While many of our Radiance yogis and yoginis are engaged in the 30-day challenge, it is important to remember that asana — the postures we practice in our yoga classes — is just one part of a complete yoga practice. While asana helps us evaluate, strengthen, and control our body, dhyana, or meditation, helps cultivate these same qualities in our mind.
Although meditation is a simple practice, it can seem daunting at first. Most of us rarely find time to sit quietly with our thoughts! Fortunately, anyone can begin meditating without making major changes to their existing lifestyle.
Use these five tips to begin (or restart) your meditation practice:
- Get comfortable. Although meditation is a mental exercise, discomfort in the body can make the practice impossible. Wear clothing that is cozy and secure, without being restrictive. Prepare the body for meditation by doing some slow, easy stretches before you begin. When you are ready to start your meditation, choose any relaxed, comfortable position (lying down, sitting, or kneeling) that you can stay in for several minutes. Use props such as cushions, blocks, or blankets as needed to support yourself.
- Eliminate distractions. Creating the right atmosphere can improve your meditation before you even start. Select a quiet, uncluttered location that allows you to settle down and begin to feel calm. Ideally, this is a space used only for meditation, not one that reminds of you other duties or responsibilities. And consider meditating early in the day, when you mind is clear, before daily stress starts to build.
- Choose an “anchor.” It is natural for your mind to wander during meditation. Instead of resisting your thoughts, try to let them pass without attaching to them. To help with this, choose an area in the body to rest your focus. If you get sidetracked by a thought, gently guide your attention back to this “anchor.” Not sure where to start? Try focusing on your breath (in the belly, the chest, or your nostrils), your third eye (the place between your eyebrows), or your heart center.
- Let go of the results. There is no such thing as a good or bad meditation. Come to your meditation without expectation, and resist the urge to scrutinize or “grade” your experience afterward. Be grateful for the time you spend in meditation, no matter how much your mind may have wandered. Even a few seconds of relaxation can be incredibly refreshing.
- Practice. When you began practicing asana, you did not have full mastery of the poses; similarly, we do not begin meditating with mastery of the mind. Meditation is a process, and it becomes easier and more natural as you repeat it. And just like asana, meditation benefits you just as you are, no matter where you are in your practice. Be consistent, be patient, and do your best.