I first met the incandescent Linda Naini at a yoga workshop on her birthday, of all days. I was immediately drawn to her. I often say I have a girl crush on her because she just exudes warmth and makes you want to be her best friend.

Linda is a student and teacher of meditation. If you’ve ever attempted meditation, you know it can be one of the toughest nuts to crack. But the best part of having wise, old souls like Linda as friends means I get to ask them all manner of questions like: what’s the deal with this whole meditation thing anyway? The interview below captures her response to that inquiry.

My guess is that once you get to know Linda, you’ll be as enamored with her as I am. Starting January 12, you can have her delivered right to your inbox. Check out the workshop page on the extendYoga website (shout out to this amazing studio!) for a 15 day series of guided meditations, visualizations, reflection and journaling – sent to you through a daily email – intended to help you manifest an amazing new year.

In the meantime, here’s an introduction to Linda:

How did you come to meditation?

My father was diagnosed with terminal cancer and I was struggling with how to deal with it. I needed something beyond the “traditional” route of therapy and medication; I was really depressed and these tools just weren’t enough.

A friend suggested I attend one of Tara Brach’s classes. I could tell, even after just one class, that there was something to it. I immediately signed up for an introduction to meditation course and that was the beginning of it all.

What type of meditation do you practice and why?

I practice mindfulness meditation, mostly because it’s what I started with and it works for me. I knew I would have difficulty sticking with something new on my to-do list. I was trying to meditate every day for 20 minutes, but it just wasn’t happening. So I began with something I was already doing: brushing my teeth. I could commit to those five minutes each day. I focused on being really present as I was doing it, feeling the sensations and making it a very mindful practice.

On the Insight Meditation Community of Washington’s website, Tara Brach puts it most succinctly: “Meditation is commonly described as a training of mental attention that awakens us beyond the conditioned mind and habitual thinking, and reveals the nature of reality.” She also offers some very<span “mso-fareast-font-family:”times=”” roman”;=”” mso-bidi-font-family:tahoma;color:black;mso-font-kerning:18.0pt”=””> helpful tips<span “font-size:9.0pt;=”” line-height:115%;font-family:”tahoma”,”sans-serif”;mso-fareast-font-family:=”” “times=”” roman”;color:black;mso-font-kerning:18.0pt”=””> for beginning a practice.

Are the benefits of meditation scientifically proven?

The benefits are absolutely scientific. For example, there has been research, partnering academics with the Dalai Lama, to look at the effects of meditation on the brain. The results showed that meditation has an impact on the areas of the brain associated with attention, anxiety, depression, fear and anger, among other things. It also suggests that, through meditation, we can actually change the physical structure of the brain.

Who should meditate? (Trick question, I know the answer J)

Actually, I have a feeling I know where you’re going with this; the idea that everyone should meditate, right? Well, I’m not so sure that’s universally true. There are individuals for whom a different path may be better. I’m thinking of someone, for example, who may have experienced severe trauma. For that person, trying to sit and quiet the mind might not be the most nurturing activity. Anybody, in fact, might find that, at times, certain practices are less effective.

That said, obviously as a student of meditation and as someone who teaches the practice, I clearly believe very much in its power. I think it can be enormously beneficial to many if not most people.

I’ve often heard the “20 minute rule” when it comes to meditation (do it for at least 20 minutes every day). Honestly, I don’t do it every day and I usually do it for 15 minutes (sometimes only 10). Is that OK? Will people see benefits, even if they do it less than they’re “supposed” to?

There is a Zen saying: everyone should meditate for 20 minutes every day. But if you’re too busy, you should meditate for an hour.

But, in reality, you need to meet yourself where you are. This isn’t about beating yourself up – it’s the opposite: giving yourself the gift of meditation. Start with three breaths. Or brushing your teeth. Do whatever you feel that you can do at the moment. Begin there and see where it leads.

I would suggest choosing something you can do every day. I have found, for myself and for my clients, that consistency is the key. Meditating for three minutes every day seems to be much more beneficial than for two hours once a week.

How are asana and meditation complementary?

Well, as you know, asana and meditation are both a part of the eight limbs of yoga. I think of asana, or physical practice, as a moving meditation. Often, we are so caught up in our minds that coming to a seat and meditating can be incredibly challenging. The asana practice can be a more accessible path to connecting with the breath and being in the moment. Once we’ve had this experience in the asana practice, we want more. That seems to be the time many yogi’s come to meditation.

Where can people meditate with you?

In addition to private sessions, I currently teach at Equinox in Bethesda on Sundays at 11:35 AM. I also teach a monthly class on the first Sunday evening of the month at extendYoga in North Bethesda.

And, as you mentioned, extend is also offering the 15 Days of Bliss program beginning next week. This is a great opportunity for both people who want to start meditating and those looking to get back into a consistent practice. Actually, it is great for anyone! And it couldn’t be easier – an email is sent to your inbox every morning and is available for seven days after that. You can practice any time that is convenient for you.

Thank you, Linda!  My crush is now even bigger.

You can find out more about Linda at her website, www.lindanaini.com, Facebook page, or Instagram, rooted_in_bliss