Mar 2, 2015 | Atlanta, GA
Although she had been meditating regularly, Selda Yildiz did not fully appreciate the benefits of meditation until she was preparing for her Ph.D. qualifying exam at the University of California, San Diego (UC San Diego).
“I was a student, always on the go, without much time for reflection,” Yildiz said. “I was an active person in terms of exercising — running, climbing, playing volleyball — but, after a while, I noticed I needed to pause and calm my mind and do things that were more restorative and relaxing physically.”
She decided to try yoga while also meditating more frequently with her yoga teachers.
“I realized there were a lot of benefits to meditation, not just physically but emotionally and mentally,” said Yildiz, who has a Ph.D. in underwater acoustics from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, and is now a Georgia Tech postdoctoral fellow studying biomedical imaging.
As a scientist, Yildiz is interested in how and why mind-body practices affect health and well-being. She is expanding her research into understanding the underlying mechanisms related to the benefits of such practices, and she has been learning about the tools, such as the MRI and fMRI, that will allow her to conduct the scientific research for imaging of the brain and spine.
A Yoga-Alliance registered yoga and meditation teacher, Yildiz has been teaching since 2012 and recently started a weekly meditation class at Tech’s Campus Recreation Center. The class, which is suitable for all levels of experience, is designed to teach participants how to relieve stress, achieve deep relaxation, gain breath and body awareness, be fully present and alive in the moment, and achieve greater mental clarity and a peaceful state of being.
“Meditation calms the mind,” said Yildiz. “Studies have shown that we have approximately 60,000 thoughts a day; 90 percent are the same thoughts we had the day before. Meditation helps us gain awareness and cultivate mindfulness. It also teaches us how to inspect the quality of our thoughts, so we can learn to promote those thoughts that are positive and helpful to our growth.”
Yildiz draws an analogy between meditation practice and the ocean: “The surface may be agitated and embroiled in emotions, but there is great calm deep down below. And that is where we want to dive in. Once you find that calmness within you, you can’t give it back,” she said.
For those who cannot attend her mediation class, Yildiz’s tips include:
- Start with a few 2-minute practices each day: Sit still, lower your eyes, and observe your breath for two minutes before starting your day, prior to breakfast/lunch/dinner, before turning on your car, and during your commute if you take public transportation.
- Focus on your feet when angry: Shifting your focus to your feet helps to “ground” you.
Yildiz is planning to teach yoga and meditation classes in fall 2015. Stay tuned.