Like apple pie and ice cream, yoga and meditation go hand-in-hand to increase relaxation, improve concentration, and relieve stress (only without all the calories of a slice of pie). Yoga is a safe way to stay fit and more mentally alert, and when combined with meditation, can help manage emotions and reduce your anxiety.
But if you are new to yoga or you have never tried meditating before, where do you even begin?
Meditation: What is it?
The dictionary definition is “the act or process of spending time in quiet thought”. This may conjure up images of someone sitting with crossed legs, hands pointed up, and chanting with closed eyes. Meditation paired with yoga is a bit different. Also referred to as dhyana, it is described as a state of pure consciousness, the seventh stage of the yogic path which focuses on concentration.
How Do I Meditate?
• Begin by concentrating: It may seem like an impossible task in this fast-paced, rushed society we live in together, but it is not impossible. Like any other habit, meditating takes practice, focus, and a dedication to stay the course.
• Choose a focal point, repeat a word or phrase, and count your breaths.
• Yogajournal.com recommends sitting for your focused time of meditation, relaxing your arms and rolling your shoulders back and down.
• Breathe freely through your nose and from your stomach. While you breathe, release distractions and really be aware of your breaths. To begin, meditate for about 10 minutes or so at the end of your yoga routine.
• Other forms of meditation include walking (using your steps as a focal point), standing and reclining meditation. Find the position you are most comfortable with, and stick with it.
• For the sake of consistency, try to meditate at the same time each day, in a quiet spot with no distractions.
Why is it Good for Me?
A five-year Harvard studyfocusing on the benefits of yoga and meditation has shown what yogis have known for thousands of years: stress goes down and relaxation is enhanced with regular implementation of the ancient practice. Among other benefits, the study is showing that yoga has a biological effect throughout the body, and that just one session can enhance gene expression involved in metabolism, even in newbies.
How Do I Learn More?
Look for yoga/meditation classes in your area, which should be led by an experienced instructor. If you would rather stay in the privacy of your home, DVDs are widely available to help you along.
For many of us, meditation may take some getting used to. We are so often distracted by our list of tasks and racing thoughts; it may take a few tries before you find yourself in a state of true relaxation. Don’t give up!
The ancient art of yoga combined with the practice of meditation can serve as a natural stress manager, a relaxation technique, and a freeing process. And who couldn’t use a few more minutes of quiet in their day?