it has been three months since i returned to a daily yoga practice and in that time i have given up alcohol, returned to vegetarianism, got my mental health under control, dropped two dress sizes and have begun meditating again. not surprisingly, i am happy.
for the past few days i have increased meditation from 10 mins a day to 20 mins in the morning (roll out of bed, shower then sit) & 20 mins in the afternoon (after asana practice). this has had a huge effect on my health, making the core of fatigue i have been living with for such a long time now, disappear completely. my eyesight has also improved (clearly there is a relationship there)
don't be fooled, meditation is simple and i will share with you what i have learned;
sit in a quiet place free of draughts in half lotus (legs not completely crossed - left ankle resting on right calf) on cushions or folded blankets. your hips should be higher than your knees. get comfortable. rest your arms with wrists facing upwards on your knees.
be dressed for the season - I wrap myself in a pashmina shawl which is light and warm. when not in use i wrap this shawl in a cake of sandalwood soap, so that when I sit I am surrounded by the scent, which aids relaxation.
it helps to set a timer to the desired length of meditation, so you avoid obsessing about time - its good to begin with 5 mins then increment by 5 mins thereafter, as your practice improves. the longer the practice the deeper you go, the better it is for you.
keep your spine aligned and upright, but relax into the posture with the breath, which can be either short or long, it matters not.
breathe in through your nose and out through your nose.
just observe what happens.
if you become distracted or sleepy, use a mantra such as 'ham-sa' (i am that) - ('ham' on the inhalation, 'sa' on the exhalation) i love this mantra for its simplicity and because it sounds like the waves coming in on the beach.
keep coming back to the breath.
adjust your posture gently if you feel you are slumping, or find that your chest feels compressed. but don't wriggle around! ignore nagging aches & pains, they are only trying to distract you!
think of meditation as housekeeping: imagine that your mind is a desk cluttered with papers and files which require sorting. your thoughts are these papers & as each paper (thought) floats into your mind randomly, read it (observe it), then let it go. eventually you are left with a blissfully 'uncluttered desk' & space for your mind to function effectively. when new thoughts/problems arise during the day, you can deal with them more efficiently. these benefits will follow you into your day to day living.
when ready, open your eyes gently & stretch your legs out in front.
finally, I will leave you with an excerpt from 'Eat, Pray, Love' by elizabeth gilbert
Ketut Liyer, the medicine man from Bali;
"why they all look so serious in yoga? you make a serious face like this, you scare away good energy. to meditate only you must smile. smile with face, smile with mind & good energy will come to you & clean away dirty energy. even smile in your liver."