I’ve been practicing yoga on and off for the better part of ten years and one of my favorite (and most challenging) parts of each practice is savasana. I’m not alone in feeling this way, but in the past year of so I’ve been more purposeful about practicing meditation. I’m still very much a beginner, but here are some things helping me to be more mindful.
Practice meditating consistently (even in unusual places).
Obviously lying in savasana after a sweat inducing yoga practice is sweet and relaxing. When we step on our mats we often practice being present in the practice which is a meditative measure in itself.
But do we meditate while walking to work in the morning? While cooking dinner? Getting dressed? Folding the laundry?
It’s the mundane tasks in our day that sneak up on us and allow us to be the most distracted. How mindful are you when your pouring milk into your cereal in the morning? Are you already planning out your day?
It’s been helpful for me to take a step back, even during the ordinary checkpoints in my daily routine, and to be aware and mindful of my actions and breathe. When I run in the morning, I count my breaths. When I drive to work I turn off the music and focus on straightening my spine and being present on the road. When I’m talking to a student I shut off my internal chatter and listen on the words they’re saying.
One of the first parts of turning off your thoughts while meditating is focusing on being present and aware. If you practice this during your every day life, it’ll make meditating on the mat a lot easier.
Set aside a chunk of time each day to sit still.
Give yourself a daily goal and a time of day where you’re main duty is to meditate. I’m still trying to decide if I’m a morning meditator and a night meditator; in the mornings it’s hard to turn off my brain because I’m already gearing up for the day ahead, but at night meditating makes me sleepy. I’m not sure which one I need the most.
My yoga teacher once spoke to our class about the appropriate length of time to spend meditating. She said that five or ten minutes sections isn’t really meditating. Thirty minutes is okay, but if you’re really dedicated to the benefits of meditation, practice sitting still for an hour each day. Even if during the hour you’re constantly reminding yourself to count your breaths or to push your thoughts outside your mind, your brain is getting used to those messages you’re sending yourself. Within time, your brain will be able to quiet itself without your reminders.
I’m slowly building my way up to practicing for thirty minutes. Right now, my daily goal is a twenty minute time slot I dedicate to meditating.
Use an app or a website as your guide.
I downloaded Insight Timer for my phone and I use it pretty religiously. It has a basic timer that you can set with different types of ringers to go off when you’re done. It’s a calming way to release myself out of my meditation. You can also set up the timer to give you a small warning when you’re halfway or close to being complete.
It also consists of guided meditations. Guided meditations are great because you’re focusing your thoughts on a series of mantras or instructions from someone else; you’re still practicing being mindful and present without the pressure of completely quieting your mind.
Allow yourself to be frustrated, but don’t give up.
Meditating is hard! Don’t beat yourself up if your ten minute meditation goes by and instead of being relaxed and mindful, you spent it agitated that you could control the to-do list running through your mind. It takes consistent practice, and learning how to quiet your thoughts and continue the meditation is part of the process.
What are some other tips for expanding your meditations?