Relax, Then Meditate
Meditation isn’t for everyone. Many people are attracted to the idea of meditation, but inwardly cringe at the thought of sitting still for 5 to 10 minutes at a time. Yet many people realize the need to quiet their mind.
When I learned yoga in India, my teacher told me that people should learn relaxation before meditation. He said that most people aren’t ready for meditation and should be guided instead to practice sivasana. Sivasana is known as corpse pose in which you just lie down on the floor with your arms slightly away from the body and the whole body simply relaxed. If you can’t meditate, then try relaxation first.
If the mind is too agitated, and someone tries to meditate, it will only agitate the person further and possibly cause them further psychic disturbance and mental issues. This is why you practice the yamas and niyamas (yoga’s ethical system), together with the physical asana practice, to release the lower vibrations out of the system so that one can more successfully sit in stillness.
It’s better to start where you are, realistically with what you want and can do. I’m a fan of graduated steps and would not recommend meditation to everyone. There are easier ways for people to slip into a higher state of consciousness without all the initial arduous work of meditation. If you can work your way to meditation, rather than force yourself, then it will be a better long term experience overall.
If meditation isn’t for you right now, then I suggest one of these alternative practices.
1. Practice Relaxation – Practice corpse pose, lying on the floor or in your bed. In the morning or evening time before bed, lie on your back (without going to sleep). Start at 5 minutes and work your way towards 20 minutes if it feels appropriate. You can put a bolster or pillow under your knees to alleviate any pressure on your back.
2. Restorative Yoga – A deeply nourishing practice that restores the nervous system. You can lie with your back on the floor and your legs up the wall. Make sure your bum is close to the wall and that your back feels comfortable. If there’s any tension, move your bum away from the wall or place a blanket under your lower back. Practice one restorative yoga pose for 5-10 minutes a day at the beginning or end of your day.
3. Yoga Nidra – Also known as yogic sleep, yoga nidra includes a deep relaxation practice in which you consciously relax each part of the body. It is a guided meditative practice in which you simply listen to the voice of the Instructor. It is one of the most efficient practices in which you can attain higher states of consciousness with little effort. There are many free yoga nidra practices on youtube. Find a teacher whose voice agrees with you.
4. Any Activity You Enjoy – Whether it be movement, sports or art, choose any activity that you fully engage yourself in, where you lose a sense of time or a sense of yourself because you’re so fully absorbed in what you’re doing. These activities are an excellent use of your time and energy. Even though you may be using effort, it is deeply relaxing and joyful. Think of it as a cleansing process for your soul.
5. Mindfulness – There has been much confusion over the distinction between meditation and mindfulness. Mindfulness is the practice of being aware of ourselves in whatever we are in engaged in. It is the recognition of whether we are acting from an unconscious or conscious place within ourselves. If we are driving, we are aware that we are driving and the way we are driving. Are we driving with thoughts and stories in our head? Are we driving with quickened breath? Are we driving with shoulders tensed? In the practice of mindfulness, we are aware of the subtle shifts in our Being in whatever we are doing.
All of these practices help you to relax and slow down your mind. They also promote creativity, intuition and deep peace. If you practice any one of these practices consistently, you will notice a baseline increase in your overall well-being.
In meditation or any practice, you will inevitably get bored or tired of what you’re doing. The key is to do it anyway. There is a magic to giving yourself over to a practice that’s good for you.
“The thing about meditation is: you become more and more you.” – David Lynch.