Studies show that incorporating a regular meditation practice into your life can offer several general benefits. Individuals who meditate report that their mind becomes calmer; they may notice less immediate negative thoughts during stressful situations or that their mind ceases to race and worry throughout the day both in professional and personal settings. Others report that they enjoy a heightened ability to concentration and recall information. The process of thought cessation seems to encourage better clarity when thinking as well; the mind seems to better focus on issues when it has previously been given a break from thinking. Finally, another general benefit involves feeling more relaxed and peaceful throughout the day. Some meditation practitioners additionally share that meditation has improved their sleep habits and reduced instances of insomnia and other issues affecting sleep.
Mindfulness meditation is often called the simple meditation, but that doesn't mean it's easy to do. It is simply a practice in directing your attention and being aware of your body, breath, and focus. Mindfulness meditation brings awareness to when the mind may wander from the present moment, and allows it to return back to the present with ease, and without judgment.
There are numerous ways to sit for meditation. Factors include the type of meditation but also your physical body. In general, it is important to assume a comfortable position during meditation, although there is an exception. The reason for this in most meditation practices is because the position will be held in stillness for a longer period of time than usual sitting.
One of the principal characteristics of all seated meditation is the proper alignment of the spine, head, shoulders, and hips. The hips should be grounded while the crown of the head is stacked tall. The head should sit right atop the shoulders with the chin slightly tucked back. This is to ensure that it does not jut forward at all. The shoulders should also be directly over the hips, while the spine is centered without leaning right or left.
Here are various ways that can be utilized for seated meditation, depending on your body type and/or skill level:
This position is suitable for beginners or those with tight hips, knees, and/or a lower back. It is best to start this seated on a zafu or meditation pillow in order to elevate the hips and relax the knees downward. To sit this way, sit toward the front of the cushion so the legs descend and the hips feel open. Fold the left leg underneath the right leg and stack the right foot atop the left calf.
Whichever variation you choose to do meditation in, always remember to keep the energy of the spine straight. The hips and knees should generally be comfortable and relaxed (unless you are performing seiza), so remember to progress without pushing yourself into any position during your seated meditation practice. You can also try switching up which legs cross in front or on top to help balance out the range of motion in your hip and knee joints, too. This will also help keep the spine happy. You may find over time that you prefer one way over the other and that is okay, too. Remember to do what is best for your body and mind at all times during your meditation journey.
The breath is the gateway to unlocking the secrets of the body and mind during meditation. Breathwork and meditation are two sides of the same coin that fit together hand in hand. They are mutually beneficial and support one another. Breathing is an automatic function that occurs every day and every moment of waking life. Your breath is also something you can control, which makes it unique. You cannot will yourself to beat your heart any differently or digest your food a certain way. Your breath, however, is different in this regard. Meditation uses this to its advantage to achieve a place of stillness and calm for the body and mind.
When your breath feels out of control, you may feel your life is out of control. Learning to control your breath can help you control your mind during difficult times. This is the power that your breath and meditation hold- through the conscious use of this often unconscious function.
Breathing first and foremost oxygenates your blood. Oxygen sustains human life as a sort of fuel, even more so than food or water to a certain extent. Oxygen is used in the process of cellular respiration, which is the body’s ability to produce energy. If the body is low on oxygen, energy levels will be low, slow, and sluggish and the body’s functions will not be as efficient.
Breathing is also the body’s best way of cleansing and detoxifying itself. Our body burns through billions of cells daily, and the old cells become toxic waste. The breathing process helps to eliminate these toxins and make way for new energy to be produced.
Using the breath during meditation will not only consciously activate this cleansing system, but will also calm the mind. A calm mind is an essential component of meditation that is sometimes difficult to grasp when beginning. The mind needs to be trained to focus on something in order to relieve the pressure of constant thoughts. Otherwise, the mind will wander and be distracted, or even possibly attached to emotion. Using the breath allows you to disassociate from your thoughts and perceptions so that you can come back to your life with a fresh slate and a clear mind.
When you are able to experience the present moment without fear of the future or attachment to the past, you can truly embody yourself and live a more peaceful existence. When things get rough around the edges during life, you can remember your meditation practice and your breath. Take a deep breath filling the belly and lungs completely, enjoying that sweet air, and let it nourish you before responding to a stressful situation. Let this be the lesson you can receive through this conscious practice of uniting the breath, body, and mind.
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