There are a million reasons why you think you can't meditate. Meditation is no joke, and for some people, it's harder than the postures we move through in Hip Hop Yoga. Something we hear a lot is: "But I can't stop thinking when I meditate. I'm such a failure!" First of all, any meditation practice is inherently good. You can never "fail" at meditation, because just the act of sitting and trying is a success. Further, and most importantly, meditation is not a lack of thought. It's not some old dude sitting in a cave, renouncing all earthly belongings. Well, okay, it can be that, but that's not how it manifests for most of us. Meditation is different for everyone, and at the end of the day, the only goal of meditation is to quiet the mind and bring it closer to a point of focus. So even if you're only able to focus on your breath for a couple seconds, you're still succeeding.
But what is meditation? And why should we do it?
First of all, meditation is a key aspect of yoga, which btw is much more than the physical postures we move through in class (AKA asana). In the past, the practice of asana was meant to encourage individuals to sit and meditate. But in recent years, asana has eclipsed the practice of meditation, to the point where savasana (a naturally meditative posture) is often excluded from class. That's why we always leave room for savasana at the end of our yoga classes. We want you guys to practice meditation, because it's one of the best things you can do to improve yourself. Here's why.
A consistent meditation practice brings you more focus, improved communication and listening skills, improved immune system, increased productivity, increased attention span, improved sleep, as well as reduced anxiety and depression. It also provides an opportunity for you to make choices within the mind- so donuts or Root Flow? The decision is up to you, and the answer will ultimately come to you through meditation.
When you're meditating, the part of your brain that is always trying to solve a problem gets a break. Many of our brains rarely experience this break, even during sleep. We can use meditation to retrain our brains to relax, so that when we need them to function in high performance environments again, they have the capacity to do so.
Meditation also gives us the ability to sit and breathe. Deep-belly breathing is crucial during meditation- whichever method of meditation you choose, you should always try to inhale to the base of the pelvis and exhale completely. This elongation of the breath is a simple form of pranayama AKA breath extension, as "prana" means breath or life force, and "ayama" means extension. Try to think of pranayama this way. When you're born, you take your first breath, inhaling prana, and when you die, you complete your last exhale, allowing prana to leave the body. The ultimate goal of pranayama is to extend one's life span by extending the finite amount of breaths you're given. That's why deep breathing during yoga and meditation is so important! So as you sit in meditation, try breathing as deeply as possible, allowing the breath to expand across the back and within the ribs. You'll be surprised by how calming this breath can be.
So now that you've got the breath down... what else do you need? Finding a place to meditate is crucial. It's important to find a space that is calming and without distraction. Try to find a part of your home where you can be alone and unbothered by the sounds of other people, even if it's outside or in a closet. We won't judge you based on where you get your zen on. You'll also need to find a comfortable seat. Beginners might need to sit against a wall, to encourage proper alignment of the spine. We also recommend sitting on a pillow, a block, or a rolled up yoga mat- this elevates your hips and helps you sit up straighter. Maybe you can pop into lotus easily, or maybe you'll want to start by sitting with simple crossed legs. Whatever you choose, make sure you're comfortable. You won't be able to meditate if you're thinking about how much your knee is bothering you.
Now, it's time to meditate! But what method will you choose? Here are just a couple that our yoga teachers swear by. Feel free to find your own method- just focus on the breath and bringing your mind to a point of focus. If you're doing that, you're golden!
This is the form of meditation Jamie instructed us to use in our first Move to Meditate class last week. The goal is to get to 108 breaths, but sometimes, that can seem like an eternity. Start with something simple, like 32 breaths, which would equate to one full round on each hand.
To start, begin with your right hand, and place your right thumb on the top of your pinky finger. After you inhale and exhale completely, move your thumb down to the first line on your finger. Then move to the second line, and finally, the base of the finger. Continue this process on each of the four fingers, then move to the left hand.
Feel free to take three centering breaths in the center- this will help ground you in between rounds. Continue breathing for as long as you like. There can never be too much meditation!
Use of a Mantra
We understand- sometimes breathing can be boring. That's why we love using a mantra. It's a great way to bring your mind to a point of focus other than just the breath. A great mantra to use is "So Hum," AKA "I am." This is a super relevant mantra, because it brings your focus inward, allowing you to acknowledge that you are present in your body and that you are not equivalent to your crazy monkey brain. Hey, we all have them.
Use of a Mala
You've likely seen mala beads for sale in yoga studios and on yoga apparel websites. They include108 beads, plus a larger bead, which is called a guru bead. While a lot of people wear them as jewelry, they're meant to be used for meditation.
To meditate using a mala, hold it in your right hand, and beginning with the guru bead, roll beads one by one through the thumb and middle finger as you inhale and exhale. When you reach the guru bead again, stop or go back and do it again.
Meditation is a lifelong practice, and the more you practice it, the easier it will seem. It will undoubtably change your life if you let it, so try setting aside just five minutes in the morning to sit and meditate. After you feel comfortable doing that, increase it to six or seven minutes, and keep going up from there. You'll be shocked by how zen you'll become!
And if you're in need of a laugh, check out this meditation video. It's one of our favorite pick-me-ups. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C_K4HajZfVk