Although there is no rule that says you should do yoga and meditation together, many people find that meditation completes and complements their yoga practice. Think of it as a three-part harmony: yoga postures (asanas), deep breathing (pranayama), and meditation (dhyana), all designed to bring you into the present moment.
The positive effects of meditation are well documented: heart and respiration rate slow, blood pressure drops, and the physical symptoms of stress decrease as your body relaxes. Meditation helps still the mind, calm the emotions, and promote peace and serenity. Although we may be aware of these benefits, for many of us it is a challenge to sit and be still. “I can’t find the time.” “I’ve tried meditation but couldn’t concentrate, so I gave up.” “I just can’t sit still for that long.” Sound familiar? We hope the sample meditations that follow will help introduce, reintroduce, or reinforce a regular meditation practice.
It has been said that to meditate, we need three things: great faith, great perseverance, and great questions. Some practical considerations are involved as well. Before meditating, it helps to get ready, physically and emotionally. Sitting to meditate without preparing your body and mind first is like stopping a car with the engine racing. Hatha yoga began as a way for yogis to prepare themselves for the physical demands of meditation. Enhance your meditation practice by emulating the masters: perform some yoga postures and deep breathing exercises to help relax your body and mind and bring you into the present (rather than rehashing what already happened yesterday or preparing for what might happen tomorrow).
Find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed. Some people enjoy soft music or the sound of chimes or a table fountain; others prefer silence. Try it various ways and see what works best for you. Unless noted otherwise, sit in an upright position for meditation. If you are seated on a blanket or a mat on the floor, using a cushion will help keep your spine extended. Sit in any way that is comfortable for you. If you would rather be seated in a chair, take care that your spine is comfortably elongated and your knees are level with your hips. Make sure your shoulders are relaxed and down away from your ears. Your eyes may be closed or cast downward.
If you are new to meditation, try it for 10 minutes at first; gradually increase the time in 5-minute increments. With practice, determination, and patience, you will eventually be able to expand the time spent in meditation and ultimately experience the profound physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual benefits that can result from sitting in quiet contemplation.
Join Olivia in these Guided Meditations
Pranayama Meditation illustration from The Healing Yoga Deck
- Sit in any comfortable position with a tall, elongated spine; roll shoulders down and away from the ears.
- Bring your hands to the center of the chest with palms together in Namaste (prayer position) or with the backs of the hands resting on your thighs, fingers curled and thumbs touching index fingers in Jnana mudra, a gesture of knowledge.
- Close your eyes or lower your eyelids. Inhale through your nose for a slow count of 6, filling your belly and lungs. Envision the breath rising up the front of your body, over your face to the top of your head. Hold the breath in for a count of 2.
- Exhale through your nose for a slow count of 8, as you follow the breath cascading down from the top of your head, along your back to the base of the spine. Hold the breath out for a count of 2.*
- Continue this “4-part breath” for as long as you wish, focusing on the breath traveling up the front of your body, lingering at the crown of the head, flowing gently down your back, and ending at the base of your spine.
Feel yourself becoming more present and tranquil
- Relieves tension and calms the emotions
- Relaxes the body and nervous system
- Restores a sense of well-being and improves focus
- Bonus! Full inhalations increase energy
Adjust the count to your preference (e.g., breathe in for 5 and out for 7, or in for 10 and out for 12).
- Sit comfortably, eyes closed.
- Bring thumbs and forefingers together to form a triangle over your heart center.
- Exhale. Inhale through your nose for a count of 8. Exhale fully through your mouth.
- Repeat for several rounds.
- Lower your hands to your sides and ask yourself the question:
If my heart were planted,
what would it grow?
- Sit with the question for a while. Breathe deeply as you visualize an answer or an image.
- Focus on the visualization.
- Slows the mind
- Reduces blood pressure and heart rate
- Calms the entire being
- Promotes peace and serenity
- Brings you back to the present