(Editor’s Note: The idea of meditation can be intimidating for yoga beginners. While yoga asanas can be physically challenging, for many people the thought of sitting in meditation can bring up a lot of concerns. Sohan Kaur shares some thoughts on meditation for yoga beginners that will encourage you to pull out your meditation cushion and give it a try!)
“It is not meditation that stops the mind. It is the surrender of the mind to the soul, and the soul to Truth. It is when you prefer the word of Truth to the word of your own intellect.” –Yogi Bhajan
Many yoga beginners believe that they must stop all thoughts in order to meditate effectively. Sometimes they hear about the blissful meditations of friends and acquaintances and wonder why theirs isn’t so. The mind releases one thousand thoughts per second and we are conscious of only a few, sometimes only one. When we sit still and quiet the body and breath, the mind begins to release the thoughts it has stored in the subconscious. These thoughts overwhelm and control you or you can let them pass to release them out of the subconscious.
The laundry list is not important, the letter you have to type for your boss can wait, the mortgage will get paid, this is your time. As you notice the distractions, simply return to your point of focus, whether that is a mantra, a candle flame or your breath. Consistent practice allows you to empty the subconscious on a regular basis so that you can sit for longer periods of time. The time you spend in meditation allows the mind to assist you throughout the day because it is not so preoccupied with being the boss.
“Meditation is not what you do in the morning, that’s practice. Meditation is the daily result of that practice.” –Yogi Bhajan
Meditation develops the Neutral or Meditative mind, which gives us a clearer perspective on what is happening in any given moment. We are able to perceive reality more clearly in relation to the infinite because we are more connected to our soul. We feel more peaceful, stable and intuitive. Through meditation we release fears, habits and blocks and develop more awareness.
So how do we go about meditation?
There are many different styles of meditation out there, but we will talk about Kundalini Yoga practices. In Kundalini Yoga we tune in with “Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo” and often do a kriya as well as breathing practices to quite the body and mind in preparation for meditation. There are many to choose from, you could try the “Kriya for Morning Sadhana” in Sadhana Guidelines.
You can choose any type of space for meditation, a quiet place is best as you want to be free of distractions. Sit on a blanket or sheepskin or use a chair if the floor is not comfortable for you. It is important to be comfortable so that you can sit still. You can also have a meditation cushion to help keep your spine straight.
The best time to meditate is a time when you can return consistently to your practice every day. For many people this is in the morning before things get busy. Yogis say that between the hours of 4 and 7 am or 4 and 7 pm are best because of the angle of the sun. Try not to eat immediately before a meditation practice.
As you sit, keep your spine straight and pull a slight neck lock. This is just a slight tuck of the chin to keep your spine straight. You can picture someone pulling a string, aligned with your spine, from the top of your head and you’ll have a good sense of neck lock.
There are hundreds of meditations in Kundalini Yoga. It’s up to you to explore different meditations to find a mantra or mudra that resonates with you. One of the best for balancing the mind and reducing stress is Kirtan Kriya. This powerful meditation can be done for as little as six minutes or as long as two and a half hours. Begin any meditation slowly and consistently before moving onto longer times. It is better to master one meditation than to try hundreds only once. The effect of the meditation accumulates overtime to give you a more stable effect. You can find this meditation in Sadhana Guidelines as well as in the Spirit Voyage meditation section or on the blog.
A good CD to learn some of the sound currents used in Kundalini Yoga meditations is Deeply Relax and Meditate. You may not use these for full meditations, but you get a good sense of the sound current as it is meant to sound. This also has a version of Sa Ta Na Ma in the Kirtan Kriya style.
In order to change a habit, practice for 40 days, to confirm the habit practice for 90 days. As you practice a meditation for a long, consistent period of time, don’t be surprised if you have unusual experiences. Sometimes we laugh or cry uncontrollably during a meditation, this is a release, allow it to happen. Allowing the blocks to release will allow you to move onto establishing new habits that promote you in life and allow you to move onto a happier, healthier life.