What is meditation?
Meditation (the uninterrupted flow of concentration or one pointed attention) is the seventh limb or stage of the eight limbs of yoga. The eight limbs represent the students’ life journey through yoga in order to reach Samadhi where the Individual spirit is liberated and joins the Universal spirit.
Yoga is a spiritual practice and meditation, just like the poses, is learnt skill.
There are several types of meditations to choose from such as: Mindfulness, Japa, Walking, Metta (Loving kindness), Kundalini, Guided meditations, Chakra meditation – to name a few.
Usually it is practiced in a seated position (see chart below) but walking meditation is just as good.
What are the benefits of meditation?
There are numerous benefits of meditating regularly. It helps us to live our lives better, it lowers stress levels, increases wellbeing, reduces blood pressure, improves our health and it assists with self-realisation.
Meditation helps to even out the ups and downs of life, minimizes meltdowns.
Note: meditation might not suit people with mental health challenges.
How to start meditating?
Unless you prepare the body for meditation you will not be able to sit comfortably.
Try the following stretches with breath awareness:
- Stand tall in the mountain pose: inhale raise the arms as high as you can comfortable then exhale lower the arms;
- Stand tall in the mountain pose: inhale raise arms above the head and come up on your toes;
- Stand tall, inhale raise the arms and exhale, pivoting from your hips bend forward.
- Do some twists of the spine, either standing or sitting.
When you are ready to start meditating find a quiet spot, be warm. A symmetrical seated pose is recommended as the spine is elongated, lungs can work efficiently, the energy rises in the body. Have support under your knees and hands. Please note my main photo is is taken in Bhutan and it is more about the landscape than sustainable posture for meditation.
If you choose walking meditation find a familiar area, beach or grass in your backyard or local park. Set a reminder (say five or ten minutes) and when that time is up start walking back to your starting point.
If laying down one might fall asleep – which is also beneficial but is is called a nap not meditation :).
In yoga, unless the nose is blocked, we inhale and exhale through the nostrils.
Once you are seated and comfortable start observing your breath, the length of your inhalation and exhalation. Try to count for four as you inhale and for four as you exhale. If you have some experience in Breath Control (Pranayama) you might add pauses after the inhalation and after the exhalation, so your count will be 4:4:4:4.
Accept that it is hard to steady the mind. Meditation is going inwards, might not be pleasant. It is self-discovery. Keep your attention your breath.
In Meditation you remain in the Waking state of consciousness (low frequency Beta and Alpha brain wave patterns) and gently focus the mind while allowing thought patterns, emotions, sensations and images to arise and go on. Gradually allowing the layers of the unconscious and subconscious to come forward, expanding the Waking state with one-pointed concentration and non-attachment to the streams of impressions flowing, visualization, memory, learning and concentration in the field of mind.
If your mind was wondering during meditation, it does not mean that you had a bad meditation.
What is stopping you from meditating?
A lot of people think they do not have the time or place to meditate, or it is too hard. Initially start with five or ten minutes per day and gradually increase the time to 20 minutes.
You might want to try some guided mediations (apps) to start it.
Enjoy the inner piece and the process of quieting the busy, chattering mind.