When you think of doing yoga, your first association might be with the physical practice: moving through the yoga poses and practising yoga breathing. But meditation—the act of focusing your mind—is also part of a well-rounded yoga experience.
Learning to meditate in yoga involves more than sitting still for a few moments each day. The reason? Your mind might still be sifting through a barrage of thoughts and worries. Yoga meditation is about quieting a busy mind, the more you’re able to quiet your thoughts through yoga meditation, the more you experience a sense of true presence. And being in the moment helps create that beneficial mind-body connection that yoga is known for.
There's a misconception that in order to meditate your mind must be blank - completely free of any thoughts - this simply isn't true (and in fact that's impossible!). Meditation (and mindfulness) is just about being here, in the present moment right now. Not worrying about the past, the future or anything else, just appreciating what is around you right now - what you can see, smell and touch. Simple really hey!
How to meditate in yoga
The first step to successful meditation is practising it often. But even in a class where the yoga teacher sets time aside for meditation (usually as part of Savasana - the relaxation time at the end of the class), getting the hang of how to meditate can be quite challenging, whether you’re a beginner to yoga or you’ve been taking yoga classes for a while. Considering that serious yogis spend a lifetime honing the art of meditation, there’s no sense in pressuring yourself to perfect your own meditation technique after just a few sessions.
Your yoga teacher might take you through a guided relaxation for your body (asking you to individually relax each body part), or they might give you an object to focus on, or they could just leave you in silence to focus on your own meditation for the period of Savasana. There are many different ways to meditate and not every way suits every person.
Yoga meditation for beginners
An easy way to learn how to meditate is to focus on the here and now. When you’re mindful about being in the moment, there’s no room for your attention to be pulled toward distracting thoughts about the past or future. That can be very freeing.
I recommend beginning with active meditation, where you focus your thoughts on something specific. The idea is to streamline your attention to only one thing at a time, like your breathing or gazing at a candle flame.
When you’re first trying out this meditation technique be prepared for your mind to wander sometimes. Whenever you become aware that your thoughts have drifted, simply redirect your mental focus back to the present.
Want to give yoga meditation a try? Try this simple exercise:
~ Set aside just a few minutes at first. Choose a time of day when you’re able to meditate without interruption. You might coordinate your meditation so you do it right before or after a physical yoga practice.
~ Sit with good posture (straight spine) either on the floor, cross-legged, or in a chair if it’s more comfortable. (If seated cross-legged, switch which leg is crossed on top each time you meditate.)
~ Gaze at a simple object such as a candle’s flame or a black dot written on a piece of paper.
~ focus on this object and keep your breathing nice and even. If your mind or your gaze wanders don't get frustrated, just bring it back to the object and keep breathing.
~ An alternative option is to close your eyes and focus on the rhythm of your yoga breathing. Breathing deeply in and out through your nose - breathe in for the count of 4 then out of the count of 4, increasing this to 5,6 etc as you get more comfortable with slowing the breath down.
~ Try one of the above options for just a couple of minutes to start with - try setting an alarm to remind you when your time is up so your not worrying about how long you've been sat there.
~ As you become more familiar with how to meditate, increase your practice by a minute or two at a time.
Finally, to avoid frustration, remember this common yoga meditation myth: Meditating is not about achieving a blank mind - It’s more about resisting the temptation to react to the thoughts that do pop into your head.