Do you even meditate?
I’ve been taking yoga classes since I was 15 and the short breathing/centering introduction of the class or savasana at the end of the class was what I counted as my meditation. To be honest, when I was just starting out, I even used to think that part was a waste of time, and couldn’t wait to either get to the sweaty part of the workout, or run out of class and get back to my day. But over time I’ve really come to appreciate the slowing down aspect of it. I’ve also realized that those parts of a yoga class aren’t really meditation. It definitely is a good idea to do yoga (or some stretching) before you meditate. That way you relax the body before you relax the mind.
Research has been showing us for years how beneficial meditation is, but it’s scary to try something new. Mediation is becoming so mainstream now though, that maybe it’s time to give in to the hype and give it a shot, right?
I’ve been doing 10 minutes a couple of times a week and I really feel how big of an impact it has on me when I do it every morning, but it’s hard to always fit in. I usually find a short guided meditation on youtube or spotify, I’ll list them below. But I thought I’d describe some really basic meditation 101 here, so you can get started!
Find a calm spot and sit down. You can sit on a pillow, on your bed, on a chair or mat… just make sure you are comfortable and you can straighten your spine. If you want to light a candle or some incense, feel free, but usually I just either sit up on my bed right after I wake up, or make myself a coffee and roll open my yoga mat. You can turn on some music (there are plenty of yoga/meditation playlists on Youtube & Spotify), but again - not a must. Once you find a comfortable seat, put your hands in your lap or on your knees with either your palms facing up to open your awareness or palms facing down to calm your mind.
For this type of meditation you focus on one point. It could be your breath, or a single point where the breath enters your nose, or focus on your belly going up and down with your breathing. You could focus on a candle, or repeat a mantra over and over. When thoughts enter your mind, and they will, just acknowledge them and then let them go. As soon as you notice your mind wandering, just go back to that single concentration point. And now just breathe, set a timer for 2 minutes, and work up from there.
Start by doing a ‘body scan’. Bring your awareness to your toes, your feet, your ankles… work up towards your knees, your legs, your hips,… and go up all the way towards your face, your cheeks, your nose, your eyeballs, your tongue… the tip of your head… anywhere where you feel yourself holding tension… just relaaaax.
Now for the smiling part… start by generating a general feeling of joy. Focus on the area behind your eyes (as this is apparently where joy resides), and try to find a “feeling of general happiness”. Curl the sides of your lips upwards. If it’s hard to find that joyous state, remind yourself of a time where you felt joy. Perhaps see the happy face of a child, family member or best friend, see a puppy, or imagine the heat of the sun on your skin on your favorite beach.
Once you find that feeling, let it radiate from your eyes towards your spine, spilling through your body like a waterfall to your heart and lungs - over into your belly, intestines and down into your legs and feet. You can start this waterfall again at the top of your eyes as many times as you want until you feel your body radiating with joy.
When you feel ready, finish this practice with a couple of thoughts of gratitude. What are you grateful for? Seal it by bringing your hands together in front of your chest, saying namaste as you bring them towards your third eye and bow. Now you’re ready to take on the world!
Playlists and youtube links
I’m a big fan of the Youtube channel “Great Meditation”. You can find 10 minute guided meditations for all types of moods and vibes. I do this one most mornings, right out of bed before I start my day.
There are free Headspace guided meditations on Spotify. If you like them, you can download the Headspace app.
My favorite bed-time App, Slumber, has great sleeptime meditations!
Let me know if you try it and how it goes!