Nicki Doane’s 5 Tips on How to Start Meditating
I love meditation and what it does for me, but I have to be honest and say that I had absolutely no idea how to do it when I first started. Having practiced Ashtanga yoga for years and years, I was very familiar with using my practice as a moving meditation. The combined focus on the breath, the bandhas, and the gazing point really did help me to slow down and be in the moment.
As time went on and I learned more about yoga, I found out that meditation is the 7th of the 8 limbs of yoga as outlined by the sage Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras. I felt like it was time for me to investigate. I went through many mental gymnastics on my quest for peace of mind, and so I want to share 5 tips on how to start meditating in the hopes that it will help you along the path to freedom!
1. Work on cultivating a seat. By this I mean a seated position on the floor. Use blankets or blocks and place them under your pelvis. Your hips should be higher than your knees to take the pressure out of your low back. If it bothers your knees, try putting support under them.
2. I never knew how long I should be meditating for and I used to judge myself for not doing it for long enough! Don’t be that hard on yourself, so start with very short timings, like 5 minutes. I like to use a timer to keep track of the time. I especially like to use my iPhone, which has a great variety of soothing sounds to choose from as you come out of your meditation session. I use the silk sound to signal the end of mine. Build up your timings slowly as feels right to you.
3. Set Jiva Bandha in your mouth: open your mouth and with your tongue, wet your lips. Then bring your tongue back into your mouth and seal your lips closed. Place the tip of your tongue very softly at the upper palate just above the enamel of your two front teeth. This will relax your jaw and your throat and set a Sattvic (sweet) tone in your mouth.
4. Sit up nice and tall and close your eyes. Focus on the sound of your breath. Draw on your pranayama practice and use Ujayii breath which is slow, smooth breathing through your nose. Follow the inhale and the exhale closely.
5. Imagine that your mind is like a jar of sea water and sand. As you begin to meditate and still your mind, visualize the sand in the jar slowly settling to the bottom. What’s left is clear water and that is what you want to feel in your own mind; clarity and lucidity. From there empty your mind and when a thought begins to arise just observe it without grasping for it. Focus on the sound of your breath and on relaxing your body.
I have found the art of meditation, or contemplation, to be very healing in times of chaos and upheaval. This past year I have relied on it heavily and it has been so helpful for easing my mind. I truly love this part of the yoga practice, and I hope you will as well.