Oftentimes we are encouraged to utilize a meditation practice as a way to de-stress. Meditation is a great tool to both calm the mind and body, but to cultivate focus. Meditation can also be challenging and for some, very frustrating. Newcomers may have a difficult time sitting still for any length of time and trying not to let the day’s tasks and events encroach on the experience. Frustration is certainly not very helpful in terms of creating a calm sense of being.
“Equal part breathing (or as those familiar with yoga may know it as, sama vritti breathing)” is a great gateway to a meditation practice and can also help to calm the body and mind during instances that tend to trigger a stressful reaction. Equal part breath is really just a fancy way of saying that the length of your inhale matches the length of your exhale. The best part about this technique is its convenience. It can be practiced anywhere (for example: sitting in traffic or in your office/cubicle) and can be adjusted to your capability. If you’re new to this technique, start with a 3-5 breath count (inhale for 3-5, exhale down to 1). If you feel very comfortable with it, see if you can take it all the way up to 10. Neither option is wrong. It’s simply about what best suits you and your body at the time. Try to notice the subtle differences in your body when you inhale versus when you exhale.
If you’re using this technique as a gateway to a more traditional meditation practice, choose a quiet space to practice. You’ll hear a lot of yoga teachers tell you to find a comfortable seat with good posture when meditating, but guess what? That is sometimes easier said than done. For one, many of us spend a lot of time in rush hour traffic and sitting at a desk in front of a computer. “Good posture” may have flown the coop and unfortunately, having proper postural alignment is key to breathing and in the yogic sense, pranayama (control of vital energy in the body). Furthermore, sitting on the floor in a traditional meditative seat for any amount of time may be extremely uncomfortable. Truthfully, sitting period for any amount of time may be extremely uncomfortable for any number of reasons. The fact remains is that if you’re physically uncomfortable or in pain while trying to meditate, you’re already setting yourself up for difficulty, especially if a meditation practice is new to you. Set yourself up for success. Why place unnecessary roadblocks in your way?
I use a meditation cushion seat. Literally. That’s what it’s called. As you can see in the photo, Isolde loves it when the meditation cushion seat comes out. The large, thin cushion at the bottom is firm and supportive, but soft enough so that my ankle bones do not feel pain from pressing against the hard floor. The round cushion that I sit on is also firm and supportive, but just high enough to tilt my pelvis into its natural base angle, eliminating pressure from my lower back. The meditation cushion seat works for me. It may not for you. You may need a straight, hard-backed chair to keep you in posture or maybe sitting is just not for you. And that’s totally okay. Yoga is for every single body on the planet and not every single body is the same. We are all unique. You just need to make yoga work for you and your body.
There are some traditionalists will tell you that you can’t lie down and meditate, but I think that’s bs. If you cannot sit in a single position with good posture or without discomfort or pain distracting you from the whole purpose of meditating, then it’s not worth it. I can’t stress this enough – set yourself up for success. Go ahead and lie on your back. It’s okay. Experiment with leg position to see what feels best for you – legs straight or knees bent with your feet on the floor. Experiment with your hands/arms placement – arms alongside you, hands on your belly or chest, or one hand on your belly and one hand on your chest. All of these options are fine as long as they don’t provide a distraction.
Once you’ve assumed your position, set a timer for 3-5 minutes. Don’t worry about the number of rounds of breathing you accomplish in that time frame. It’s not a contest. Just focus on the breath. As you become more practiced, you’ll find that you can surpass the 5 minute mark. You might find that you no longer even need to set the timer. Eventually, you’ll come to notice that you don’t need a specific breathing technique to get you into the mindset to meditate. You’ll just get there on your own. It’ll become more natural.
Don’t become too attached to the outcome or a specific goal. Unlike weight lifting or running, there’s no physical goal that comes with a meditation practice. There’s no, “I want to be able to deadlift this weight by this date” or “I want to be able to run a marathon in this time limit.” It’s not like that. Meditation practices are different for everyone. What works for one person may not work for another. Everyone has different experiences. It’s important that you allow the practice to be what it is for you and no one else.