For many new students of yoga, meditation can often be the most challenging part of the practice. Wrestling with sitting in an uncomfortable and a constantly chattering mind can make meditation seem like a real chore. But the benefits of meditation have been well researched and scientists have found that a meditation practice can have many psychological and physical health benefits including:
- Reduction of anxiety, fear and worry
- An increase in cognitive function
- Reduction of chronic pain
- A slow down cellular aging
I have definitely experienced a reduction in worry and anxiety from practicing meditation on a regular basis, as well as improved concentration, so for me meditation has been worthwhile and I’m pleased I’ve stuck with it, even though I found it hard going in the beginning. I would definitely recommend giving meditation a go, and to make it as easy as possible I’ve listed some of the things that will help meditation be less of a challenge and become an enjoyable part of your yoga practice.
Be comfortable. You can choose any position for meditation but it really helps to be comfortable. If you’re sitting in a chair then make sure you are sitting up with you spine supported and your feet touching the floor. If they don’t reach the floor then use a block, books or a cushion. You can try meditating lying down, again make sure you’re comfortable. Try supporting your head with a pillow or cushion.
Start slowly. Aim for two – three minutes a day for a week, then work up to five minutes. Once you’re happy to practice for this length of time gradually increase your meditation sessions until you’re practicing for about twenty minutes a day,
Choose a method that works for you; one that you enjoy and don’t find too much of a challenge. See the boxes below for some meditation ideas.
Choose a time of day that suits you best. You don’t have to get up at the crack of dawn to meditate when your mind is ‘fresh’, just pick a time that fits in with the rest of your day.
Use a timer. I started using an app called Insight Timer a few years ago and found this really helped to keep my focus during meditation. I set the whole length of my meditation to twenty minutes and I have a bell sound every two minutes, so that when I hear it, I can drag my mind back from whatever daydream I have been caught up in.
There’s plenty of books on the market for beginner meditators. My favourite book on meditation which really helped when I was just starting to practice is Jack Kornfield’s excellent book Meditation for Beginners. It comes with an audio CD which has some easy to follow guided meditions which are great for beginners.
One I’ve read more recently is Into the Magic Shop by Dr James R Doty. It is an autobiographical tale of how meditation helped to realise James Doty’s to realise his dream of becoming a neurosurgeon and the trials he experienced on the way. I really loved this book and would definately recommend this book to anyone thinking about starting their own meditation practice.
Another guide for meditation for beginners can be found at the Yoga for Healthy Aging blog. It has some useful images of positions in which to practice your meditation.
So if you fancy giving meditation a go as part of your yoga practice then pick one of the methods from the boxes below and see if you enjoy it. It’s worth trying, even if you just sit quietly for a few minutes each day.
Object Focus Meditation
Choose an object you are happy to gaze at for a few minutes such as a candle or flower, making sure the object is small enough so that you can see the whole of it without moving your head. Now simply gaze at the object, studying the detail for a few minutes. Just observe, noticing things like colour, texture, and tone without labelling or judging. Every time you notice your mind has drifted, just gently guide it back to your object.
Breath Focus Meditation
This might not be suitable if you get anxious when thinking about your breath but if that’s not a problem for you, then a breath focus meditation is a good way of concentrating the mind. Begin by focusing on your inhale and then your exhale. After a few rounds you can focus your mind more by counting the length of your inhalation and your exhalation. You can then add another layer to this practice by noticing the pause in your breathing, again adding a count to this if you choose. To take the meditation a step further you can start to notice what happens to your body as you breathe, the differences in an inhalation, an exhalation and the pause between your breath. Every time you notice your mind has drifted away from your breath, just gently guide it back.
Choose a mantra that works for you, it can be anything you like, as long as you’re happy to repeat it over and over. Repeat your mantra out loud, slowly, concentrating on the sound your voice makes, and time the mantra with your breathing, so that you say your mantra as you exhale and rest when you inhale. After repeating your mantra ten times, do the same again but this time say it silently, just moving your lips. After repeating this ten times, repeat in your head, not moving your lips at all. Repeat the whole cycle again for as many times as you feel comfortable.