How To Meditate? A Beginners Guide To Meditation
In this article we will cover what is meditation, why people meditate, how to start meditating, how to sit during meditation, how to set yourself up for success and 22 types of meditation you can try. To summarise: Meditation is an ancient practice dating back as early as 150 BC. Known for a whole host of health benefits and can be practised by anyone around the world for free.
Meditation has been gathering more and more interest in recent years with celebrities like Emily Blunt, Russell Brand and Oprah advocating the practice. With an ever increasing number of paid and free meditation apps and channels becoming available meditation is now more accessible than ever. But before we discuss how you can start meditating, first let’s delve into exactly what meditation is and why you should bother trying it.
What Is Meditation?
Meditation is a core part of yoga and is one of the eight limbs that make up yoga and it’s philosophy. It is mentioned as early as 150 BC in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra's. Meditation trains our awareness to go internally and observe the mind. It can help us tune out distractions and achieve a state of mental and emotional clarity. It is a process by which we come to a state of calm observation. In yoga we often use breathing and mindfulness techniques to help us enter a meditative state. A common misconception is that meditation is about having a blank mind and not thinking. This is not always the case and is very much dependent on the style of meditation you are practicing. Some meditations even include engaging and associating with the thoughts that come - not always an easy task!
Why Do People Meditate?
One of the most well-recognised benefits of meditating is that it can help us to relax and reduce stress. It helps us to engage our parasympathetic nervous system which is our “rest and digest” relaxed state rather than our sympathetic, “fight or flight” stressed state. Engaging in a “rest and digest” state can help us to think more clearly, make better decisions and engage in more complex and creative thinking. Scientists have also found that people who meditate have greater neuron connections usually in areas related to thinking, processing emotions and concentration. This means they may have healthier brain function and can better process difficult emotions.
How To Start Meditating?
When starting out meditation, start slow and gently. Open yourself up to the practice and try not to judge yourself as it will take time to get more used to the idea of just being, especially if you’re someone who’s used to always “doing” something. My advice would be find a quiet spot and see if you can sit in stillness for 5 minutes just being and observing the mind. If you find it hard to close your eyes at first, then find a spot out in nature, with a view or in a garden and meditate on the beauty in front of you. Take a few moments to be and appreciate.
Another great way to start out if you’re not a fan of closing your eyes just yet is a candlelight meditation. In yoga this type of meditation is called Trataka and involves staring at a candle flame. Try trataka meditation by lighting a candle and placing it in front of you at a comfortable height and simply spend a few minutes focussing on the flame, let your eyelids hang slightly heavy but not all the way closed as you focus. Perhaps put on a relaxing song in the background to help you focus and as a way to measure the time without having to check the clock.
If you feel like you want another sensory focused meditation, a friend of mine introduced me to a great simple meditation which involves taking a couple drops of an essential oils in your hands (my favourite’s cedar wood), rubbing your palms together, closing your eyes and then spending a few minutes just inhaling the scent. Maybe notice how your mood or your mind shifts throughout the meditation or maybe notice how you feel at the start vs. the end of the meditation.
How To Sit During Meditation?
I think this is down to personal preference, accessibility and time of day. Most commonly people like to sit in sukhasana (easy pose) a cross legged meditation position on the floor. If that is uncomfortable for you, try a yoga block or a meditation cushion underneath your hips for added comfort and extra support. You can also sit yourself comfortably in a chair, with your feet grounded on the floor. Or maybe you want to lie flat in savasana or in bed upon waking or going to sleep. This can be a really calming and relaxing option.
Can’t keep still? No problem! Try a walking meditation. Take a walk around a garden or a room, gently focussing your gaze where you walk and letting your mind be calm. Try to just focus on the steps you take and the feel underfoot, rather than letting your mind wander.
How To Set Yourself Up For Success?
The most important part of meditation is that it’s a moment for you to connect with yourself. So try to find a time and a space where you can be still and undisturbed. This is a great self-care practice that doesn’t cost a thing. As a way to keep your practice consistently it can be helpful to find an accountability buddy. You could challenge a friend or loved one to meditate daily for a certain number of days checkin in and helping each other along the way. Perhaps you can even help each other stay accountable with other health habits and routines.
Or try a meditation app. There are lots of free ones out there (my personal favourite is Insight Timer). Most meditation apps will help you track your meditation time and send reminders to help you keep accountable. If you find it difficult to start out by yourself, see if there’s a guided meditation class in your area you could attend and learn meditation techniques you can take home with you. You can also find lots of free guided meditations on YouTube.
When we talk about mindfulness techniques to help us start a meditation, I often think of the senses. As you sit/lie in meditation you can bring your awareness to sounds, sight, touch, and scents around you to help you ground into the present moment. You can also bring gratitude in to your meditation. Think of things you’re grateful for big and small. Introducing pranayama (yogic breathing) into your routine can be a great way to help calm the mind before meditating. Choose a favourite breathing technique and start there.
22 Types Of Meditation You Can Try
There are many different ways of meditating and meditation techniques so it is important you find the ones that you most enjoy. Some meditations you may find easier and more effective than others. Here are some different types of meditation you can explore:
- Vipassana Meditation
- Anapana Meditation
- Gratitude Meditation
- Chakra Meditation
- Trāṭaka Meditation
- Buddhist Meditation
- Tibetan Meditation
- Christian Meditation
- Abundance Meditation
- Shamanic Meditation
- Chanting Meditation
- Breathing Meditation
- Kids Meditation
- Body Scan Meditation
- Visualisation Meditation
- Stress Relief Meditation
- Forgivness Meditation
- Loving Kindness Meditation
- Mantra Meditation
- Trancendental Meditation
- Qigong Meditation
- Sound Bath Meditation
Here’s a simple meditation that can help you get started now:
Start by getting comfortable, seated or lying down and close your eyes.
Place one hand on your belly and the other on your heart.
Start to notice any sounds or smells around you.
Notice where your body comes into contact with the ground and how it feels to have your hands connected to your body.
Notice the temperature of the air around you.
Bring your awareness to your breath and start to notice the inhales and the exhales as the breath enters and leaves your body.
Stay still and just notice.
Begin to think of 5 things that you’re grateful for in this moment. It can be small things or bigger things.
Sit/lie here for 3-5 minutes and let yourself just be and observe the mind.
If you start to drift into thoughts, just bring your attention back to the breath, focussing on the inhales and the exhales.
Voila! You’ve just meditated! Well done :)
Remember that meditation is a practice and a process, not a state we achieve instantly over night. Be kind to yourself and start out slow and gentle without expectation. And, like yoga asana practice changes with our body, our meditation practice changes with our mind. We might find it much easier to meditate when we already feel relaxed and calm, whereas meditation can sometimes be much more challenging when we feel stressed and anxious. But do keep practicing and don’t judge yourself too harshly if your meditation isn’t the same each time or if sometimes you find it more difficult than others. That’s part of the magic of yoga. I hope this helps you start your meditation journey and brings you all the amazing benefits I know meditation has in store for you 🧡
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This blog post was brought to you by Rachel Dean.
Rachel is a yoga teacher and writer currently based in Northern Mexico.
"An adventurer, wildflower, cat lover and sunset chaser.
Yoga is a creative expression of our soul <3"