Are you new to the world of yoga and meditation and would like to know where to begin cultivating a practice? Yoga and meditation are ancient practices, they transform us on all levels, mind, body and soul. The two really go hand in hand as tools to integrate into your daily life for incredible and lasting transformation.
At the core of yoga is movement, breath and a healthy life philosophy which includes meditation. In India, yoga has been practiced for over 5000 years and may even go back further than that. Since being adopted so enthusiastically in the Western world, the practice of yoga sometimes falls victim to being seen as simply a “spiritual” exercise class and the way of life that goes with it is not embraced fully. In fact, yoga as a spiritual philosophy and practice has been evolving over time as it has been accepted, embraced and integrated into different cultures globally.
What makes practicing yoga so unique is the lifestyle it embodies. When you regularly return to a yoga and meditation practice, you transform your life outside of that practice too. It truly extends beyond the movements on the mat into the rest of your experience.
That’s why meditation and yoga go together so perfectly, and if you are just starting out, creating a practice that involves both can really help you to understand and embody the philosophy.
Yoga helps you to find peace, become more balanced and emotionally grounded as well as physically strong and flexible. Meditation and mindful breath are an essential and integral part of yoga, as you move through various poses your breath is a guide and a centering force.
Both yoga and meditation teach you to become present, kind and loving towards yourself and others in your life. They increase your awareness and with increased awareness comes a wider perspective of the world and the ability to be more mindful and compassionate.
You see how it is far more than a few stretches?! Yoga and meditation truly are a way of life.
So how should you get started? Don’t be intimidated by the amount of information on yoga and meditation. Remember that at their core is a simple message – be present, mindful and aware. The beauty of both yoga and meditation is that they can be done pretty much anywhere, and you take the ability to practice them with you wherever you go.
If you would like to understand more about the ancient philosophy behind yoga and want to build an authentic foundation to your practice and ground it in some basic knowledge and gain a sense of awareness, check out translations of the ancient sanskrit texts, the Yoga Sutras or the Bhagavad Gita. You can always then pair these with more contemporary books that explain certain poses or different types of yoga and meditation.
The best way to get started with an actual yoga practice is to take a class and learn to master some of the basic and simple poses and asanas. Yoga does not have to be complicated, and some of the most easy seeming poses are in fact the deepest and most transformative on all levels. Being a beginner can be a blessing in this way, for you learn the basic framework that holds it all together. Yoga is not competitive, it’s a deeply personal experience and depends entirely on your physical nature, your spirit and your sense of commitment and awareness. This is something you can evolve as you deepen your learning.
Learning yoga and breathwork together is a great way to bring meditation into your life through yoga. Certain techniques such as alternate nostril breathing,(nadishodhana) has the added benefits of calming your system, releasing stress, clearing the chakras and helping you to feel clear and positive. When you sit in this position, the breathing can help you to focus on the present moment and you learn to appreciate meditation through yoga at the same time, seeing how they complement each other.
Another way to bring meditation into your routine would be to try out different techniques and see which is a good fit for you and your lifestyle. Some yoga classes include a meditation at the beginning or end of the class or they are incorporated around a meditation mantra such as om. If you really want to bring a regular meditation practice into your life however, try to set aside at least 10-20 minutes each morning to be quiet and tap into your inner stillness, focusing on your breathing.
It is very normal to find this quiet time challenging at first, remember that you are not trying to rid your mind of thoughts, but rather to become aware of them without being distracted by them. Some people find that meditation music based around the sound science and brain entrainment of binaural beats is a very effective way to bring themselves almost instantly to a deep meditative state. You can find a full review here of one such product, equisync, which is a wonderful way to bring meditation into your life naturally and easily.
Yoga and deep meditation will bring you immeasurable long term health benefits on a physical, mental, emotional and spiritual level.