The question I have been asked the most as a yoga teacher is, “How do I quiet my mind to meditate?” I remember the struggle in my earlier years of practice, I understand, and I am here to help! So first, let’s just get this out of the way… Your thoughts don’t have to stop completely in order to meditate. We need first to let go of that expectation altogether! By nature we all have what some experts refer to as the monkey mind. This is the state of mind where our thoughts are scattered, and/or we become fixated on our thoughts. It is a great misconception that we should all be able to just sit down in lotus pose, close our eyes, and slip right into Nirvana! Not to say that this is impossible either. There are practiced yogis and meditators that are able to do this, but most of us need a segway.
So what’s the segway? The breath! Pranayama, yogic breathing. My favorite is Ujjayi, or “Victorious” Breath. To practice, find a comfortable seat, or lie down. You may place your hands on the belly or heart, or rest them comfortable on your lap or at your sides. Close your eyes, and begin to listen to the sound of your breath. Gently constrict your throat to create a “hhhaahhahh” sound. Similar to the fogging up a pane of glass with the breath, only we make this sound, through the gentle throat constriction, through the nose. Now, simply continue to listen to the breath as you expand it downward and out with a soft belly. Allow the sound to soothe you. When the monkey mind activates, focus the mind on the sound of the breath. Resist the urge to hang onto the thoughts that pester you and the urge to twitch. It is a practice, and the more often you do it, the easier it will get. Eventually the thoughts will soften, and you will feel relaxed and in a meditative state. For best results practice daily!