I’ve always struggled with my meditation practice, I found it hard to learn how to meditate. I could never sit still with my eyes closed. I could not let go of the millions of thoughts rushing through my mind. I felt uncomfortable sitting cross legged. That calm and relaxed sensation the meditation teachers would describe seemed impossible.
What helped me to be able to meditate was my Yoga practice.
This led me to realise that there are many forms of meditation, it helped me to let go of my expectations and judgements. It helped me learn how to meditate.
The sequences of Yoga poses are like a moving meditation. Really, the practice itself is designed to lead you to your meditation seat. The ancient Yogis would do the Asana (the exercise, what you know as Yoga today) as a means to sit in meditation with more ease.
But first, why even meditate?
What are the benefits of Meditation?
- Helps to reduce stress and anxiety
- Lengthens attention span
- Helps to regulate emotions
- Promotes better focus
- Increases feelings of calm and relaxation
- Creates self-awareness
- Deepens body mind connection
- Calms down the nervous system
- Can improve sleep
- And more!
All these amazing benefits from meditation flow onto all the important aspects of life. I know my meditation practice has allowed me to respond better (not always hehe), it’s strengthened my relationships. It’s helped me to work better! It’s helped me to feel less anxious and more present in day to day life.
But as I mentioned, I really have always struggled with meditation.
Carla was very good, she was determined to be able to sit in stillness and receive all the benefits she read about. Whereas, I’d sit and my mind would wonder, then BAM I’d pick up my phone and scroll Instagram. Yeh, that is not meditation!
Welcome Yin Yoga.
I refer to it as my ‘gateway to meditation’. The slow pace, the focus on the breath, the feelings of calm and relaxation felt in my mind and body.
As I began to practise Yin Yoga more often I was tempted to try meditation again. I felt more able to sit in stillness. I didn’t jump straight into sitting and breathing, I used guided meditations. To my surprise I sat and breathed with ease and I actually enjoyed it!
I used our MerryBody meditations, they truly are something special. The music is wonderful, the words spoken by Carla are not wishy washy or too ‘woo woo’. I think this is what sometimes put me off guided meditations, they were not relatable, I did not connect with the words. They felt too fake for me.
How to Meditate with Yoga?
Connects with Your Breath
A big part of meditation is sitting and breathing. This is why Yoga is the perfect option for meditation for beginners. Instead of jumping in the deep end and forcing yourself to sit for 20 minutes in stillness, you add some movement to the picture.
The movement connects to the breath, whether you choose a gentle approach like Yin Yoga, or a more energised style like a Vinyasa Flow class. Your attention is drawn to your body and your breath. It creates body awareness (think like an ongoing body scan) and the focus on the breath helps in calming the mind.
Yoga is a presence practice, if you’re not in the present moment during a class and your mind wanders, whether it be in a real life studio or home with online classes, you will soon notice that while you’re doing down dog the Yoga instructor is flowing into a bird pose.
Don’t worry, I’ve been here many times! When it does happen, it’s a very quick way to bring you back to the present moment and in tune with your body and breath. The necessity of presence makes Yoga the perfect mindfulness meditation.
Mantra and Theme
Within our MerryBody Yoga classes, my Sister Carla, our resident Yoga teacher will often share a mantra or theme to create an intention for the class. She will mention this theme, word or phrase within the class bringing awareness back to the intention. It adds a whole other level to your Yoga practice, it’s the perfect way to welcome in a new mindset goal to your life.
A common theme we have in almost every single class is, Self Acceptance. Imagine focussing on the feeling of self acceptance and what it could bring to your mind and life?
Begin with Breathwork
It is very common to begin a full length Yoga class with a round of breathwork. This is a meditation technique on its own but also connects perfectly with a Yoga practice. It’s a great opportunity to practise sitting in your meditation seat. You can make note of your thoughts and struggles, but know you’ll be directed to move soon.
The Yoga teacher will guide you through the breathwork exercises. A simple exercise you can try right now is closing the eyes, inhaling and exhaling through the nose. Breathe in for 4 counts and breathe out for 4 counts… and then begin to extend to 5 and then 6 counts. It really is an amazing practice! And it’s quite extraordinary how different you will feel after just 4-6 breaths!
How to start your meditation practice?
I could really give you a bunch of tips but I think the best thing you could do is simply jump right in. Remove your expectations. And simply try. And then if you ‘fail’, try again.
If you really can’t even imagine sitting in stillness, then Yoga will be the best place to start. You can try this slow Yin Yoga class. Or if you want something a little faster, sign up to this 20 minute Yoga Flow, it’s called Desk Worker Yoga. Not only will you welcome in presence and relaxation, you’ll also stretch out your shoulders and back. Sign up here and we will send it straight to your inbox (it’s instant access!).
Then when you’re ready, try a guided meditation. Don’t start with a 20-30 minute one, try a 5-10 minute meditation.
You can tune into one of our guided meditations right now. We’ve published this meditation on our podcast. If you love it, you can find many others within our MerryBody App (there are over 85 right now!), including guided savasana and walking meditation (2 of my faves!).
Once you’ve tried a Yoga class or meditation, let us know! We’d love to hear about your experience.
Emma (and Carla too)