Finding the right technique

Hopefully by now everyone has tried out my 5 tips to get started with meditation, and maybe you are beginning to see the benefits of reduced stress, mental clarity, and emotional regulation the way I did when I was first starting out. The next step in your meditation journey is to find a technique that works for you.

Counting your breaths is a great way to get started with meditation. This fundamental technique can be helpful for beginners and experienced mediators alike.  Today we are going to dive into some more advanced techniques and ways to combat some common problems that come up when attempting to meditate for longer periods of time. In my first post, I advocated for beginning with just three minutes per day using the breath counting technique. This is a great place to start, but eventually most people find it more beneficial to grow your practice to 10-20 minutes per day and may want to experiment with a variety of techniques.

Pro tip: Don’t bite off more than you can chew.  If you were meditating for three minutes per day, don’t try jumping to 20 overnight.  Many experienced meditators choose to meditate for just 10 minutes per day, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.  Meditation is not a one size fits all model- find what works best for you and stick to that. By setting unrealistic expectations for yourself, you are turning your practice into a chore and are therefore less likely to follow through with it each day.

During your meditation

But what do you actually DO for 10-20 minutes while you are meditating?  Again, meditation is not a one size fits all model, but I can tell you what has worked very well for me.  As I mentioned in my first post, I like to get comfortable in a quiet place and I try to use the same space each time I meditate.

 Begin each meditation session with a full body scan. To do a full body scan, first close your eyes and get into a position that is comfortable for you. Next, slowly take inventory of each part of your body, beginning with the top of your head, moving down to the neck and shoulders and slowly making your way to the feet.  During this scan, simply notice how the body is feeling. Sometimes you may notice a heaviness, other times you may feel very light. Be on the lookout for places where you may be holding tension; common places for holding tension include the jaw and the back. Is there any pain? Discomfort? While doing this exercise the goal is not to change anything, but simply to notice how the body is feeling.

Once you’ve scanned the body, turn your attention to your breathing. When you breathe in, notice how how the air feels coming into your body.  Which parts of your body move- do you feel the rising and falling of your chest? Your stomach? Any other part of your body? As you breathe out, pay equal attention to how your body feels as you exhale. Often times when we inhale, there is a sense of lightness, contrasted by a relative sense of heaviness on the exhale. See if you can notice this, or any other sensation as you breathe in and out. Continue this throughout your practice.

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What happens if I can’t concentrate on my breath?

When thoughts come into your head, rather than try to resist them, let yourself simply acknowledge them. Once you realized that your thoughts have strayed from the breath, release the thought from your attention and come back to your breath.  By releasing the thought, you are not allowing yourself to get caught up in it. For example, if the thought is “I have so much to do today,” this can lead to a series of other related thoughts such as what needs to get done, when it will get done, and stress over the fear of not getting enough done.  Alternatively, when the thought arises “I have so much to do today,” the aim is to notice the thought about getting things done, then let it go by returning focus to the breath.

Don’t allow yourself to get frustrated. Letting go of your thoughts is something that can be extremely difficult at first, but gets easier with time. When this happens it is so important not to give up.  The mind is made to think and that is what it will try to do. Rather than getting frustrated, be proud of yourself for noticing the mind drifting off and being able to bring it back to focus on the breath.

Each time the mind wanders and you are able to notice it, your mind and your practice get stronger. Observing your thoughts takes practice.  If you need more guidance I recommend downloading the Head space app for guided meditation.

Ease back into the day

Once you’ve finished a session, try not to rush off immediately back to the grind.  Take a second to find appreciation for the time you’ve put aside for yourself and remember there are no “bad” meditation sessions.  So, if you’ve managed to put some time aside each day for your meditation practice, pat yourself on the back and keep up the great work!  

Episode 13- Yoga Nidra With Su

Episode 13- Yoga Nidra With Su

In this episode I talk to the woman who introduced me to yoga and meditation, my good friend Su McFadzean.  Su teaches us about the benefits of yoga nidra, plus how and why we should be engaging in this practice for our overall health and wellbeing.

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Episode 13- Yoga Nidra With Su

Episode 12- Intuitive Eating With Emily

In this episode I sit down with Emily Kennedy to discuss intuitive eating- what it is, what it isn't and our own personal struggles navigating diet culture.

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Episode 13- Yoga Nidra With Su

Episode 11- Five Pounds Stronger Challenge

In this episode I talk about a challenge I'm doing inside my life coaching group called five pounds stronger in 90 days.  I talk about what it is and how you can join me!

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