When someone says mediation, people generally think of somebody sitting in lotus pose with a serene facial expression surrounded by a beautiful landscape, like these ones:
However if you live in a Western country with information overflow , pollution,everyday stress and people simply culturally not designed to just sit down and let go, meditation can be challenging.
I don’t want to make statements, so I’ll only speak about my experience , being at the very beginning of this journey myself. I practiced asanas for years without letting the spiritual side of yoga in( little I know back then that I´ll become a yoga teacher and I’ll actually find it very important to include meditation in my classes). I have a very busy mind, coming from a psychology background just emphasised my analytical skills and I have a very keen interest in understanding EVERYTHING around me. So when it came to the point that I should sit down and calm the flow of thoughts, I failed… At the first few attempts I probably had more thoughts crossing my mind than cars in London peak time traffic.
My personal path to meditation was (and again this is not ultimate wisdom, just sharing my experience in the hope of it might help others) through pranayama. Pranayama is one of the eight limbs of yoga (Post coming soon 😉 ), and it literally means controlling the breath, hovewer prana also means life force, so through controlling breath one can control the life force, energy within. There are many types of pranayama, combining the four functions : inhale ( puraka) and held in( kumbhaka), exhale (rechaka) and held out(shunyaka). Learning pranayama guided me on the road to meditation, as controlling your breath , observing how your body feels after an intake of fresh oxygen,how you let all the bad stuff go with an exhale really helps to withdraw your focus from the outside word.
Physiologically speaking(nerd alert!) we are gaining control over our breathing ,the respiratory system , this is a part of our autonomic nervous system that we can consciously control .Through breath control we can help to activate the parasympathetic branch(this often associated with “rest and digest”and “calm and control”) so our body will achieve a state when we could let go the constant alertness of the sympathetic nervous system(associated with “fight or flight”).
So pranayama was the first step. It helped me to calm the “traffic” of thoughts. I also learned that restraining my thoughts won’t work, I should let them in, like I’m in an aquarium watching fish floating around, observe them without connecting them to others and let them go. If I’m in touch with my breathing and stop stressing about what I should or shouldn’t do when meditating (like “Oh my God,I´m still thinking of something!”) it will happen. And there’s always place for learning new things.
I benefited from meditation.I am generally calmer and face stressful situations with greater inner strength and stability. I still struggle sometimes with the “traffic”, but then I just laugh at myself and focus on my breath. In and out, right? So I can only recommend it, even if it´s just a little bit, even if you not doing it by the book( what is by the book anyway?) . Meditation is a powerful tool , use it 😊!