MODify Yourself With MOD.itate

It’s been the age old question that has been pondered by humans for centuries: how do we get enough goddamn rest? For many of us, it seems there aren’t enough hours in the day to effectively recharge our batteries. Between all of our work and study commitments, it becomes difficult for some of us, especially when our brains are working round the clock.

According to researchers, the decline in cognitive performance after 17 hours of wakefulness can be equivalent to a blood alcohol level of 0.05%. A lack of sleep can also have an impact on our ability to make rational decisions, so if you’ve ever thought about getting behind the wheel after an all-night study session, don’t even think about it!

Thankfully, we may have just discovered the solution to all of your problems. Before you ask, no, this isn’t an endorsement for one of those materialistic gadgets or mobile apps that cost you the earth, because the answer can be found at MOD’s meditation sessions. Befittingly called, MOD.itate, these sessions encourage attendees to discover their inner peace by taking a break and allowing the mind to relax among calm lights and sleep pods. Attached to the Waging Peace exhibit, each class is directed by LUME Pilates & Movement instructor, Simone Ivkovic, who sat down with us to answer a few questions.

Words by Tanner Muller

Give us a bit of insight into the MOD.itate meditation sessions. What can attendees expect?

MOD.itate is an 8-week meditation event running at MOD attached to the Waging Peace exhibition. I run a yoga and Pilates studio in Adelaide called LUME, and we were approached by MOD to deliver weekly meditation sessions in the beautifully captivating Future Gallery, amongst the sleep pods.

What to expect? Well, as attendees arrive they are offered a yoga mat and a pillow to use if they so desire, then make themselves comfortable in either a seated position or laying down. Then we begin. I often start by guiding the group through a simple breathing exercise, which helps some people to focus and become more introspective. Conscious breathing is an anchor for a lot of meditation practices and can help people distance themselves from mental traffic.

As these meditation sessions are held within the Sleep Ops exhibit, the meditation practice welcomes the possibility of falling asleep. Sleep deprivation can have significant implications for health and a 10-minute nap may lessen adverse impacts of sleep-loss.

Why do you believe sleep and rest are so important for us, especially as students?

Not getting enough quality sleep on a regular basis can have serious effects on our mood, cognitive performance, decision making ability, focus, attention and memory storage. Students are at high risk of sleep deprivation, especially considering the pressures of long study hours, external work commitments and maintaining a balanced social life.

A good deal of research suggests that insufficient rest and sleep can have significant health implications on our metabolic system, our immune system and heart function. Students should be aiming for a minimum of seven hours of quality sleep per night. 

What are some of the benefits one can gain from regular meditation?

A simple mindfulness meditation practice can have profound physical, mental and emotional benefits. Aside from the obvious associations of peacefulness and relaxation, studies show that a regular meditation practice can reduce stress levels, enhance concentration and improve sleep.

A 2011 study by Harvard showed physical changes in the human brain after only 8 weeks of meditation. In this study participants meditated for 27 minutes per day for 8 weeks. MRI scans were taken before and after the 8 weeks and found that the grey-matter density in the hippocampus had increased. This is associated with ones learning ability, long term memory, spatial awareness and emotions.

What is at the core of what you teach at MOD.itate? What sorts of practices do you use? 

As a fulltime yoga teacher and clinical pilates teacher, I have a strong physiological approach to meditation. My guided meditations involve sharing information and insight into human anatomy and sharpening our minds to our physicality.

I see great value in breathing techniques and teach these often. I’m a fan of body scans and encouraging deep, intricate examinations of commonly disregarded areas of the body. I’ll bring attention to the space between each rib, the length of the collar bones or relaxing the deep muscles around the jaw. Participants often notice aspects of themselves that they didn’t know existed and leave the class with a deeper sense of connection, acceptance and empowerment.

Outside of MOD.itate, at my studio LUME, I often teach mindfulness stretching, a practice which brings a deeper focus to moving the body and breathing into areas of tension, stiffness or pain. This not only increased one’s flexibility but can be highly valuable for those who have suffered injury or people who battle with anxiety and stress.

Besides MOD.itate, what do you recommend as a starting base for those interested in meditation?

There are some really great podcasts out there now that enable you to explore a variety of meditation practices in the comfort of your home. It’s an excellent gateway to then trying a guided meditation class or workshop. The great thing about meditation is that it is so simple. All you need is yourself.

Do you have any advice for those who drink caffeinated beverages to stay alert, such as coffee or energy drinks?

I think it comes down to moderation and being aware of how much caffeine we are consuming in all formscoffee, tea, energy drinks and chocolate (energy drinks tend to contain more caffeine and sugar than soft-drinks).

While caffeine can give short term effects as a stimulant for the brain and nervous system, it is not a substitute for rest and sleep. In most cases, caffeinated beverages can become hazardous when overuse and dependency become factors.

There is evidence to suggest the caffeine consumption can lead to increased stress, anxiety and depression. Too much caffeine can affect cortisol levels, blood pressure and the digestive system and can lead to insomnia, irritability and headaches.

Ultimately quality sleep, regular physical exercise and maintaining a balanced diet tends to lead to a more focused, stable and fulfilled lifestyle.

Event: MOD.itate, presented by MOD
Venue: MOD, North Terrace, adjacent Morphett Street Bridge, Adelaide SA 5000
Dates: Every Wednesday, 16 January-6 March 2019
Bookings: https://mod.org.au/events/mod-itate/

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