By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500, YACEP
How to start mindfulness meditation is not complicated. Mindfulness is living in each moment as it comes. It means acknowledging all thoughts that enter your brain, without stopping to ponder anything. When you are mindful, you become appreciative of each moment and grateful for the little things in life, like a beautiful sunset or a helpful neighbor. Mindfulness is actually a simple concept, but becoming mindful can be difficult, because it often contrasts with our usual state of being. Most of us are used to worrying about problems for days at a time, stressing over things in life that can’t be changed, or burdening ourselves with commitments, activities, and engagements. Learning mindfulness can allow us to acknowledge and accept all life experiences, whether they are positive or negative.
The first step to becoming mindful is to make the commitment to one’s self to honor the present moment. Practice mindfulness as you go about your day. Instead of worrying about work deadlines, when you get home in the evening, vow to put those worries on a shelf until you re-enter the office. Play with your kids without thinking about all the household chores that need to get done. Allow your entire self to be in each moment entirely.
In order to improve your ability to become mindful on a regular basis, it helps to practice it with meditation. Begin by finding a comfortable spot to sit or lie. Eliminate all distractions as much as possible by shutting off the television, radio, and computer, and finding a quiet spot to be alone. You can set a calm mood by dimming the lights, playing quiet, relaxing music, or lighting a few candles.
Focus your gaze softly in front of you, or gently close your eyes. As you sit, simply let yourself be. Do not try to eliminate all thoughts from your brain, as that will most likely cause an avalanche of thoughts and ideas to come crashing down. Acknowledge every thought that passes through your brain, by sitting with it for a moment, and releasing it.
Concentrate on your breath to bring yourself back into your body and the present moment. Notice how your belly and chest rise and fall with each inhale and exhale. Try to inhale deeper and exhale slower. Give each body part some special attention by moving up the body, part-by-part, and acknowledging how it feels. Breathe into any spots that feel tight or stressed. Visualize the stress leaving your body with each breath. Try to sit quietly for 10 or 15 minutes at first, extending it as you gain confidence and experience in meditation.
How to do Mindfulness Meditation
The best Yoga teachers take a holistic approach to their students’ well-being. They understand that practitioners are best served by drawing from a variety of meditative, spiritual, and athletic disciplines. Mindfulness meditation is an art that could benefit any Yoga student. You can help your students become better versions of themselves by teaching them some mindfulness meditation basics.
Mindfulness Meditation Explained
Mindfulness refers to the mind’s ability to be entirely present in its surroundings and in itself. While we always have mindfulness available to us, we are often so busy with our external lives that we forget to stop and really take stock of our thoughts and feelings. Mindfulness meditation is a practice that allows us to sit still and practice mindfulness in a purposeful fashion. While meditating, we’re able to explore our own minds in ways that are rarely possible during the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation
Mindfulness meditation has a number of documented positive effects, especially for daily practitioners. Most people experience a reduction of stress and anxiety, with the regular mediation giving them greater control over their thoughts and emotions. This calming effect also makes people more patient with the frustrations of everyday affairs.
Meditation can have physical effects on the body, with the lack of stress bringing a resultant boost to the immune system. Many practitioners also report getting a better night’s sleep after starting meditation.
Make sure you explain these benefits to your students so that they understand why mindfulness meditation is worth the effort. Lessons are always more impactful when students know the “why” behind the activity.
7 Steps For Mindfulness Meditation
While mindfulness meditation can take many forms, here’s the general formula you should teach your students at the beginning.
Step 1: Find a Quiet Place
Meditation requires a person’s full attention. While you don’t need to wander off into an isolated swath of forest, you should at least find a quiet place where you can be alone. The entire session will be a bust if your partner is slurping down spaghetti across the table.
Step 2: Get Comfortable
There’s no single pose necessary for mindfulness meditation, but you do need to be at ease. Sit so that you’re comfortable but alert, relaxed but straightened out. Pay attention to your limbs, noticing how they feel in relation to your body.
Step 3: Let Your Gaze Soften
Once you’ve found a comfortable position, let your vision gently melt before you. There’s no need to close your eyes, but you shouldn’t be hyper-aware of your physical surroundings.
Step 4: Focus on Your Breath
Try to follow the air as it flows in and out of your body. This will give your mind a focal point for the duration of the exercise.
Step 5: Take Notice When Your Mind Wanders
Notice how your thoughts diverge from the steady pattern of your breathing. This wandering is completely normal, and you shouldn’t let yourself get bothered by it.
Step 6: Gently Focus Back on Your Breath
Without scolding yourself for your divergent thoughts, steer your attention back to the rhythm of your breathing. This will encourage your mind to remain centered.
Step 7: Sharpen Your Gaze When You’re Ready to Finish
When you’re ready to end the session, simply allow your eyes to refocus. Enjoy the heightened sensations that your mindfulness has given you, and rise slowly before getting on with your day.
Practicing Mindfulness in Everyday Life
While the type of purposeful meditation described above is the best way to optimize your practice, your students can also reap the benefits of mindfulness with mini exercises throughout the day. You can practice mindfulness while engaging in routine activities and daily chores. All it requires is being especially mindful of the sensations you’re experiencing. When brushing your teeth, simply acknowledge the feel of the bristles against your gums. When removing the laundry from the washer, take stock of the smell of the detergent and the feel of the wet fabric in your hands. All of this qualifies as mindfulness meditation and will bring positive results.
Teaching Mindfulness Meditation
Some forms of meditation are so complex, you can be left with more questions than answers. Many students attend Yoga fitness classes that skip meditation. This is good for students who only want a “workout.” For those who want to learn, mindfulness is a welcoming gateway to begin practicing meditation. Learning how to start mindfulness meditation is just a matter of taking action. If you want to be the type of instructor who makes a real difference in your students’ lives, then you need to teach them techniques that they can practice outside of the classroom. Mindfulness meditation is one strategy that all students will benefit from. Just by teaching them the basics outlined above, you’ll be setting them up to improve their well-being.
© Copyright – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
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