Breath focused meditation for beginners

It’s no doubt meditation is an important practice to cultivate to improve overall wellbeing. If you are new to meditation, as we all are at some point, it can seem a little intimidating. I’m not here to tell you that it’s easy, what I will say is that it’s completely doable : practice = progress.

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I still remember one of the first times I sat down to meditate on my own. The year was 2008, meditation had yet to go mainstream but being a young yogi, it was already on my radar. The guidance was simple (or so it seemed) “closed your eyes, clear your mind”.

I set my alarm for 10 minutes, sat down on the floor of my apartment, and closed my eyes… That was the easy part. “Clear your mind” on the other hand was not so easy.

Within seconds my mind was bombarded with thoughts and to do lists followed by judgement and criticism culminating in my eyes shooting open after what seemed like an eternity.

I looked down at my timer, it hadn’t even clocked a minute yet. In that moment I decided I was too much of a “go go go” person for meditation and perhaps it wasn’t for me. Sound familiar?

Being a yoga teacher though you weren’t let off that easy. Every training I took whether it be here in the states or anywhere else in the world and especially India had a component of meditation. So I kept at it.

Eventually my meditation journey lead me to Vipassana, a 10 -day silent meditation retreat. It was here that I finally learned how to meditate. I went from barely being able to sit in stillness for one minute, to sitting for hours at a time.

The one learning that completely shifted my meditation practice was this:

Thoughts are okay, thoughts are normal, thoughts are going to be there

With the expectation of “clearing my mind” no longer constraining me, I was finally able to experience what meditation was designed to do — develop my awareness of the sensations on my body. I felt painful, intense sensations. I felt pleasant, soft sensations.

Once you develop awareness of the sensations on your body, you reclaim your choice to respond or react. Ultimately this is what meditation prepares you for — to sit back in the driver seat of your life.

One of the many benefits of meditation is to alleviate stress and anxiety, and calm the nervous the system. When you become aware of the subtle sensations of an emotion as it arises, you can curb the intensity of it. Whether that be anger, anxiety, fear, or even excitement. You decide how long you want to spend on the emotional rollercoaster, five minutes or five hours?

It all starts with awareness.

Here is a short 5 minute breath focused meditation video from my Stress Detox course to get your started with your meditation practice. In this video I guide you to observe your breath. Naturally, thoughts will arise in your mind. When this happens, acknowledge the thoughts without attaching to or judging the thoughts (that’s the tricky part that takes time to master), then come back to your breath.

Practice along with the video a few times, then use only audio, eventually practicing on your own. Remember, meditation is not a vacation, it requires work. If you find yourself opening your eyes one minute into it like I did, celebrate your one minute and show up again next time with an open and curious mind to explore what happens next.

Do you remember your first meditation practice? Share your story in the comments below. What helped you stick with it?

Peace & Love

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This article first appeared on the eat.move.meditate. blog at www.eatmovemeditate.com.

Ritu is a public health professional specializing in stress and burnout in the workplace through the lens of behavioral science, spirituality, & socialization.

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