We advise you to meditate after each yoga-with-weights workout in all our workout chapters, but we also encourage you to meditate whenever the mood strikes you. The more you practice meditating, the easier it is to sit still without getting distracted or letting your mind wander. Be patient with yourself as you practice. Practice and more practice will help.
How long you meditate is up to you. You can use an alarm to make a sound after a certain amount of time elapses, or you can purchase gentle chiming timers designed for meditation practice that chime softly so as not to startle you (Brookstone, Whole Foods, Sharper Image, and other stores sell them). Start by meditating for a few minutes and build up to 20, 45, or even 60 minutes over time. Try to meditate three times a week at minimum, and meditate daily if you can. At first, your mind will wander, but eventually you'll be able to maintain your focus as you move into deeper states of meditation. Be patient, and meditate without any expectations.
Following are some meditation techniques you can use on your own time or after yoga-with-weights workouts.
Sit in silence
Sit comfortably in a cross-legged position on the floor (and preferably on your yoga mat).
If sitting on the floor isn't easy for you, put a small, firm cushion or folded blanket under your buttocks, or sit on the edge of a wooden chair with your feet on the floor (don't sit on an upholstered chair, because they tend to induce drowsiness). You can also lie down or sit against a wall.
Rest your hands on your knees with your palms up or down. Sit with your spine straight, and remain silent, concentrating on the world around you. This will heighten your awareness and allow you to focus on your breathing.
Focus on your breath
You can use your breath as a tool to calm your active mind and direct your consciousness into new and deeper levels of awareness and insight.
Let your breath flow smoothly, evenly, and consistently, with the air moving in and out of your lungs like waves on a seashore. Breathe soundlessly or near soundlessly through your nostrils. Notice your lungs expanding as you inhale, and relaxing as you exhale. Breathe from your navel to your heart and into your chest, upper back, and shoulders. Without forcing, let the breath penetrate into the deepest recesses of your lungs.
Go into a deep meditation by taking inventory of the different parts of your body. As you breathe in and out, concentrate on relaxing, beginning with your forehead and scalp and then moving to your eyes, cheeks, ears, the corners of your mouth, your tongue, your teeth, and the hinges of your jaw. Feel your breath moving throughout your body, and let the tensions dissolve.
Relax in your throat, neck, and shoulders. Take a soft and gentle breath into your right nostril and relax the right side of your body. Now do the same with your left nostril and the left side of your body. You can then breathe through both nostrils and invite the breath to move down into your pelvis and hips to relax them. Imagine that you're breathing into your left leg, and then do the same with your right leg. Imagine that the air you're breathing is flowing straight into each leg. As you breathe out, relax fully.
Scan your body to deepen stillness and release tension
For three to ten breaths, scan your entire body as you breathe. Feel your body breathing all at once from the inside out. Without forcing, breathe in so completely, yet gently, that you feel your breath moving into the outermost edges of your body and even to areas beyond where your eyes can see. If you still feel any sensations of constriction in your body, contract and squeeze the muscles in the constricted areas of your body. For example, if your hip or thigh feels constricted, contract the muscles that surround those areas, squeezing and releasing the muscles. This helps to increase blood circulation to the areas that feel constricted.
Use word repetition
Repeating words gives your mind the power to stay focused on the task at hand. It moves you deeper into a meditative state.
Choose a positive-affirmation word that works for you — you may want to choose peace, harmony, or well-being, for example. Silently, hearing only the inner voice of your mind, repeat the word internally again and again as you breathe in and out. Feel your brain embracing the positive influence, vibration, and nature of the word.
Sit still and listen to the sounds around you without thinking about where the sounds originated or what the sounds mean. Just hear them. Ideally, you should be outside and listening to the sounds of nature — the wind, birds, the rustle of leaves. Obviously, no cell phones or other electronic distractions are allowed in this type of meditation. We don't recommend listening to music during meditation because, well, that's listening to music, not meditating.
Become your own observer. Notice your thoughts, step back from them, and watch them with your mind as they appear and pass by. Meanwhile, feel the breath moving throughout your body and let any tensions dissolve breath by breath, moment into moment, into nothingness. Let this meditation be a simple yet profound path toward your discovery of what's real and meaningful in your life.
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