Mat to Mat, Heart to Heart
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Tips and Tricks for Starting a Meditation Practice by Traci

Meditation 099 (for those of us who failed out of 101)

Ah meditation…. We hear about it all the time. Our yoga teachers talk about it, the news guys say it reduces stress and doctors recommend it. However most of the time when we sit down to do it we either fall asleep or come up with a wicked to-do list.  So what’s the deal?


Meditation is a great practice to add to your yoga routine or simply do on its own. However, just as the case with yoga, meditation is a PRACTICE. Every day will look different and it’s a skill you have to learn with time. The act itself is super easy. Training the mind to be silent is where the skill comes in. So why bother with it?  It will reduce stress and help you focus and if all else fails you will have one super organized to-do list.


Just as with yoga you need to commit to the practice. Find a time in the day where you can spend 5-10 minutes in solitude with no interruptions. Pick a spot to sit up right with a cushion or a yoga block/blanket under your tailbone so that your knees can touch the floor. I recommend this position because it is comfortable to sit in for extended periods of time. I also recommend starting your meditation practice in a sitting position as opposed to anything else in the beginning. I believe that sitting upright will keep you alert enough so that you won’t fall asleep but can be relaxed. As you become more disciplined with your meditation practice you can play around with where you are most comfortable doing it (in bed, legs up the wall, walking, eating…etc).


In an easy pose or lotus (your choice) rest the palms of the hands on the knees and begin to establish your breath. Do not change or manipulate the breath just notice it. Stay with the inhales and exhales. Notice the depth or the sound. Just be aware.


I recommend using a timer app in the beginning. I use the insight app. This particular timer gives you a certain amount of time to settle in and notice the breath before using a chime to signal when the meditation should begin.


Scan the body. Starting at the top of your head consciously release areas of tension. Relaxing your face and dropping your mask is first. Relax your jaw and rest the tip of the tongue against the back of the teeth. Relaxing your throat and so on all the way down to your tippy toes.


Using your natural breath begin to count.

1 –inhale

2- exhale

and so on. Only count the natural breath do not force or manipulate it. You will count to ten and repeat.


Simple right?  Yes….and so much no.


Things to help you establish this as routine and get into a nice groove:

Create a starting ritual. I like to burn incense. I use it every time and now when I smell Nag Champa I instantly relax. You could burn a candle, ring a tingsha chime or singing bowl, or twerk for a few minutes. It doesn’t matter what you do it’s your thing do it your way. Just make sure you do it every time. This help signals the mind to settle down.


I have an altar. This isn’t an altar where I sacrifice goats to spirits unknown or any type of worship really. This altar is just a nice little place where you have things that mean something to you. Pictures of loved ones, tokens, candles etc. Again this is deeply personal so make it yours.


Thoughts…so now you are in easy pose, counting your breath and your butt itches….acknowledge it and let it go. You remembered who sang that song you heard in flow the other day….let it go. Crap! You have to bring the snacks to jr’s preschool tomorrow….let it go.    You can’t escape the monkey mind that comes with meditation anymore that you can stop the fear of inverting the first time. Just like killer handstands meditation takes a lot of wiggle room in the beginning. PRACTICE y’all. Be patient with yourself.


It’s best to accept this when you get started. Just let the thoughts float by and suddenly the timer will ding one day and you will realize you were zen’d out the entire time. It just takes a daily practice and patience with yourself. It’s important to remember that even the most disciplined of the Buddhist monks is sitting in temple somewhere wondering what’s for dinner. You are not alone this happens to everyone.


It’s important to start slow. Set your timer for 5 minutes for the first week. Dedicate just five minutes a day to your meditation practice. After that first week you can creep up to 10 and so on. Take small steps to avoid frustration in the beginning. The most important part is showing up, just like your yoga practice.


After the first couple of days you will start to notice how refreshed you can feel after this time you dedicate to yourself.  It will become addictive. My husband is very aware when I haven’t meditated now. My dad says “something has changed about you Sissy, you are so different.”  I’m not really different I just have a new perspective because of the time I have given my mind to shut down and turn inward. It’s so important to give ourselves this type of self love. You will think clearer and find yourself less reactive to situations.  And if all else fails you will have an awesome to-do list ☺

Check out more of Traci's Blog posts at www.tracihoffmanyoga.com 



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