1.2 Yogaś Chitta Vritti Nirodhaḥ
from The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
“The restraint of the modifications of the mind-stuff is Yoga.”
– Swami Satchidananda
“When all movement arising in the consciousness is stilled, this is yoga.”
– Yogiraj Alan Finger
Many of us know there are physical and mental benefits of meditation. I still often hear from students “but I cannot sit still.” Or “I can’t meditate, my mind is always working.”
That’s exactly why we meditate. The nature of the mind is to wander. Yoga is about quieting the thoughts, stilling the vritti, and beginning to see more clearly who you really are – without labels, titles or thoughts. Yogic teachings have compared our thoughts to ripples when we look into a lake. When our mind is quiet it is like looking at our reflection in the lake with no ripples or waves. There is clarity, our true nature.
Meditation will not change the circumstances of your life, but meditation can help us respond in better ways to what is in front of us rather than react.
I know how challenging it can be. My practice was purely physical for a long time. Asana is important! But I also know and feel the benefits of meditation daily. You can do this!
10 Tips to Begin Your Meditation Practice
1. Commit to 5 minutes a day.
30 or 60 minutes can be overwhelming if you are just starting a practice. My teacher jokes, “If you cannot sit with yourself for 5 minutes what must it be like for others to sit with you?” As you become more comfortable, add a minute or two until you work up to 20 minutes or more.
2. Create your sacred space.
By creating a space for yourself, you are also setting an intention, making a commitment and beginning a ritual. It might be one candle and your yoga mat. My altar slowly builds with things that inspire me, including a yantra that a student created for me as a training project.
3. Choose a time to sit each day – and then sit there.
I recommend first thing in the morning. This way, you begin your day with a few minutes of centering for yourself. If you wake up late or feel you cannot dedicate the whole amount of time just take even a moment or two in front of your space to honor your commitment, intention and practice. It’s all money in the bank – don’t get hung up on being perfect at it. If morning really does not work for you, commit to another time. Miss a day? Start again the next day.
4. Premeditative movement.
This does not need to be a full workout or an hour and a half vinyasa flow. A few simple cat/cows, side stretches, sun salutes or even forward bending is helpful to open the body and make it more comfortable to sit still.
5. Make sure your seat is comfortable.
This is so important! Use props, or sit in a chair if necessary. If your knee is not comfortable or your ankle bone is digging into the floor it is going to be challenging to let go of that. So just fix it. If you are using a chair sit at the edge (do not lean back) with a 90 degree angle at your legs. Sit tall and honor the natural curves of the spine.
6. Come with a plan/technique.
There are many kinds of meditations and techniques. I suggest having one to sit with and try it for at least one week. It can be as simple as watching your breath. “I’m inhaling now and I’m exhaling now.” It will help you stay focused so your mind is not going everywhere else. Every time you notice your mind has drifted away to something else, such as lunch, coffee, etc., come back to the chosen technique or mantra.
(For guided audio meditations you can also go to My Website)
7. Disconnect to reconnect – it’s only for a few minutes.
Use a meditation clock. If you must use your phone for the timer or alarm turn off all other sounds or try “Do Not Disturb. Every time we here that ding our brain responds – by releasing dopemine!
(For more info on this: click here)
8. Meditation can be uncomfortable.
When not surrounded by distractions or technology, we are left with what is. Anger, sadness, and fear can come up. Sometimes when we talk about meditation we forget to mention this. Notice it. Honor it. Let it move. Then, only if possible return to the technique, rather than getting caught up in sensations. This is much easier said than done; if it gets too intense you might lie down or even do some asana.
And this leads to the next suggestion….
9. Look for a teacher that resonates with you and who you trust.
I was in a class and my teacher said, “You don’t have to stop doing anything, just start doing this.” I knew I was in the right the place. I didn’t feel judged or like I had to change myself to practice yoga. Many changes did take place in my life, but I was moved from my heart to make them. I still ask my teacher questions. Meditation is powerful. Moving energy is powerful and I am grateful to have the guidance when I am unsure of something.
10. Make sure you are grounded.
You might like feeling a little “spacey” and “light” after you meditate – but you want to be in your body when you start walking around a major city or driving a car. Before you open your eyes bring your chin into your chest and when you open your eyes focus on a point on the floor for a minute. Then slowly begin to lift your head and take in the rest of the room. If you still feel “floaty” practice Chair pose for 10 breaths or Warrior 2 on both sides.
April Puciata has been teaching in NYC, Washington DC and New Jersey for over 15 years. The founder and creator of Beyond Om, she has taught trainings throughout the US and leads retreats all over the world. She is passionate about yoga, travel, writing, seva, and helping students stay inspired. She is honored to be offering the first 200 hour teacher training in Cuba at Mhai Yoga Retreat Center in June of 2018. For more information about April you can visit her website aprilyoga.com and follow her in Instagram @aprilyoga_beyondom and Facebook at April (Puciata) Yoga.[/box]
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