Today is the day you meditate! It’ll only take 5 minutes, and it just might change your life. Doubtful? That’s okay. I’ll tell you why and how to try it right now.
I get it - starting a meditation practice can be more daunting than starting a physical yoga practice. This could be because it’s often easier to be in the body than be in the mind. Which makes sense! According to the Eight Limbs, meditation is the next stage of the spiritual journey; it’s the natural progression toward peace, which is the byproduct of going deeper and deeper into the personal self, which gives way to the universal Self. That’s not exactly a light and leisurely walk in the park!
But we are here to evolve, to progress. Onward and inward we must go!
Asana, or what we in the western world refer to as just "yoga", is designed for our busy minds and bodies. But “yoga” includes so much more than chaturangas or downward facing dogs! Asana (specific postures on a yoga mat) is just one area, or limb of yoga; dhyana (meditation) is another.
The purpose of each limb is, in their own ways, presence. With asana, we move with the breath, sweat, focus and work hard to put our bodies in different positions. All of this forces us to become present.
I share the asana part of my practice on social media a lot, but there’s another part of my practice that’s just as important to me: meditation.
When you're practicing Astavakrasana, staying focused is not very difficult! But meditation? Sitting down, closing your eyes and spending just a few minutes alone with yourself? For many of us, that sounds impossibly terrifying. We all know what it’s like to hear harmful thoughts in our heads. Why go into that harsh space, on purpose?
Because we are not those thoughts. And we can change them however we want to. Meditation teaches us this fundamental truth.
Have you ever tried sitting in stillness for a full hour or longer? Physically, it's extremely demanding. With a tight, tense body, your hips and lower back will start to bother you in no time, which it's distracting. Asana practice sprouted as a way to prepare our bodies for sitting in silence.
This means that the asana itself is not the goal. Becoming flexible is not the goal, either. Doing handstands is definitely not the goal. Peace is the goal - learning how to truly be at peace with yourself.
Meditation changed my life. I can attribute so many of my life’s blessings to it. I want to make it approachable for you so you can reap the benefits, too! The meditation exercise below is anything but terrifying. It's very simple, and it only requires 5 minutes of your time.
First, some words of encouragement:
Practicing meditation works the same way as practicing yoga - we need to practice! Remember your first downward facing dog and how difficult it was? How about your first vinyasa? Sitting in silence works the same way. It will be difficult at first, but the more you practice, the easier it gets.
Second, know that you are safe.
A yoga mat seems scary until you learn it’ll always be there to hold you and support you without any judgment. Then, your yoga mat becomes your sacred space to come home to yourself. The same goes for sitting in meditation. You are safe to go within. What lies inside is the entire universe and all of its infinite love and wisdom. Whatever you dislike, know you can change it, remove it, wipe the slate clean.
Third, this is a small slice of what meditation can give you:
Practicing meditation can transform your life way beyond the body. Meditation helps create space between you and the life situations you find yourself in. Meditation brings calm. Focus. Wisdom.
You'll never know where your meditation practice will take you before you start, and the key is consistency. Give it 5 minutes a day, ideally right after you wake up or right before you go to bed.
5-Minute Meditation Guide by Yoga Girl®
** Pro Tip: Move your body before sitting for meditation (that’s why asana came about, remember?) Go for a run, walk your dog, do some jumping jacks, dance in your living room or however else your body asks you to move. It will make sitting still much easier.
Find a quiet place to sit. Make sure there aren’t any noises or things that can distract or disturb your focus.
Place a small pillow or a folded blanket beneath your SIT bones. For many, it’s much more comfortable to sit with the creases of your hips slightly higher than your knees, so use a yoga block or stacked blankets to elevate your hips, if needed.
Set a timer for 5 minutes. Having a set timeframe helps your mind settle and loosen the grip on control.
Let your hands rest on your knees, palms down. Lengthen your spine from tailbone to crown, draw your jaw back and slightly down, and relax your shoulders down your back, opening your chest slightly.
Now, close your eyes.
Become aware of the flow of the natural pace of your breath. Notice the gentle expansion and contraction of your low belly. Feel the flow of air through your nostrils and the subtle changes in your body with every breath.
Start directing your awareness to the small space you have between the two sides of your breath; the pause between the inhale and the exhale, and the gap between the exhale and the inhale.
Stay very, very present with your breath. When thoughts arise, don’t judge them. Allow them to be there without resistance, and don’t identify yourself with what comes and goes through your head. Be the watcher of your thoughts, not the participant.
Through conscious awareness of your breath, create more space in between each thought. Stay here. Breathe. Be present.
When your 5 minutes are up, bring your hands together at the center of your heart and extend gratitude to everyone and everything you have to be grateful for in your life.
Repeat to yourself the holiest of all mantras: thank you, thank you, thank you.
Open your eyes and turn the corners of your mouth into a smile.
Set aside 5 minutes every day for this simple meditation! Gradually increase the time you sit in silence until you’re comfortable meditating for 20 minutes or more each day.
However much time you prioritize daily for meditation, for mindful breathing or mindfulness of some kind, celebrate yourself!! It all adds up to make you show up more whole and vibrant for your life, your family and the whole wide world.