An Introduction to Meditative Practices
Written by: Anupam Raman
It’s important to be able to find a place of internal peace and quiet especially during unpredictable and stressful times. Learning the techniques for a meditative practice are simple, however the practice itself evolves over time based on you individual needs. Here are some ideas to help you start access an internal place of stillness and quiet. Learn to breathe – In the west while teaching and learning Yoga, we emphasize asana or postural practice, which physically prepares the body for stillness. The next “Limb” of Yoga is Pranayama or Breath Control, where we sit still and practice various breathing exercises. It is said that ancient yogis measured their lives not in years, but in breaths. A simple yet powerful breathing practice starts with Ujjayi (literally translated as Victorious Breath). To perform – Seal your lips breathing in and out through your nose. While constricting the muscles in the back of your throat take a slow inhalation through the nose. Once you’ve reached the peak of your inhale, exhale slowly keeping the muscles constricted. Your breath should sound like ocean waves. Some people compare Ujjayi breathing to Darth Vader from Star Wars. Once you’ve gotten the hang of it try this – Inhale for a count of 4 then exhale for a count of 4. Repeat at least 12 times, up to 10 minutes. As you get more comfortable extend your inhales and exhales to whatever feels right. If you are preparing for a meditative practice, always make sure your exhale is the same or longer than your inhale. The Meditative practice – After settling your system with asana and pranayama you are ready to start your meditation. There are many approaches to meditation. I’ll list some of them here for you to try; there isn’t one that is better than another. The best practice is what speaks to you and allows you to calm your mind. Guided visualization is the practice of guiding the mind through a series of images to achieve a balanced state of mind and is especially useful in overcoming stress or fears. It is also one of the easier types of meditation to teach since teachers can guide students through these visualizations. Zen meditation. This ancient Buddhist tradition involves sitting upright and following the way your breath moves in and out of the belly and letting the mind “just be.” Its aim is to foster a sense of presence and alertness. Chakra meditation. This meditation technique is aimed at keeping the body’s core chakras — centers of energy — open, aligned, and fluid. Blocked or imbalanced chakras can result in uncomfortable physical and mental symptoms, but chakra meditation can help to bring all of them back into balance. Mantra meditation. This technique gives the practitioner a mantra (which could be a syllable, word, or phrase) to repeat during the practice. The subtle vibrations associated with the repeated mantra can encourage positive change to help you enter an even deeper state of meditation. Whatever you choose, even 5 minutes of a practice can help balance you out. Give it a try!