Starting a Meditation Practice
Studies that have shown that the combination of yoga and meditation can positively impact mental and physical health. Whether it’s by reducing stress, improving sleep, increasing focus, research shows that mindfulness works. It seem great, but why do most find it extremely hard to stop your monkey mind from jumping from thought to thought? With the ever growing demands of today’s society, it’s easy to get caught up without taking a second to stop and simply breathe. Learning how to meditate can be straightforward, and the benefits can come quickly. Here I will offer basic tips to get you started on a path toward greater equanimity, acceptance and joy. Take a deep breath, and get ready to relax.
It is important to establish a consistent meditation practice. I consider my meditation practice apart of my daily routine, just like I brush my teeth! I recommended starting a 30 day challenge with some friends! If you get past 30 days, it is more likely to become a habit. The best time to meditate is in the morning, after you’re fully ready for work, right before breakfast. I personally enjoy a warm, lemon water to help hold me over until breakfast. I believe it to be a calming way to start your day. It’s completely fine to meditate after work, it just may be a little harder to settle your mind after so much activity. If you are meditating at night, it’s best to meditate an hour before bed time. If you meditate after a large meal, it gets very easy to get sleepy. The best length of time for meditation is 20 minutes – 10 minutes to settle the mind and 10 minutes of deep concentration. You are certainly welcome to meditate for any amount of time that you feel comfortable. For beginners, I recommend the 10 minute Daily Calm on the Calm app.
The meditation seat is equally important when establishing your practice. Meditation seat options include; sitting legs crossed on the ground, sitting legs crossed hips elevated on 3-4 blankets, mediation cousin, bench or a chair. Your bed is made for sleep and your brain is tied to that action when it sees your bed. It’s best to establish a corner of your room or house that is dedicated to your meditation practice. It’s also a lovely reminder to walk past and you may even get a bonus session or two in the day! The rule for the meditation seat is that your hips must be higher than knees. If this is not the case, your legs will begin to go numb and you wont be comfortable. When sitting on any seat, you want to sit to the front of the seat with hands gently rested in your or on your lap. You want the body to upright but relaxed. This will allow your body to be comfortable as you drift away into bliss.
The last but the best topic is the breath. The breath is the easiest way to immediately slow down and connect to your body. Try a quick experiment: put your hand on your belly, take a deep inhale and feel the belly contract, hold for one second and then slowly exhale and watch the belly expand. Try this three times, do you feel slightly more relaxed? That’s because our breath is directly tied to our nervous system which triggers emotions. Our breath and emotions are interconnected. The breath is also a great tool to help keep your attention in the present moment. During meditation your main focus is on the breath. This is the tool that will bring you back each time your mind drifts away. Everyone’s mind wanders, it’s completely natural to have thoughts during meditation. The goals of the meditation breaths are slow, deep, even and quiet belly breaths.
If you have time for a yoga session before meditation that will give you the best experience. Your body will be stretched and can sit more comfortably. I recommended yoga poses before mediation: Child’s Pose, Down Dog, Sun Salutation A (3), Forward Fold, Puppy Pose, Lunge, Squat, Pigeon, Dolphin, Bow, Bridge, Reclining Twist, Diamond.
Meditation is a life time journey and takes a dedicated practice. It’s cumulative so as your practice grows, you’ll see the benefits flow into your day to day life! It’s not easy, so be gentle with yourself during the journey and enjoy the ride!
This article was submitted by Tara Marini. Practice with Tara on Fridays at 5pm. Register here.
Tara currently lives in Philadelphia, PA but always enjoys escaping the hustle and bustle of the city by stepping onto her mat. Tara fell in love with yoga when she took a stress management class at Penn State in 2008 and has been an avid practitioner ever since. Her dedication and passion for yoga allows her to continually grow and enhance her practice and teaching style. She completed her 200 hour Yogahour Teacher Training at Maha Yoga in 2017. She is excited to share the wealth of yoga to the city of brother love.