This article's aim is to help you get started with your own meditation practice. My favourite definition of yoga is: Yoga is Samadhi. Samadhi is a state of bliss and union with the infinite, which is arrived at through meditation. Yoga and meditation are therefore inextricably linked.
First of all, why should we meditate? On a practical, scientific level, meditation has been shown to improve concentration, reduce feelings of stress, decrease depression and improve immunity. It brings a feeling of calm and peace into our day and helps us deal with the demands of daily life. Some very compelling reasons to start a meditation practice!
Time and place
It is helpful to create a space where you will meditate. This could be a corner of your bedroom or living room, or a separate room, if you have that. Somewhere you can be undisturbed.
It also helps to pick a regular time for your practice. Like brushing your teeth, meditation can become a part of your daily routine. Just as you look after your dental health, you can make a little habit that helps to take care of your mental health!
For the meditation itself, sit comfortably on the floor, on a cushion or on a straight-backed chair. You may wish to move your body a bit beforehand to make sitting more comfortable. This is where you could introduce yoga postures (asanas) as part of an integrated practice.
Your foundation position (adhara) should be stable and comfortable with your spine in a neutral position (i.e. it has the same curve in the lower back as when you are standing up straight). If you find that your back is curving and you are losing the neutral position, consider elevating your butt. This can tilt the pelvis for optimum spinal integrity.
How to meditate
Begin by bringing your awareness to your breathing. Feel your breath move from the belly up to the nostrils and then back down to the belly again, passing through your heart centre. Notice the sound and quality of your breath.
You may wish to use a mantra to help focus your mind. Concentration of the mind is a step towards clearing the mind.
You can start with "Hum" as you exhale and "So" as you inhale. These sounds are naturally made by your breath. By focusing your thoughts towards these sounds, you begin to become completely centred on your breath. This leads to "one-pointedness", a focused state of mind that is the starting point of meditation. Do this for ten minutes every day and observe the effects of this over a period of time. Remember yoga and meditation are sciences and your own body and life are the laboratory.