Yoga Meditation 101
Many people are reluctant to meditate. They think in order to meditate, they must sit cross legged on the floor, quietly watching their breath for an hour. They wonder how it is possible to sit still for even 5 minutes. The good news is…you don’t have to!
If you are practicing yoga, then you are doing a form of meditation. By bringing your attention inward to your movements and breathing, by focusing your energy and by releasing mental and physical tensions, yoga postures become moving meditation.
Yoga philosophy suggests our lives flow from a source of awareness and energy within each of us. Meditation makes you conscious of this higher, calm, quiet source of strength deep within. The more you are aware of this source, the more you can appreciate the serenity and strength that come from it. Meditation helps your awareness of this source in your life grow.
The process of yoga meditation begins when you decide to take a break from your daily activities and turn your attention inward. In the process, you will look at your true nature. You may ask, “Who am I? Why am I doing it?”
Ideally, everybody should receive an individualized meditation from a competent teacher. To be most effective, meditation simply cannot be generic. Choosing a meditation is an art. It must suit your background, temperament, interests, and ability to focus.
To do yoga meditation, you need to close your eyes and focus on some object that helps you go inside yourself. The object can be something in nature such as a leaf, flower, a tree or the sun. It can be a person who embodies the spiritual qualities that you would like to attain, such as Christ, Buddha, Krishna or another great teacher. It could even be a vision of yourself free of problems or free of the characteristics that interfere with your relations with others.
The object of your meditation can be a picture or a color. You might use a mantra or a vocal or a silent sound, such as “OM” or “Amen”. Or you might focus on the feeling associated with a word like compassion, trust, strength, or truth. Try repeating a phrase or prayer. Before your practice, you might enjoy reading a meaning passage from a book and then meditate on it.
Freely experiment to see what is most useful. What feels right for your meditation may well up from somewhere deep within you. What intuitively feels best?
You might begin by meditation a few minutes or perhaps you will be comfortable sitting for 15 minutes or more right away. The length of time is less important than the quality. People often ask when they should practice. Morning is usually best, but the main thing is to meditate when you don’t have to look at the clock for half an hour.
Never force yourself to meditate. It is a waste of time and is not productive. Some days you might set out to do a half hour meditation and find instead you need thirty minutes of strong yoga poses and twenty minutes of easy poses and ten minutes of lying down and breathing gently. You can even do your meditation after a long asana.
Ideally, you plan your meditation first, but you need to find what works for you and practice it like you would any yoga pose.
To begin, warm up with simple yoga poses to make your body comfortable, begin to regulate your breathing, and quiet your mind. When you have gained a feeling of relaxed energy, you are ready to sit in meditation.
Next, sit comfortably erect and focus on your breathing to steady your mind.
Then, think about what kind of object might help you move toward a deeper awareness. Go more deeply inward, breathing slowly and focusing on your chosen object. Feel or experience the object in whatever way you can. Then let go of thinking about it. Allow it to fill your mind until you become mentally almost one with it. This is the heart of meditation, the part that will bring you closer to your deepest self.
Finally, gradually make a transition to the next activity of your day. Sit quietly or do a simple yoga pose. Take it slow and do not rush starting your day quickly.
Meditation does not happen easily. You will be distracted at times. Our minds, like the wind, are hard to control. Sometimes we think about everything but what we are trying to focus on. Our minds wander and they do it often. When this happens, simply notice the distraction, accept it, and gently bring your attention back inward.
Practice and it will come.