effective meditation

To complement the article “Mind Games: Your Secret to Study Success,” in the February 2015 issue of MASSAGE Magazine. Summary: These five steps will help massage therapists establish an effective meditation practice, which can be an important part of a well-rounded self-care regimen.

How can you use relaxation’s healing powers? Harvard researchers found that yoga, meditation, and repetitive prayer and mantras all induce the relaxation response. The following steps will help you establish an effective meditation practice.

1. Commit

Commit to practicing your meditation for at least 10 minutes, or however much time you have available, every day. It is helpful to set an alarm so you don’t have to keep one eye on the clock. To help make your meditation practice a habit, practice at the same time each day or immediately after your yoga practice. If you have room in your home, establish a special place to sit and meditate. Create a sacred space, even if it’s as simple as placing a chair in a corner near a window or surrounding a cushion with a few of your favorite candles. Knowing you have somewhere you love to go will help you get there.

2. Get comfortable

Sit in a comfortable position with your spine straight, be it in a chair, on a cushion or directly on the floor. If you are not comfortable, you will be distracted. If you are practicing before or after your yoga workout, roll up your mat and sit on it, as elevating your hips can ease tension in the hips and hamstrings and improve circulation to your legs while sitting for long periods.

3. Use relaxation breath

Sitting upright with a neutral spine, relax your abdomen, and breathe quietly without forcing your exhalations. Take the same amount of time for both inhaling and exhaling, consciously beginning your inhale just as your exhale ends. The abdominal muscles must be unrestrained by tension or clothing and be completely free to move.

4. Select an effective meditation technique

Pick one of the following techniques. If the technique you choose doesn’t work, let it go and choose something else.

  • Choose a mantra (word or phrase), thought or feeling on which to meditate. Repeat it over and over in rhythm with your breath. If your first choice leads to negative thoughts or feelings, let it go and choose something else. For example, a commonly used mantra, om (actually pronounced aaaaaah ooooo mmmmm), is believed to represent the root of all sounds that are ever-present as vibrations in our bodies.
  • Visualize an object or place in which you find peace, such as a lotus blossom or a quiet beach.
  • If preparing for a performance or competition of any kind, visualize yourself succeeding, incorporating all your senses as you mentally act out the scenario.
  • Use a guided meditation. There are many such meditations available on CD. Relax and listen to each word fully.
  • Use an affirmation card with a phrase that inspires or strengthens you. There are many books available with positive affirmations, as well as boxed card sets. You can also make your own.
  • Focus on a small, meaningful object held in your hand or placed in front of you.

5. Journal

When you’re finished, journal about your experience so you can keep track of your progress. For example, write down any techniques you tried and what you experienced practicing them. What were your thoughts and feelings before, during and after meditating? Also, note if your practice revealed any solutions to questions or situations you’ve struggled to resolve. Finally, keep track of the benefits you notice from incorporating meditation into your yoga practice or daily life. These will become incentives to continue.

Beth ShawAbout the Author

Beth Shaw, founder and president of YogaFit Training Systems Worldwide, is a yoga, fitness and nutrition expert; is featured on over a dozen DVDs; and authored the bestselling book, YogaFit. Her latest book, YogaLean: Poses and Recipes to Promote Weight Loss and Vitality—for Life!, from which this article is excerpted, was released in September 2014.