Today is World Meditation Day! Gym+Coffee pal, yoga instructor and mindfulness coach Lydia Sasse took a bit of time out to give us the lowdown on how she started her meditation journey. Here are Lydia’s simple tips on how to begin meditation if you are just starting out.
Choose a time that suits your life
Not everyone has some quiet time to themselves in the morning so don’t get stuck in the idea that your meditation has to be the first thing in your day.
Find a time that works with the rhythm of your household. Whilst eventually it would be nice to be able to drop into that calm meditative space at any time no matter what is going on around you, when you’re starting out it is a lot easier if you can practice in silence (or with gentle music) and on your own so that you can focus solely on what you are doing.
Do some gentle movement first
One of the biggest challenges of meditation is that sitting still for long periods of time alerts us to the general aches and tension that we carry around with us all day long. Yoga poses were actually designed to help our bodies be able to sit in meditation without distraction.
Simple stretching like cat+cow, shoulder rolls, downward dog and hip circles before you start can help you to focus.
Find a comfortable seat
Whilst meditation is often pictured with the practitioner sitting cross legged on the floor, for some of us that just isn’t an option!
But don’t worry: you can sit on a cushion with your legs out straight, kneel over a bolster or meditation stool, lie on your back or even sit in your favourite chair. The more comfortable you are, the easier you will find it to concentrate.
Don’t aim for the stars
One of the biggest mistakes people make when starting to meditate is to set themselves unrealistic goals.
If you decide to try to meditate for 20 minutes but you only achieve 5, you can feel like you’ve failed and there is nothing more discouraging than that - especially when starting a new habit. It’s much better to set a realistic goal that you can achieve every day so that you keep the momentum going.
5 minutes of meditation a day or even per week in the beginning is a great goal to set yourself.
Don’t over complicate things
There are millions of ways to meditate: Mantra, mudra, breathwork, chanting, moving, mindfulness, visualisations... the list goes on.
When you are starting out it’s better to stick to something simple:
Focus on the breath.
The feeling of your belly rising and falling.
The feeling of your breath coming in and out.
The length of your inhale compared to your exhale.
If you find yourself wandering into thoughts about the future or the past ( which you will) bring yourself back with the words:
Breathing in, I know I’m breathing in.
Breathing out, I release.
Don’t expect there to be no thoughts
The most common complaint I hear from clients is that they’ve tried to meditate but they can’t stop thinking and they feel like they are ‘just not good at meditation’. The reality is even seasoned practitioners of meditation have thoughts flying around most of the time they are sitting.
Try not to get attached to a specific outcome or idea of meditation in your mind. You are looking to simply create a few moments of space and stillness in your day. Maybe begin to notice the pause between the inhale and the exhale. See if you can drop into that pause for a little longer, with a little more presence each time.
Every day won’t be the same
Just as in our daily lives, we are bound to have ups and downs with our daily practice. Some days I come to sit and everything falls into place nicely and I am able to send my attention inwards easily. Other days my mind is racing, my breath runs away from me and my body aches.
This is why it is called a meditation practice.
We have to just keep training the muscles of our mind, our concentration, our awareness, and little by little we move onwards. Not always forwards... there will always be days that you struggle with meditation but try not to let that put you off!
Don’t forget to check out Lydia’s video above and if you liked this, head over to our Make Life Richer Community Hub for more resources!