Hi everyone, Kim here, PPF Yoga and Pilates instructor! When Emily asked me to share some insight on how to meditate, I actually initially said no!
Like anything, if you have never done it before, it is very hard to go straight from zero to meditating like a monk. Sitting in stillness is not a skill that our current culture aligns with on any level. Even my yoga classes, as much as they love Savasana (the relaxation bit at the end!), it took most of my classes a little while to get used to it! Savasana is widely regarded as the hardest yoga pose as there is no movement to distract you from your thoughts. Remember, meditation is not about hiding or removing your thoughts, it is about acknowledging those thoughts and allowing them to pass without focusing on them.
Rather than going straight into meditation, let’s start with some mindfulness exercises that can help you to learn how to be comfortable with stillness. For all of these exercises, I encourage you to set a timer. Otherwise, your brain immediately starts to wonder how long you have been doing this, how much longer to go. So set a timer to remove that distraction from the start. And start small – maybe a minute, or three minutes – as you become more attuned to the exercise, you can increase the time gradually. The last thing you want to do is start stressing about not being able to meditate!
Here are some of my favourite simple mindfulness exercises:
Ok, so this one isn’t technically in stillness, but if you are brand new to meditation, it is a great place to start! Find a safe place to walk where you aren’t in danger of falling over or bumping into too many obstacles. Walk at a relaxed, fairly slow pace. Focus your attention to the sensations in your body as you walk. It is natural for your mind to be drawn to the sounds and sights around you, but keep bringing your thoughts back into your body. Scan your body, starting at the soles of your feet – notice the sensation of your feet rolling through the walking motion. Gradually take your focus throughout the body – ankles, shins, calves, knees, thighs, hips, pelvis, back, chest, arms, shoulders, neck and head. If you become aware of any tension in any area, let it go.
Body scan uses the same principles at the walking meditation above – without the movement! For this one, lay or sit comfortably and close your eyes. Take your attention to your feet – for this entire exercise, you can either just take your focus to each body part, or you can actually contract the body part by squeezing the muscles as tight as possible, and then release and let go of any tension. Move up your legs to your calves and shins, then take your focus to your upper legs (between your knees and hips). Continue to work up the body by either taking your focus to the body part, or contracting the muscles and relaxing the muscles – until you reach the crown of the head.
There are several simple breathing exercises that I incorporate into Yoga classes that can help in every day life. Again, I would encourage you to set a timer and start small.
· Breathe in for a comfortable count of 4, and then breathe out for either 5 or 6 – lengthening out the exhale helps you to relax a little more
· Breathe in for a count of 4, breathe out for a count of 4, and then a regular breath in and out
· Alternate nostril breathing – there are many variations of this, but here’s my favourite. Imagine you are breathing in via the right nostril only, and follow the flow of breath up to the forehead between your eyebrows, exhale out via the left nostril only. Now inhale via the left nostril, again visualise the flow of breath coming up between your eyebrows, and exhale out via the right nostril. Keep alternating in through the right, out through the left, then in through the left, out through the right.
· Visualisation – imagine a little ball of light at the base of your spine, on the inhale, this little ball of light travels up your spine to your mid brain, and on the exhale, this little ball of light travels down your spine, back down to your tail bone.
Place a square of chocolate on your tongue and keep it there for as long as possible. Focus on the sensations in the mouth, the taste, the texture. Notice how you start to salivate! Try to keep the chocolate on your tongue until it dissolves completely. HINT – avoid Mint chocolate as this may burn!
Light a candle, and focus your attention on the flame. Watch the flame flicker and keep bringing your focus back to the flame if your mind starts to wander. We absolutely LOVE Desert Rose & Co candles, which are made by a very talented client of ours! Check them out here!
Looking for more Mindfulness & Meditation tips?
Read our Guide to 365 days of Wellness.
We offer some guided meditations in our online membership.