The practices of yoga and meditation go hand-in-hand. While many people are familiar with the physical practice of yoga, they may be new to meditation, which is actually a key component of a full yoga practice. Beginners often start with an easy-to-learn technique called “mindfulness meditation.” “Mindfulness” is a state of awareness that is nonreactive and unattached. This meditation brings calm and focused attention to the endless stream of thoughts floating through your mind.
Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation
Meditation has many benefits, including reduced stress, a strengthened immune system, and increased productivity in everyday life. Many people also discover a greater sense of overall well-being and “purpose” in life. Mindfulness meditation helps you gain a peaceful and stable mind, which will improve all areas of your life: Mental, emotional, and even spiritual. You can also check out the iSport guide, Yoga & Meditation, for a complete list of benefits!
Meditation promotes great well-being, but should be used in conjunction with conventional medical or psychological care — not as a substitute for it. If you are suffering from depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, suicidal thoughts, severe anxiety, or other psychological or emotional distress, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional before practicing meditation.
Many beginners find it easier to learn mindfulness meditation by focusing attention on only one sensation, object, or thought —your breath, a candle, or the concept of forgiveness. If you are focusing on an object, place it in front of you where you can see it easily. Set aside a quiet spot to practice and wear comfortable, nonrestrictive clothes.
- Come into Easy Pose (Sukhasana), Perfect Pose (Siddhasana), or Lotus Pose (Padmasana). If those are uncomfortable, try sitting on your heels in Thunderbolt Pose (Vajrasana). You can also sit on a folded blanket, bolster, or firm cushion. Adjust your position so your spine is erect. Sit with your head, neck, and spine in one straight line. You may also sit in a chair with your feet on the floor, arms and legs uncrossed.
- Close your eyes.
- Begin to regulate your breathing, inhaling for a count of five and exhaling for five. After a few of these deep breaths, breathe naturally again. Notice the sensation of the air as it travels in and out of your nose. Continue to bring your awareness back to your breath, in and out, in and out.
- Do not force yourself to concentrate. Simply notice when your mind wanders, and then gently bring your awareness back to your breath. Consistently returning to the present moment takes patience and dedication. Be careful not to punish yourself for wandering thoughts — meditation is not a race.
- Now bring your awareness to the object of your focus. This might still be your breath. If it’s a visual object, like a candle, soften your gaze.
- Maintain your awareness. When your thoughts start to wander, gently guide them back to the object of your focus. Don’t fight the thoughts. Simply acknowledge them and let them pass, like clouds floating by in a summer sky. Be fully aware of the object of your focus.
- Do this exercise for 10 minutes a day, gradually extending your sessions to 20 or 30 minutes.
If it’s hard for you to sit still for 10 minutes, remember that it’s okay to start small! Begin practicing for just one minute a day. When you become comfortable with one minute, add a second minute. Work your way up to ten minutes or more. Eventually, you’ll be surprised at how fast 30 minutes can fly by!
Be sure you’re in a comfortable position to practice, but not too comfortable. You don’t want to fall asleep! If you find that you fall asleep easily when trying to meditate, take the necessary steps to address fatigue and sleep problems outside of your meditation practice. You may want to review the iSport guides, Yoga for Insomnia and Yoga for Stress Relief if dozing off in meditation becomes a habit.
A Calm Presence
To gain the most benefits from meditation, practice every day — even if it’s just for a minute! Tack a five-minute meditation on to the end of your yoga practice, or set aside some quiet time first thing in the morning. The more you practice mindfulness, the more regularly you will be able to achieve that calm, yet aware, state of presence in all situations.