In the final part of this series, Emma Hawthorne discusses the difference between mindfulness and meditation. She shares her approach to meditation, and reflects on how yoga has helped her as a professional performer.
Whenever you sit to practice meditation, you are essentially sitting with yourself and your thoughts. This can be hard if you don’t have a good relationship with yourself and have a lot of mental chatter. Generally in meditation we start with some kind of anchor, something we can concentrate on – usually the breath, a sound, a guiding voice or mantra.
Thoughts will generally keep coming, but we practice slowing down the amount of thoughts or even intercepting them by coming back to the anchor before they fully develop and lead us on tangents. Although you may not become thoughtless or enter into some state of bliss, you are practising connecting with your breath, and slowing down, detouring or even changing your thoughts.
This is usually the difference between ‘mindfulness’ and ‘meditation’. When we are concentrating and placing our awareness on something we are being mindful. This helps lead us into meditation, where the flow of thoughts does cease and concepts such as space and time can lose their meaning.
As a professional performer, I practise yoga every day – whether that’s a physical practice, breath work or meditation. On a physical level, I have found a more balanced level of flexibility and strength, giving me freedom of movement in my dancing. Through holding challenging postures, I find another level of mental resilience and self belief. Connecting to my body mindfully also helps me to listen to what my body needs and helps to avoid injury and burn-out. I also find I am a lot calmer and able to access more peaceful states in stressful situations, such as auditions and opening night performances. And on a spiritual level, I have become not only more peaceful but also more courageous and open-minded.
The benefits of yoga are endless and very personal. There are a variety of types of yoga readily available these days either through studios, online courses or apps, so follow your curiosity and find what styles and teachers resonate with you. But just remember, if you’re thinking of embarking on some kind of yoga practice, in the wise words of the 90s Pantene ads: It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen.
Take Yoga with Emma on Saturdays at 8.30am.