It's not just for monks

By Ella Gibson

Hummmmmm…” is always the noise associated with the stereotypical meditator. Someone doing meditation would most probably have their legs crossed, be sitting under a tree, and be intermittently sipping on a kombucha when they have time to come back into the conscious realm. Meditation has always had this exclusive feel to it as if it was this elitist spiritual realm that you could only get to if you had met your Guru and had enough money to get yourself to their ashram in India. However, that is not the case. Meditating is defined as focusing one’s mind for a period of time, in silence or with the aid of chanting, for religious or spiritual purposes or as a method of relaxation. So yes, that stereotype has been derived from the type of meditation that the media wanted you to see. But now, meditation is becoming more integrated into a lot of people’s lives. And for good reason too! 

Originally from Chile, Kotte Aguilar travelled to New Zealand in 2008. Kotte is the founder of Yoga by Kotte (YBK), which “enriches people’s lives providing quality creative and accessible yoga for everybody.” It is Kotte’s vision to provide “yoga, mindfulness, mediation and public speaking in a fun and engaging way” to everyone. Kotte has gained many qualifications over her practising years. These include ‘Power Vinyasa Yoga Teacher Training’, the ‘Meditation, Mindfulness & Yin Yoga Contemplative Wellness & Education’ certificate, and she has even been a TEDxYouth Speaker, not once but twice! Kotte kindly shared with CANTA her journey with meditation and why she thinks it can benefit university students’ wellbeing.  

“When I was about 21 or 22, I was really unwell mentally and physically. A friend of mine told me to try yoga. I was like, “no”, because I had tried it before and thought it was a bit of a weird experience,” Kotte shares. Kotte tried again, and thankfully she did. “From the yoga, it triggered the meditation because it was the first time I experienced concentration in my entire life” she reveals. A 2018 study conducted by Harvard researchers revealed how meditation helps you focus. The study showed that “our minds are lost in thought 47% of the time.” Through meditation, you can change the structure and function of the brain. Meditation has been proven to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. It can increase focus and learning concentration, improve memory and attention span, build a stronger immune system and allow you to have a better sleep.  

According to some archaeologists, meditation has historically been deeply rooted in the religious and spiritual context, dating back to 5,000 BCE. Meditation still remains in spiritual tradition, but now it is moving toward the mainstream. One of the biggest reasons is because of mental health and the push to improve it. “We don’t have any practice for our mind. We have endless things to do to look after our body and physical health. When it comes to mental health, all we think about his depression and anxiety” Kotte declares. It is bizarre as Kotte explains that “mental health is the health of the mind and everyone has it. Maybe for me, it is a question to the system: why do we have so many resources for physical health and not for mental health?”   

When it comes to us uni students, Kotte shares why she thinks meditation would be beneficial to us. “It is because of the pressure they [we] have. Your brain is already going through learning mode, and so it is a perfect opportunity to learn other things [mindfulness and meditation]” Kotte says. Being a student is hectic, “as a student, you may be thinking, “I’m just so busy”, when you are going through those waves of busyness, give yourself 30 seconds to meditate, and you will be able to manage. And if you don’t know how to manage your mind, it can be consuming and overwhelming” she shares. 

“When you’re a student, no one is going to get you through it but you. It is really important that you put yourself first. If you are efficient and have control, you are going to have time to part, to study and to meditate” Kotte states. There are unlimited online resources for meditation; you could even go and try out meditation with Kotte. Find more information about Yoga by Kotte on yogabykotte.com. Meditation is connected to everything; Kotte affirms that “once you understand that concentration is meditation, you can apply it to anything.”