The Beginner's Guide to Meditation: How, What & Why?

meditation

After a week on a yoga retreat, where I was forced to sit still in silence for half an hour, twice a day, I am finally beginning to understand the value of meditation. (Yep, forced. That’s actually how I’ve felt about meditation up ‘til now.)

I have had a few flirtations with meditation over the years. As a 16 year old insomniac I listened to guided meditations to help relax with the aim of falling asleep. In my regular yoga class in savasana I have my own mini meditation. But unless I needed meditation, I never saw the need for making it part of my daily routine.

But after a week of consistent, regular meditation, I felt mental clarity and focus like I’ve never had before. The day after the retreat, I sat cross-legged on the ground (voluntarily!), eyes closed, and ran through some breathing exercises and focussed on my mantra. Before I know it, half an hour was up! And I could have stayed on my mat for longer.


What is meditation?

There is no single meaning of meditation, nor is there one way to meditate. Ultimately, meditation is a state of thoughtless awareness.

eckhart tolle

Why meditate?

If all the hype surrounding meditation hasn't got you convinced, check out the research. Here are just a handful of the amazing benefits:

+ Makes us happy

+ Reduces anxiety and stress

+ Improves focus

+ Improves memory

+ Increases emotional intelligence

+ Reduces inflammation in the body

+ It literally changes your brain (in a good way)


Finding the right type of meditation for you

Meditation doesn't have to be long, hard and boring. In fact, the shorter the better! This way, it's more likely to become part of your daily routine.

First, find a type of meditation to suit you. These are a few of our favourites for beginners:
 

1. GUIDED MEDITATION

If you have trouble clearing your mind, guided meditation is a great place to start. Find a guided meditation track that suits you. Apps like Headspace have you covered here. 
 

2. THE LATEST TECHNOLOGY

If you can’t find complete silence in your meditation space, or don't enjoy guided meditation, the latest technology may be just what you need. LifeFlow, Holosync or the more affordable version Insight, are a combination of soul-soothing sounds and vibrational technology (these are our favourite, because they make meditation so easy when your mind is racing).
 

3. BREATHING EXERCISES AND MANTRAS

This is a great place to start when you're ready to go it alone. No headphones. Just you and your mind. 

+ Just breathe

There are so many different breathing exercises. Here is an easy one that I use often. 

Start by inhaling for a count of 5 (or adjust to a count that suits you), and exhale for the same count. Repeat this 10 times.

Then, inhale for a count of 5, hold your breath for 5, and exhale for 5. Repeat this 10 times, then return to your original inhalation/exhalation exercise. Follow this up with some deep diaphragmatic breathing.

+ Mantras

To embody synchronicity – what you believe becomes you, conjure up a mantra that really speaks for how you want to feel, live and be. It doesn't have to be woo-woo, holding hands and chanting (though there's nothing wrong with that). It's simply repeating and focusing on a powerful, meaningful phrase in your head.

For me, the words: healthy, energised, relaxed, peaceful and free really resonate.

Find a mantra that resonates with you, and as you sit and meditate, consciously repeat the phrase in your mind.


How to meditate

Once you've established how you're going to meditate, to put it into action, all you need to do is:

+ Find a comfortable seated position (for me, cross legged on a block or cushion is best)

+ Close your eyes

+ Breathe and relax

+ Follow along with your audio meditation, run through your breathing exercises or focus on your mantra

+ When you are ready, bring awareness back to your body and the space you are in

+ Thank yourself and be grateful!


Just remember, be gentle with yourself! Start small, be consistent, and you'll get there!

I’m participating in Mindful in May this year, so I’m committing to 10 minutes a day of meditation for the month of May. This is a sure-fire way to make meditation a part of your daily routine!

I'd love to hear your thoughts on meditation. Jump on over to the comments and let me know!