Meditation 101 for Beginners: How to Dive into the Practice
Sometimes it’s hard to believe that just six years ago, my sleep routine consisted of crashing into bed around 11:00pm with a blackberry tucked under my pillow each night. This was abruptly followed the next morning by a jolt out of bed, waking up to my phone’s beeping red light and the frantic hustle of my work life.
For those that are not aware, the way I found myself immersed in a regular yoga and meditation practice was not just out of sheer curiosity, but also came from a dire need to make important life and wellness changes. Though I had a beautiful home in Washington, DC and worked for a company with a meaningful mission, I was wracked with stress, anxiety and depression. It was literally killing me one day at a time. I was not only suffering from the sheer stress of an imbalanced work-life situation but also from the poor dietary choices I was making as a result (lots of fried chicken, waffles and happy hours to boot).
After hitting an all-time low, I began to experiment with meditation. I had learned about meditation several years prior while still in high school. My Asian History teacher would have us all sit for an 11-minute meditation at the end of each class for weeks while studying Buddhism. As a sleep-deprived high school student this was one of my favorite moments in class. I had an incredible 11-minute nap right before lunch. It was phenomenal. Little did I know I would gratefully pick up that meditation practice again later in life, as if discovering a life raft pulling me out from the storm.
As with most who struggle from depression and want a way out, I eventually reached out to friends for help and it was suggested that I begin to meditate. Since I had no prior official practice, I turned to the all-knowing Google for guidance. Discovering several guided meditations and explanations online, I decided to jump right in. In the beginning, it was surprisingly challenging to sit still, even for just a few minutes. However, after every session I consistently felt immediate benefits. I was calmer, more relaxed and clear minded throughout my day and found myself finding other interests and passions in life again
My desire to meditate grew and I eventually created a rule for myself to help make this new technique a regular practice in my life. I called it my “three breath rule” and it’s still with me today. I decided that no matter what project or work event was transpiring, when I woke up in the morning and when I went to bed in the evening the first and last thing I had to do was sit in meditation for at least three breaths. I could do that, right? I would frequently sit longer than this of course; 3-5 minutes in the beginning and then eventually I worked my way up to 20-30 minutes a day. However, there were some days where all I had time for was to sit for those three breaths.
After many years of practice, meditation has become a way of being for me. If I go one or two days without practicing now I immediately feel the difference. My mind feels groggy, I tend to feed myself unhealthier food choices and I am less present throughout my day.
Not only does meditation help you to relax and focus but the Mayo Clinic claims it can help with more serious diseases and ailments such as: Anxiety, Asthma, Cancer, Chronic pain, Depression, Heart disease, High blood pressure, Irritable bowel syndrome, Sleep problems and Tension headaches.
Just three minutes of mindful meditation a day can start to affect the circulation and blood chemistry of your body. It lowers cortisol levels, reducing toxicity in the gut and lowers stress levels. There are so many incredible benefits to meditation but the real key is just to get started. If you are a beginner and looking to find resources, I have listed some below. However, a very simple meditation to start can be practiced as follows:
- ) Find a comfortable and quiet space somewhere where you can sit in a cross-legged position (feel free to put a cushion underneath you or if you need you can sit in a chair as well). Keep your spine straight.
- Close your eyes and begin to focus on your breath. Notice the breath as it moves in and out of your nostrils and feel your diaphragm expand and contract. Just doing this for three minutes is a great way to start!
- If you find your mind being distracted you can play some peaceful meditation music in the background and/or add a count to your breath. One basic count is breathing in to the count of eight and exhaling to the count of eight. This can help to calm your nervous system and give you focus and energy afterwards.
- Feel free to set a timer on your phone so you can let go and enjoy. There are many great meditation apps out there but one great one is Insight Timer.
Hopefully this is enough to get you started but if you have questions or would like more support in changing your lifestyle habits to reduce the stress and anxiety in your life, feel free to reach out to me with any questions. You can find my information on my Teacup Wellness profile.
Prem Dasi is a Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, Certified Kundalini Yoga and Meditation Instructor, Certified Medical Hypnotist, Certified in MB-EAT (Mindfulness-Based Eating Awareness Training), with Teacup Wellness.