Both of these practices are incredibly transformative and powerful. I’ve lumped these two together, because in essence, they are very similar. Sitting meditation happens in stillness, while yoga is meditation with movement. Stillness and movement are the two aspects of creation, and so we meditate on both. I have found it extremely useful to practice one after the other—20 minutes of yoga, followed by 30 minutes of meditation, or vice versa. I do this in the morning, and then again before I go to sleep. It is very powerful to do these practices together and to do them everyday. It creates a very strong foundation for spiritual growth.
A daily spiritual routine will ground you to the earth, help you stay connected to your center, improve your focus and inner peace, and provide innumerable benefits in your life. If you have no other spiritual practice throughout your day, let it be a daily practice of meditation and yoga. There are plenty of resources on both of these practices, so I will provide the basic and essential information.
Meditation is best practiced 20-90 minutes at a time in the early hours of the morning (between 5am and 7am), and the evening hours of the day (between sunset and the time you go to bed). If you have ever tried meditating at 5am, you know how amazing the experience can be. At this early hour, the energies of the earth are very still and quiet, creating a palpable stillness in the air. We are each synched up to the earth’s energy, and we can use the earth’s peaceful energy at this early hour to aid our practice in finding stillness within. When meditating, keep it simple. Find a cushion or chair to sit in. Wear comfortable clothing in an environment where you can relax. Set a timer, committing to meditate for the entire period of time that you choose.
Begin by bringing your attention to your breath and relaxing your body. Keep your spine relatively straight, without making yourself uncomfortable. As you breathe, continue checking in with the various parts of your body, relaxing the muscles as you do. Hold just enough tension to keep your body upright. Keep your attention on the breath, allowing it to naturally slow down as you breathe. When a thought arises, return to the breath. Do not be concerned at all with the content of your thoughts. Instead, focus on being present with your breath. Even if you have to bring your attention back to your breath 1000 times during a meditation, it is a very successful meditation. In fact, there can be no unsuccessful meditation. Just having the intention and commitment to finding inner peace and stillness is a success. Your intention is so powerful, that if you stick with it, there can be no outcome other than inner peace. It is just a matter of time.
When it comes to meditation, consistency is key. This cannot be understated. Watch your mind as you begin a regular practice of meditation, and it will likely say, “this isn’t working,” or, “I’m not doing this right,” Really? Who’s telling you that? It’s that wily mind that is making up those stories. Meditation is a practice that has been used for thousands of years and is proven effective for increasing mental, emotional, and even physical health. The process of meditation is about breaking our addiction to thinking, and it takes time. It takes practice. It takes dedication and commitment. If you want to know a deeper dimension to life, free from the filters and limitations of the mind, then meditate.
What you will notice through meditation is that your breath is a doorway, allowing you to go deeper and deeper into the center of yourself and the present moment. Follow your breath, allowing it to slow down and become quieter and more shallow. This does not require any effort, but rather, conscious relaxation and alertness. As the breath becomes quieter and more subtle, everything within you becomes more still. Your body may begin to feel heavy like stone, you may feel yourself expanding beyond your body, or you may feel as though there is infinite space within your body. Stay with your breath and whatever sensations arise from within you. There is no need to feel discouraged or frustrated, for the path of self-realization is a noble pursuit that takes commitment and time. Tap into your childlike innocence, curiosity, and sense of adventure, and most of all, enjoy the journey.
Yoga is a wonderful practice for getting out of the head and into the body. Often times we store painful experiences from our past in the tissue and muscles of the body. Yoga can be essential in helping release these old energies, keeping your body free from energetic blockages and physical illness. You don’t have to be a yoga expert to do the basic yoga postures necessary to keep you in good health. There are plenty of community yoga classes you can attend, or online yoga instructionals that can provide you with a good starting point. No need to worry about getting the postures just right. Before there was “yoga,” there were people who just stretched their bodies because, intuitively, they knew it was good for them.
Listen to your body, feel into where your body needs to be stretched, and make slow and methodical movements to achieve the stretch. Be focused, moving and breathing slowly and steadily, taking your time to hold each stretch for a few breaths. Find a routine that works for you, and be open to adjusting it as you progress in your practice. Doing yoga everyday, particularly in conjunction with a meditation practice, anchors your energy to the earth, grounds you, and gives you stability as you go about your day. Starting each day with a commitment to Self, sends a powerful message to the universe that your own state of peace, happiness, and health is your priority and focus in life.