In this technology driven world, we often feel over-stimulated and among many mind-body tools which can provide us some grounding and clarity is meditation. Meditation practices are not a one size fits all however; there are so many different styles to choose from, and perhaps to combine. The style of meditation you choose may depend on your personality, habits, what time of day you can incorporate a practice, and intention. Be open to trial and error, allowing yourself several opportunities to experience any of these or other meditative techniques, so that you become familiar with the outcome for you, and can rely on that to help dictate when/if to use that particular style practice in the future. Here at Essential Yoga Practice we say that “everyone has a place in yoga” and therefore everyone can find a meditation style that aligns with their unique personality. In the world of yoga therapy we hear, “if you can breathe, you can do yoga” and thus meditate!
Many people already meditate unknowingly in their day, if we consider that every meditation practice is based on four main steps: focus, let go, think, repeat. Most people shy away from trying meditation because they think the idea is to empty the mind and that seems too far out of reach. That is a misconception. The ideal is to have a “one-pointed” focus, so as to give the mind a break from the jumping around, and that practice is worth cultivating. We can learn to train the mind to slow down this energy draining habit and then to be able to be more focused throughout the day. Anything that we practice becomes something we can do well. So let’s get started with 5 different meditation techniques, though there are many more.
1. Focus on the breath. This is the most traditional way yogis meditate and there are many variations under this big umbrella of breath-centered meditation. You can make it so simple as to deepen both the inhalation and the exhalation, which has a calming effect on the central nervous system, improves lung capacity, tones the diaphragm and the accessory muscles of breathing, and can be done in any position.
2. Mantra – repeating a sound, especially “healing sounds” or one that has meaning is very soothing and intentional. In Sanskrit there are “bij” mantras, sounds/syllables that are considered healing, and have exponential healing when combined in certain ways. “OM” is considered the universal mantra, on a macro level it is the residual sound of the big bang, on a micro level it is the sound of electrons spinning; it is considered by many to be the sound of the universe, thus a tie that binds us.
3. Guided Imagery – some people cannot seem to pare down their focus so guided imagery is the step in the direction of learning to meditate on one point. Whether you have a teacher providing the calming vocalized story or a CD or DVD, this method still manages to block out the usual worry or racing behavior of the mind and can be very quieting for both body and mind.
4. Loving Kindness Meditation – is a wonderful way of cultivating self love and love for others. The idea here is to focus on love and acceptance, the positive energy that comes from good intentions, care and compassion, for self and others. Praying falls into this category too and is very soothing and freeing for the soul.
5. Walking Meditation – many people find it hard to lie still, let alone to sit still, and if that is the greatest hurdle then using a walking meditation practice is a wonderful way to develop focusing skills. It is useful to combine mantra here, repeating the chosen sound with each step, and to walk along a defined path to allow the mind to not have the decision work of choosing direction (consider a labyrinth or park path). And, there extra advantages: being out in nature and enjoying fresh air!
Note that meditation, or Dhyana, is the 7th limb of yoga, considered the “game changer,” of yoga practice. Asana, or practice of postures, is the 3rd limb, and considered to have the purpose of strengthening the body, especially the spine, to be able to sit for long periods in meditation. When meditation is new, and for many yogis, the preference is to have a reclined meditation practice, where the back body is supported. It is a different experience to be able to sit upright with good posture for an extended stretch of time, in meditation – it requires more strength and more diligence to stay the course. Start with what keeps you comfortable, that you are able to apply Dhyana, the 6th limb or concentration, stay the course of your intended practice, and reap the fruit of the labor: Delving deep to the inner self, and thus toward the 8th limb, Enlightenment, Samahdi! Want to take meditation to another level? Add aromatherapy! Check out last week’s blog. Get your copy of Essential Yoga Practice: Your Guide to the New Yoga Experience with Essential Oils book and DVD. Opt in to our website to hear our latest news. And, join us on social media: like, comment and share to be entered into the monthly giveaways! Enjoy your practice!