Updated: Dec 19, 2021
Have you heard of the benefits of meditation, tried it and then found it too difficult to clear the mind or even sit still for a couple of minutes? Read on my friend, if you are a total beginner to meditation, or have been meditating for a while, then this article is for you. I was once a total beginner to meditation too.
I watched a Ted Talk once that stated the happiest people meditate for 10 minutes a day. Back then, my meditation practise was non-existent. However, I wanted to be a happy person too, so I thought I’d give it a go. Not understanding what to do, I laid down on my sofa and closed my eyes. Having been there for what seemed like about 10 minutes, I peeked at my phone. Only 2 minutes had passed. Anyway, the whole process felt like forever and I did not try meditation again for a number of years, apart from savasana at the end of a sweaty power vinyasa yoga class.
If you have had a similar experience and sat down to meditate and thought ‘what the hell am I supposed to be doing?’ or meditation is too ‘boring’, or you just can’t clear your mind, you are in the right place. Read on! Here are some tips to start meditating for total beginners.
Deep Belly Breathing
This pranayama (breathwork) is not only amazing to help reduce stress and improve concentration but it is a great way to prepare the mind for meditation. This is because we can use our breath as a point of focus and distract the mind from all the crappy thoughts that may keep popping into our head and shifting our focus out of the present moment.
To do deep belly breathing;
Start in a comfortable position, either laying down or seated with the spine straight.
Place both hands in the belly
Breath in through the nose (you might like to counting your pulse to 4, 5 or 6), feel the belly expand with the exhalation
Exhale through the nose (again counting your pulse to 4,6 or 6) feel the belly draw back towards the spine.
You can perform this technique anywhere. It is so simple!
This is when you repeat a mantra over and over, sometimes with the use of mala beads or even chanting the mantra as a song. You can find most yoga mantras on Spotify or YouTube. I like to listen and chant to ‘Aad Guray Nameh’, the mantra for protection. When we are busy reciting our mantra, we forget to think about the past or worry about the future. We can just be in the present moment. You may choose to recite traditional mantras such as ‘om’ or ‘so hum’. Or create a your own mantra or affirmation that resonates with you.
Another way to still the mind is to practise awareness or mindfulness.
Starting with the physical body, notice how your body feels startin from the tips of the toes to the crown of the head. Notice any areas of tension. Notice where you feel relaxed. Try not to label it as good or bad.
Moving the awareness to the thoughts coming in and out of the mind. Imagine you are the observer from the outside looking into the mind. As we notice a thought, we may say ‘oh there is a thought about..’, and as quickly as it leaves and is replaced by another, we may think ‘oh now I am thinking of…’ and so on.
Then move your attention to our emotions. What do you feel? Is it sadness, joy, anxiety, stress, or a sense of calm. Again, just notice. You do not need to label it as good or bad. Every emotion is a part of being human. You may link the emotion to your thoughts or it may feel like it comes up out of nowhere. Either way, don’t get too caught up in the emotion, just notice it. I like to think of emotions like waves in the ocean. Rather than get tossed and thrashed around by the wave, you are watching it from the shoreline.
This meditation may not always be relaxing. You can bring awareness to thoughts or emotions that can be confronting. Whilst this may be challenging, we cannot change until we become aware. If you need a distraction from these thoughts, return to the breath or a mantra as your focus.
Five senses meditation
Using the five senses to be in the present moment. For each of the five senses, spend at least a minute or more noticing and be aware of what you can you can see, touch, smell, hear and taste.
Gratitude and visualisation
Perhaps many of us have spent the time to become aware of our thoughts and emotions that are not serving us. But how do we change that way we feel when it is so ingrained in us?
I like to start my day choosing between 2-3 moments that I feel truly grateful for. Each moment can be from the past or can be a moment in the future. I imagine I am right there in there in that moment. I visualise where I am, who I am with and how I feel. I focus on that beautiful positive emotion, whether it be love, excitement, a sense of calm. I feel it in the present moment. I enjoy this feeling for a little while and then move onto the next moment, perhaps with a little smile on my face.
These are just a just a few of the many techniques that I have found powerful in my own practise and teach to my yoga community.
The idea is to try different ways to prepare for meditation. You may not resonate with all of them, but if you can find a meditation technique that works for you, your yoga practise, in my view your, life will be so much more amazing!