner, here you can enjoy guilt-free treats like banana bread, Matcha lattes and an unctuous Tuscan bean stew, and escape the hustle of the city. 

 

Cinnamon Club – Westminster

http://cinnamonclub.com/menus/

The Cinnamon Club is a Westminster institution, serving Indian food in a book-lined dining room that looks only a little less grand than the library in Beauty and the Beast. Providing pan-Indian cuisine to a fine-dining standard, all within the gentleman-club-like surroundings of a Grade II-listed Victorian building, the Cinnamon Club is combines the traditional and innovative in a way which has made it a firm favourite. 

CEO Vivek Singh and head chef Rakesh Ravindran Nair came up with the latest menu after a million pound refurbishment – make sure to check it out if you ever fancy a treat! 

Words by Holly Ashby

This entry was posted in blog.

A Meditation On Forgiveness

meditation on forgiveness

 

A meditation on forgiveness from Will Williams. 

A few years ago, I remember teaching a billionairess who emphasised over and over again the importance of forgiveness.

Whilst I obviously acknowledged its significance, I must admit I struggled to relate to her prioritisation of it over all other considerations. However, as time has gone on, I feel I’ve begun to understand just why she had seen the light on this.

You see, so much of what holds us back is the web of entangled emotions we have about people and events in our lives. We feel hard done by, misunderstood, betrayed, hurt, let down, unnecessarily treated, bitter, resentful and so many other things, by so many actors, and our tendency is to bury and disassociate from it, or try and change the storyline so that it’s less hurtful.

Or perhaps, we may even project hatred and resentment back in the direction of the people we feel have hurt or attacked us. But that ends up hurting us far more than the person we are directing it at.

And the limiting effect of it goes way beyond simply locking us into a state of dissatisfaction. It is a bitter poison that will prevent us from ever reaching our full potential. It will render us locked out of the possibilities of each and every moment, and it will cause us to walk a path that leads to nowhere.

We will cycle around in the same old patterns, until one day, when we’ve had enough, we will finally breakthrough. But why not start by now? As Nelson Mandela pondered as he was leaving prison after 27 year of unjust internment:

“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”  

So how can we move beyond such hates? How can we elevate ourselves to the point where we no longer feel affected by the so called injustices of others?

Well doing a twice a day meditation practise makes a helluva difference, because it will help loosen the emotional charge associated with life’s events. As well as doing the inner work that creates the space for real and genuine transformational change to occur, we need to go further. We need to be willing to shift our attitude and our paradigm to embrace forgiveness for all hurts.

We are wise to seize the day every single time we find ourselves in a place of higher perspective and just send the people we have emotional entanglements with a little pulse of recognition and understanding that yes, what went down wasn’t ideal, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s all ok, because we are still here, and if we allow ourselves, we can grow through everything, and become a stronger, wiser person.

But we only become truly strong, when we let go of the weakness that insists on being a victim to life’s misfortunes. Is it easy? No, it most certainly isn’t. But is it necessary for the most powerful growth to occur? Yes, it is. So much so, that without it, we are incarcerated. Possibly with a life sentence hanging over our heads, when the road to freedom lies within our grasp.

So when you wake up feeling all chill in your alpha state, or you get to the end of your meditation, see if you can offer all those people who you’ve felt hurt by some real and genuine forgiveness. Understand that they too are hurting, and that may be driving their behaviour, because if they were free of all pain and hurt, they would offer nothing but love, wisdom, and playfulness to those they encounter.

If you’re doing this, please also remember, it is essential we forgive ourselves. For any and all ‘mistakes’ we have made. We are all human. We all make mistakes. We all err, and we all self destruct at times. It’s part of the learning process of life. So if you can focus on the lessons, and not the errors, then you open up the space to forgive yourself and forget the past. And when you do that, forgiving others becomes way easier.

Words by Will Williams

This entry was posted in blog.

The Meditation In Schools Initiative

meditation in schools initiative Sky News

 

“Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.”

Socrates

In February 2019, we were privileged enough to bring the transformative practice of meditation to children at Islington’s New North Academy. As part of an initiative to support and protect the mental health of children, who are under increasing pressure in the modern world, our meditation lessons for children were featured on ITV and Sky News – an amazing acknowledgement of the importance of stress reduction for children today.

 

Watch our Meditation in Schools Initiative segment on ITV news.  

 

It seems that we learn something new about the troubling impact of modern society has on the mental health of children on a near-monthly basis. Whether it’s the pressure of social media, family financial stress causing anxiety even for the smallest members, or issues such as bullying, children can have a lot to contend with. The knock-on effect on children’s (and the adults they grow into) mental health is profound, requiring urgent efforts across various sectors of society to relieve undue pressure on young people, help them manage their emotions and fully support them as they grow.

Research has found that three in four mental illnesses start in childhood, 10% of children aged 5-16 are suffering from a diagnosed mental health issue and – most worryingly – suicide is the biggest killer for both men and women aged 20-34.

 

The statistics are stark, but none of this is inevitable. We can work to change things for the better for our children and young people.

 

When we went into New North Academy, the children chatted a little to ITV news about the things that make them feel stressed. From saying “when there’s so much stuff I need to do, and I can’t do it all at once” to “I keep turning and it’s hard for me to fall asleep”, their experiences of stress are surprisingly adult for kids of just eight years old. The school is planning on making meditation a daily activity to try to reduce this stress, and help kids do what should come most naturally to them – to exist in the moment.

Will Williams, our founder and one of Europe’s leading meditation experts, guided these children in an age-appropriate meditation lesson but believes that the most important thing is rest, saying: “Even if children have a 10 or 15-minute break, they don’t have to meditation – if they just close their eyes and rest or breathe or anything like that, then it helps their brain reboot.” Meditation is a means through which children can find this rest, giving them space in the day where nothing is expected of them and they can simply be.

Teaching children practical skills such as Beeja meditation helps them to recognise and develop into their own unique essence and fullest potential. It helps to activate their creativity and problem-solving skills, increases their brains’ bandwidth and soothes their nervous systems so that they are more resilient when dealing with stress.

 

meditation in schools

Will Williams on Sky News discussing meditation for children

⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

When Will appeared on Sky News with Julia Riese, Head of Special Needs at Islington’s New North Academy, they spoke about the prevalence of mental health issues among children and how equipping them with meditation gives them practical tools that will make a huge impact in reducing stress, performing better academically, being more resilient, balanced and conscious and setting them up to thrive, and not merely survive.

It is our hope that we can teach as many schools how to meditate for free as possible. This is just the start of what is shaping up to be a huge project that will help our future generations be the happiest, healthiest and most balanced they can be.

Words by Holly Ashby 

This entry was posted in blog.

How to Stop the Winter Blues Overwhelming You At Work

how to stop the winter blues overwhelming you at work

 

At this time of year, we can all find ourselves a little bogged down in the winter blues. Waking up and travelling in the dark, niggly seasonal illnesses and the fact that Spring still feels very far away can make dragging ourselves out of bed to get to work feel like the last thing we want to do. With work-related stress, tiredness and even burnout a problem in our professional lives even at the best of times, issues such as Seasonal Affective Disorder and the winter blues can add that bit of extra strain.

The Health and Safety Executive reports that 40% of work-related illnesses were down to unsustainable levels of stress, and with so many of us feeling low when it’s cold and dark, it can be even harder to deal with work stress. But if we can’t run off to the Bahamas every winter for an extended holiday, what can we do to stop the winter blues from overwhelming us at work?

Look into Corporate Wellbeing.

Corporate wellbeing is no substitute for fair breaks, reasonable working hours and competent management, but when we are feeling stressed at work corporate wellbeing techniques can go a long way in making us feel better. The foremost of these is meditation, which can be easily practised in the workplace. We can use meditation to handle anxiety, up our productivity and reduce stress. Just eight weeks of regular meditation has been shown in brain scans to physically change the makeup of our mind and make us less prone to feeling stressed out, which can make the affect winter has on our mood less profound.

Other ways we can bring wellbeing into our working life during winter is making sure we get away from our work desk or station to get as much natural light as possible. Going on a short walk gives us the distance we need when work is threatening to overwhelm us, while also letting us see some daylight when it’s in short supply. This is particularly important if our winter commute to and from work takes place in the dark.

Push Yourself to Say No.

If we’ve found ourselves feeling constantly exhausted and overwhelmed at work during the winter, the likelihood is that we’ve taken on too much. It can be difficult to express ourselves when talking to those in positions of authority, but if our superior wants us to complete a task and experience tells us it will put too much on our plate, we can make sure that we communicate this.

If they insist, then the responsibility is on them to justify why the task isn’t complete satisfactorily, as they were forewarned and made their own decision. It’s important to stand firm, and to not take responsibility for tasks we don’t have the time or resources to complete.

This extends to our personal life. Lots of us can benefit from extra rest during the winter, so if we know that we’ve got a particularly demanding day at work lined up, we can make sure to turn down any social engagements that could add extra pressure, and let ourselves off any chores or life admin that day. We should also take extra care not to miss sleep when it’s dark and cold, so staying up regularly to get work finished is a bad idea – we should leave it to the morning.

Re-Prioritise and Switch Off.

If we are conscientious and prone to perfectionism, we can make our working life a bigger priority than it needs to be. It can be difficult if it’s not in our nature, but when we are struggling, occasionally shrugging our shoulders and thinking “never mind” when something doesn’t go to plan can do wonders for our state of mind.

When we are tired, suffering with a cold or just generally fed up, prioritising our most important tasks and letting the small things go is a pretty sensible strategy. We can’t always been at 100% productivity, and throughout our history those in seasonal climates have slowed down and rested during the winter – even our stone-age ancestors probably hid a cave with supplies created during warmer months when winter rolled around.

Perhaps most importantly, we need to ensure that we do truly switch off. Getting home and reading our work emails may not feel like a bad thing, but it keeps work on our mind even if we aren’t stressing about it at that moment.

No job is worth our health, no matter how far we’re climbing up the career ladder or how much we need the money. Furthermore, stress negatively affects our work performance and can even lead to burnout, which makes it difficult to work at all. Putting ourselves first when we are suffering with the winter blues will not only improve our wellbeing, it could make us happier and more productive in our career as well.

Words by Holly Ashby

This entry was posted in blog.

Modern Life is Stressful – Why Meditation is the Answer

Modern Life is Stressful - Why Meditation is the Answer

 

In many ways, it seems churlish to argue that life isn’t now is more comfortable, convenient and prosperous than it has ever has been. While our ancestors spent their days grubbing up roots for a mud-and-onion stew, getting tormented by Vikings or diligently developing scurvy, we get to sit around eating pizzas and watching Poldark. It’s undeniably fantastic! Yet with anxiety and stress swiftly becoming pressing health issues, it seems that despite our advantages there’s something amiss.

When we acknowledge that modern life is stressful, and ask if meditation is the answer, we need to consider exactly why society (as it’s organised now) is making so many of us feel so pent up. It seems clear that there’s something about we humans and the way we’ve decided to live that’s driving us to distraction. You can look at pretty much anything else in the animal kingdom and they seem more chilled, even the animals that have legitimate concerns about being savaged by lions – so where are we going wrong?

Life, stress and feeling the pressure

If you often struggle through work, think you can’t keep up with everything you have to do, and want the world to just stand still for a moment so you can collapse in a heap, you are probably one of the many people who is finding it hard to cope with the pressure of modern life. A thousand tiny worries create a haze of exhaustion and stress, something that has unfortunately been accepted as the new normal.

There is a variety of factors that contribute to this feeling. The drip-drip effect of small stresses all add up; from the moment the alarm shocks us out of our natural sleep, to reading worrying news stories on our smartphones before we drop off (often a little later than we planned to). This has only got more intense as technology has advanced, and we can often find ourselves receiving office emails at 10 pm, never getting the chance to truly switch off.

Modern technology means we are always socially “on”, checking social media profiles, maintaining an image of ourselves (known as our “personal brand”) and interacting with friends. The result is that we are always engaged with the world, performing socially even in moments where we are alone and seemingly winding down.  

The other aspect of this information overload is that we have become surrounded by advertising, perpetuating the idea that there’s always something that we need. Trying to measure up to an unattainable, marketing-born ideal can cause lots of anxiety and strain. Worrying about wrinkles, agonising over outfits and stressing out because we can’t afford a holiday this year may seem trivial, but it can place real barriers in the way of contentment and happiness.

Many of these issues are the result of the modern world evolving faster than our physiology. Our response to stress evolved in order to help us run or fight for our lives in times of danger, and our body reacts accordingly. It does this by releasing stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, raising our heart rate and redirecting energy to our muscles in order to cope with the immediate peril.

Because these threats were few and far between, our bodies were designed to have long periods of rest between stressful moments. Then the hormones and other bodily responses could dissipate and return to normal, but now we are eliciting this response more regularly than is good for us.

An overload of stress hormones makes us feel pretty terrible – negatively affecting our immune system, mental wellbeing and making it hard to get a good night’s sleep. Our 24 hour, on-the-go world and all its attendant pressures means that it’s more important than ever to take care of ourselves.

How Meditation Helps Us

Self-care in the form of meditation offers a profound rest and gives us a much-needed respite from the stresses of the modern world. Simply ensuring we know when to say “no” and take some time for ourselves is vital in a world where we are encouraged to be constantly busy, and can even feel guilty or lazy when we need to relax. Becoming conscious of our own stress levels and taking time out when they have become overwhelming is hugely important, and will help us find modern life much less stressful.

Meditation encourages a bodily reaction which is pretty much the exact opposite of the stress response. Instead of “fight or flight”, we foster “rest and repair”, finding levels of relaxation which can be extremely elusive in our society. With this, we can cultivate a calm and clarity that will help us work smarter, rest more often and make better judgements for ourselves.

When our thinking is clouded by stress, we can lack the ability to perceive situations as they truly are and find that we are so lacking in energy that with have neither the motivation or adaptability to change our circumstance. By becoming that little bit more relaxed and happier with meditation, it becomes much easier to consider change – for instance, by asking ourselves whether we’re really enjoying our current job role and if perhaps there isn’t some capacity to change things for the better with a couple of bold moves.

Perhaps the most exciting thing about meditation, however, is the potential to change the world we live in. There is nothing inevitable about structural problems we face – from rampant consumerism to climate change – and through meditation, we can begin to make more compassionate, long-sighted and thoughtful decisions for ourselves and the world around us. The small, individual transformations which are facilitated through meditation, such as a greater capacity for kindness and understanding, could have a huge impact on the way humanity operates as a whole – which we think is a pretty amazing prospect.

Words by Holly Ashby

This entry was posted in blog.

Our Highlights of 2018!

 

Happy New Year everyone! We’ve got a very exciting year ahead of us at Beeja Meditation, but before all that, we think it’s the right time to pause, reflect and look back over 2018.

For many of us, the New Year is a psychologically powerful time. We are irresistibly drawn to the concepts of rebirth, renewal and the chance to start afresh – casting off the baggage of the year that’s gone by and embracing everything that’s exciting as the new one rolls around.

But before we dive into all the “New Year, New Me” fervour and truly get to grips with all the hopes and dreams we have for 2019, we are going to take a peek at everything we’re proud of from the last year – and delight in some pretty brilliant memories too!

 

The Beeja Meditation Podcasts – February

https://willwilliamsmeditation.podbean.com/will williams and howard donald

Early in 2018, we had the absolute pleasure of interviewing some very wonderful people for the Beeja podcast, listening to their favourite songs while exploring subjects close to their hearts – and meditation was a common theme!

With the very knowledgeable and always amiable Jasmine Hemsley, we discussed her journey to Ayurveda, favourite songs and totally delicious golden milk recipe. Touching on subjects from industrialised agriculture to the danceable tunes of 2003, it was a fascinating chat. Madeleine Shaw was also a wonderful interviewee, talking about her pregnancy with insight and honesty, while also giving great advice on finding balance and how to cook the yummiest healthy food. 

Super entrepreneur Sam Branson was equally candid and perceptive, exploring an issue which affects many of us – anxiety – and the power of meditation to overcome it. Chatting with Will about the power of business to do good in the world and the way forward for education, this conversation gave us plenty to think about. Take That’s Howard Donald joined us to take us through how meditation (a practice he was relatively new too) increased his creativity and helped him with the rigours of touring while managing his responsibilities as a dad of four, as well as offering us his refreshing and thoughtful perspective on many other subjects.

 

 

will williams los angeles sunset sound

April – Shavasana Disco Breaks America!

For the first time ever, in 2018 Shavasana Disco (our meditation and music event) left London and winged its way to Sunset Sound Studio in the USA! A truly iconic location, Sunset Sound Studio was where Prince recorded the sublime album Purple Rain – one of our absolute favourites! So we packed our bags, jumped on a flight to Los Angeles and lead a guided meditation in this most inspiring of settings, before enjoying a full album playback of Purple Rain in the very place that it was created. How can life get any better? 🎵🎤🎸

 

 

 

 

the effortless mind

In May, Will Williams Published His First Book, The Effortless Mind

A huge personal achievement for our founder and a source of pride for the whole team, The Effortless Mind was published with Simon and Schuster on May 3rd and documents the personal stories of those whose lives have been transformed by meditation, as well as the science and history behind this ancient technique.

The Effortless Mind is a fascinating exploration of the problems we are experiencing in the modern world due to stress, overwork and constant activity, and how meditation can be a compelling antidote to these problems. Eye-opening, honest, down-to-earth and potentially life-changing, The Effortless Mind is both a must-read and one of our fondest memories of 2018!

 

 

World Meditation Day, May 15th

Akala World Meditation DayWe had an absolutely amazing time at Fabric in London on World Meditation Day. Taking this marvelous location – famous for late nights, dancing, music and indulgence – and creating an evening filled with a different kind of hedonism was perhaps the most fun we had all year!

Cutting out the booze, adding a touch of meditation and preserving everything that makes Fabric special all formed an occasion where people could have a Big Night Out, but without the hangover. The super-talented DJs and musicians B.Traits, Jordan Rakei and Akala kept us all entertained, while Jasmine Hemsley’s Sound Sebastien opened the evening with a beautiful sound bath.

The performers and attendees all did so much to make this a unique and completely positive event – chilled out yet vibrant, and full of music, laughter, fun and relaxation. And our very own Will Williams didn’t only lead a guided meditation, he shared a poem with everyone!

 

June/July – The World Cup! Will Williams young

No football fan can mention the highlights of 2018 without a nod to The World Cup. The last time England were in a World Cup semi-final this is what Will looked like (which may give some indication of how long ago that was! 😉😂) and wasn’t it fantastic seeing the whole country get ridiculously excited over the nation’s favourite game?

 

Moving to Shoreditch

shoreditch meditation space

 

It’s always been a dream to open a centre in Shoreditch, so this year we decided to make the jump and move our main centre East. We headed to 45 Hoxton Square in the wonderful area of Shoreditch, and absolutely love the look of our new meditation space – as well as its vibrant new location! It was only a few years ago that we opened our meditation centre, and seeing how much it’s grown is a lovely thing, with our team having taught over 3000 people in the art of meditation since then.

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to all the wonderful people who were part of our 2018, it’s been an absolutely lovely year and we can’t wait for the next one! Happy 2019 everyone!

This entry was posted in blog.