Most of us have been in a yoga class where the instructor guides us through a short meditation during savasana. Although this might signal the end of the yoga class, it can be the beginning of a beautiful supplemental practice that can help calm our minds and soothe our bodies in addition to the great work we’ve already done in asana. In this post, we’ll discuss the basics of meditation and break through some of the obstacles to incorporating this invaluable element of our spiritual practice.
Getting started with meditation can be daunting, especially when your chatterbox of a brain won’t shut up and you feel like you’re wasting your time. Trust me when I say, you’re not. Meditation is very much like exercising: It takes time to see results. When you meditate, you are literally training your brain to think differently. Our society constantly bombards us with stimuli, which can make staying in the present moment almost impossible.
When you meditate, you are checking yourself out from that, and taking time to develop the clarity in your mind that’s necessary to truly enjoy life. It’s totally worth 15 minutes a day, and science has even shown that people who meditate regularly handle stress significantly better than those that do not. Even adding just a few minutes of meditation at the beginning or end of your yoga practice can have lasting effects.
The reason meditation is so hard at first is because our brains are constantly thinking, narrating our lives. We anticipate future events, think regretful thoughts about the past, and worry endlessly. I know for me, it often feels like the only time my brain shuts off is when I sleep.
When we sit down to meditate, these thoughts don’t magically go away. In fact, they may even become louder as we are deprived of our usual distracting stimuli. That’s really the idea. Over time and with consistent meditation, that narrator begins to quiet down, and our thoughts become more present-based.
But just like the exercise example, results come slowly, and it can be frustrating to sit for 15 minutes and feel as though you just sat there with racing thoughts for no reason. Although one meditation session can definitely make you feel calmer and more grounded, lasting results only come with lasting effort.
Don’t let this discourage you. Although it takes time to see the lasting results of meditation, it’s very simple to get started. Even though your thoughts may race, you are doing yourself a huge favor every time you sit. The only real requirement for meditation is that you have a quiet space away from external stimuli.
It’s helpful to be comfortable so I will often lay down during meditation even though sitting is what’s usually recommended. This is why savasana offers such a great opportunity to get started and practice mindfulness. At the end of a yoga class, we’ve done so much good for our bodies and positive energy is flowing all around us. This offers the perfect opportunity to observe our thoughts as a witness instead of an involved participant and learn to separate our Self from these thoughts.
There are two easy ways to get started with meditation. One is to simply sit and observe your breath.
Observe it naturally for a few breaths; if it’s helpful, you can think ‘breathing in’ as you breathe in and ‘breathing out’ as you breathe out, to try to keep yourself on track. Your mind will wander; it’s all about bringing your awareness back to your breath every time you notice it elsewhere.
Someone explained it to me once in a way that really made sense. She said to think of training your brain with meditation like you might train a small puppy to use a puppy mat. Every time they go to the bathroom somewhere they’re not supposed to, a good dog owner patiently brings them to the mat, time and time again. Bring your awareness back to your breath every time you notice it wander.
Although it’s helpful to start out with a few deep, belly breaths, you do not need to alter your breathing to meditate. Simply observe it, follow it and redirect your focus to it when your mind wanders.
Another easy way to get started with meditation is to utilize one of the gazillion guided meditations out there on YouTube, and various meditation apps. You can find meditations for specific things like anxiety and trauma, as well as general mindfulness sessions and things like chakra balancing.
I’ve found that voice is very important for me when picking a guided meditation. I’m thrown off by a voice that doesn’t sound soothing, or one that makes me laugh. It usually takes a bit of searching before you find one that suits you.
Guided meditations are awesome because they typically walk you through breath exercises to promote relaxation, and gently guide you back to the present moment at regular intervals throughout the session.
Whichever method you try, you’re on the right track. With consistent meditation of even a few minutes a day, you’ll start to notice yourself becoming more calm, more compassionate, and less likely to experience extreme emotions.
Most importantly, you’ll notice yourself in the present moment more often, where life can truly be enjoyed.
Join us at Inspiring Actions Yoga Studio for a class and practice your new meditation skills during savasana! Whether you’re looking to sweat it out during a flow class or restore balance during Yin, we have something to suit your needs and enhance your practice. Reward yourself with a few minutes of focusing on your breath at the end of class and enjoy the fruits of your work and dedication!
Here is a great chakra balancing meditation to get you started!