What is Meditation and How it Can Help You Overcome Anxiety

Jake Ferree is a fitness expert for the body and the mind. He is a personal trainer who also teaches yoga, breathwork, and meditation. We love to attend Jake’s classes because he is very passionate and teach from his heart. People always leave classes grateful, with a sense of peace and joy. In this article, we discuss the importance of self-love, Jake shares what meditation is to him and gives us some meditation techniques to try at home. You can also join one of his online classes.

Where are you from and what you do?

Jake: I am originally from Reno, Nevada, and I have been in Los Angeles for the last 15 years. I am a fitness expert for the mind and the body.

How did you discover yoga and meditation?

I was very much into just personal training. The gym I was working at was offering yoga classes. I had done yoga in the past but I never really felt the connection before. This time, I decided to commit for a month and see what would happen. My body was so tight and not functional. In week 3, I had this “aha moment” that completely shifted my entire life, I was able to come into a pose in the practice that earlier on sounded completely impossible.

What happened after that is the impossible became possible and I was able to apply that to all aspects of my life. That changed my complete mindset.

Meditation was a longer journey than yoga. When I first started teaching it was more physically based. Towards the third or fourth year, this is when I started going a little deeper into myself and into the practice, and that is when I started meditating and doing breathwork.

What is your favorite quote?

You don’t have to be great to start but you do have to start to be great.

How do you adjust your life with your community with what is going on?

I have been adapting as quickly as I can. Everything that I was doing before, I am now doing online. That includes my training clients, as well as my yoga and meditation clients. I’ve been putting more work into live stream videos, online yoga videos, and meditations. I have had an online yoga platform for over three years called Vinasaya Vault that has now over 80 yoga videos, meditations, and tutorials on it. Since all this happened, it has been more on people’s radar.

It has been very surprising to notice how you are able to feel the energy of a group on a platform like Zoom. It has been really surprising how much it feels like a group class, it is really cool!

You were a speaker for a Headspace event last year where you shared a difficult moment in your personal life. Can you share the importance of visualization, self-love, and self-respect to overcome low confidence and challenges in life?

I believe that in order to truly make any kind of lasting accomplishment, you have to be already feeling it within yourself. I noticed yoga brings up whatever is going on in your life, and in a way, it is able to cleanse it and release the blockages within the body and the mind. Through that, we end up having realizations.

For me, one of the biggest realizations I have had happened in savasana (a pose often used for relaxation at the end of a session), I had another aha moment, and I asked myself: What would it be like if you would treat yourself like a friend? It helped me notice I wasn’t treating myself nicely at all. The talk I would have in my own head was abusive. I wouldn’t talk this way to a friend, not even to an enemy.

That moment completely changed my entire life because how I treat myself now is very different than how I used to treat myself before. I try to fill myself up with as much love and positivity as I can and be forgiving because we all make mistakes. One thing I really feel is that when we are able to drop into this place of self-love, we are able to shine and that can be felt by everybody else and inspire people to do the same.

Speaking of self-love, what are your wellness habits?

I have some rituals that I do every single day and It starts first thing in the morning. As soon as I wake up, I “get up and sit up” which means I meditate first thing and I do it for 20-30 minutes. From there, I do some reading, there are a few books I am currently reading, a few self-realization books and I recently started adding poetry to morning rituals. Then, I will have my coffee, walk my dog and I usually start my day with a class or a client. Usually, by the end of the day, I unwind and disconnect from my mind in a way, and I just relax on the couch and watch some TV.

Can you tell us what is meditation?

For me, meditation is how quickly can you be aware when the mind goes somewhere else and redirect it. Usually, you are either sitting still or laying down and you have something to focus on, whether it is your breath, a mantra, or a guided journey. Sometimes, it is a guided meditation journey where you work with your imagination.

What I try to do is stay fully present in the moment and when the mind starts to sneak away (and it will), how quickly can I be aware of it and redirect it back. Back into the moment.

Perhaps, do you have meditation techniques to give us?

There are a lot of different apps that can help. It’s challenging to just sit and meditate. I like the meditation apps because they usually give somebody something to focus on and help keep them present. One thing that I find very beneficial for myself and people I work with is a guided journey meditation where you work with your imagination. As an example, imagine yourself at a beach, can you feel the sand on your feet, can you smell the ocean? This kind of meditation allows you to visualize, to be present with your own imagination, and to help get you out of the chatter of the mind.

You can also just focus on the breath, basically just giving you something to focus on. That is the key behind it. Start with something to focus on, whether it is the breath, a guided meditation, or a mantra, meaning “a tool for a mind”. What usually people do is pick up a word or an affirmation, for example “I am powerful”. You basically repeat that mantra in your mind throughout the meditation to keep you present.

Start off small and just take baby steps. Maybe the first day you will do three minutes, the next day try five minutes. Your mind will try to get you to sneak away, so be forgiving.

And what are the main benefits of meditation?

For me, one of the main benefits I have received from meditation is it helps create more time. What I mean by “creating more time” is that meditation helps ease the mind and it helps to get rid of this aspect of us thinking about the past or the future and be present for right now. When you are in the present moment, you have less distractions and you become more efficient, you get more done. In a way, it is like your time expands.

I get a lot more done now than I did in the past because I am more productive with my time. My mind isn’t distracting me, taking me all over the place with something else. It even works with the way we move, the way we operate and it even affects our balance. When we are more present, we are more aware of our movements and we make fewer mistakes.

During this pandemic, people can suffer from stress, lack of energy, or anxiety? How meditation is a good option against it?

Because of everything that is happening, it is tough for everybody. Being able to ground ourselves in this deeper aspect of trust that lies within us can help quiet the mind, calm the fluctuations of the mindset, and create a more peaceful sense. What a lot of us are worrying about right now is the unknown, and that is the thoughts of the future which we don’t even really know and honestly, we never did.

Meditation can help stop the mind from worrying about the unknown and help find calmness by staying present in the moment. From a place of calmness, we can make more logical decisions. In a way, we pause to come back into ourselves, and then from there, we may have more access to be able to operate the mind, and plan more efficiently from there. This can help change some of the things you are doing or the way you think about certain things.

If we keep on thinking of the worst scenario and start building up our own reality based on that, that is where things can start to become very stressful. That is why meditation is so great, it can allow you to realize when your mind starts going into that unhealthy mindset and it trains you, through awareness to redirect the thoughts back into this moment so you can shift the mindset.

Deepak Chopra defines gratitude as the highest intelligence. How do you still practice gratitude during a difficult time?

The easiest thing is to start with the smallest possible thing. In that case, it is all about the breath. If we can start to bring all our focus and awareness into the breath and realize what the breath is actually doing for us. As long as you are breathing, you have something to be grateful for because breath gives you life.

If you start to bring all your attention in your breath and allow that to grow. Reminder, breath gives us life, give gratitude towards that, and start to notice where the breath goes and what it does. Your body starts to respond to that breath, now you can take gratitude into your body and the health you have right now. If you are able to move you have something to be grateful for. Start with something very small and let it grow from there.

I always start with just my breath. Ok, I can be grateful for my breath. Now, can I sit with that for a while, really give that gratitude, really feel it, and move it to my body. One of my favorite meditations is to go through every part of the body. Just start from the toes and start working all the way up to the very top of the head. Being able to feel your feet, and give gratitude towards your feet because they help you move and take you from place to place.

I think it is a great meditation to do because you are basically taking the time to give your body appreciation. We often talk about the body in a bad way, where we aren’t happy with it instead of saying thank you. It just forces you to stop and notice all those things we have to be grateful for.

How do you keep a “social life” while “social distancing”?

A lot of phone calls! [laughs]. One thing that is really cool and that I haven’t really done so much in the past is Facetime. Being able to actually see somebody even if it is on a screen is more of a connection than just talk to somebody on the phone. Being able to see them is really important, there is a connection there. I have been doing this with a lot of friends, we do group Facetime and we just hang out. It is interesting because, in the past, you would only call somebody if there was something you wanted to talk about at that moment, but now it is just about getting on the phone and being together. Doing what we can now just to feel that connection.

Who do you suggest to interview next?

Sufe Bradshaw who is an actress and friend of mine.

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Romain Wawrzyniak is our Editor-in-Chief. His enthusiasm and kindness make his guests feel comfortable creating intimate conversations and priceless insights.

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