On the very first day when I started my training in yoga, I was told by my teachers that meditation is not easy to teach because it is not easy to understand.
You can be given different cues and different techniques that you can follow, but a meditative state is something personal and something very abstract.
According to Ashtanga Yoga or the 8 limbs of yoga, the sixth and seventh limbs of yoga are Dharna & Dhyana. In literal translation, they mean sustained concentration and meditation. This means, sustained concentration is a step before meditation which is much easier to learn and it leads to the next step naturally.
The best way to start meditation for beginners is to work on the senses and focus on dharna.
The main difference between dharna and dhyana is that dharna is towards a stimulus, at a particular object or sense or even instruction whereas, dhyana is towards no stimulus, it is seamless, in flow and in nothingness.
Like I mentioned earlier, meditation is a little abstract to explain. Luckily, there are ways you can start sustaining your attention which might lead you to the phase of meditation more easily.
Some of my favourite ways to start meditation for beginners are:
The only thing happening in the present moment is your breathing. The easiest way to meditate is to sit back, close your eyes and count your inhalation and exhalation. Breathe in..2..3…4 and breathe out…2..3..4. That’s one breath. Now, without getting distracted, take 15-20 breaths while counting them. It is as easy!
In this type of meditation, power of imagination is used to conquer the senses in as much detail as possible. Many visualization scripts help to imagine yourself in a safe, soothing natural environment like a sunny beach or wooded forest, where you can tune in to the sights, sounds and smells of that special place.
Visualisation is one of the best ways of bringing positive energy into your mind and body. It also helps in expanding your capacity for creativity and to enhance self-awareness.
Mindful walking is an excellent way to clear the mind and restore your sense of focus. As the name suggests, mindful walking focuses on the connection of the movement with awareness. It starts with walking slowly and getting your focus toward the feet and it’s contact to the ground. After a minute or two, the attention shifts to the sensation of movement in the body, the shifting of the weight and then observing the natural rhythm of your movement. The idea is to focus in the here and now of the body while it is in a simple motion.
In yoga, this is a form of kriya, which means, it is a cleansing exercise for the eyes as well. In this practice, it requires fixing the gaze on an external object, typically a candle’s flame. It is done with eyes open in the beginning, gazing at the object and then with eyes closed. This helps to train both the concentration and visualization powers of the mind. After closing the eyes, you should still keep the image of the object in your “mind’s eye”. This is not to be done forcefully or in a tense manner. The idea is, that out of the main five senses, sight is arguably the most powerful. So, it is important to use this sense for the stillness of the mind.
Body scanning involves paying attention to parts of the body and bodily sensations in a gradual sequence from feet to head. It is an internal suggestion to the body parts to relax. The script used here goes something like, “get all your attention to your toes and relax the toes” and move upwards for each body part till the head. Body scan is a good way to release tension you might not even realize you’re experiencing.
Research shows that stress reduction is one of the primary benefits of body scan meditation, which in turn can have physical benefits including reduced inflammation, fatigue, and insomnia.