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How to meditate: For beginners and skeptics

Cultivating healthy routines is hard, but cultivating morning routines is even harder. During the month of March, I set out on a personal challenge to meditate every morning. On day 1, I had visions of what day 31 would look like. I saw myself sitting on a pillow or yoga block in my sun-drenched living room meditating for 5, 10 — heck, maybe even 15 minutes. Turns out, most days, I didn’t even get out of bed.

When I started brainstorming tips for how to meditate for beginners I thought, “Did I really learn anything in these 31 days?!” Well, yes. I learned that what we typically perceive as the right way to do something might not be right for us. I learned that you cannot let predictions and expectations jeopardize the progress made during challenges or personal journeys. Success doesn’t always look the same for everyone. The journey to success looks very different for everyone.

Onto the list for how to meditate for beginners — and skeptics, too:

1. Define and acknowledge the benefits

What is meditation? You can scour the web for  hours reading different definitions and interpretations of what it means to meditate. In the simplest words: Meditation is awareness. Meditation describes a state of consciousness, when the mind is free from the scatterbrained feeling. (Read what meditation isn’t from Greatist.)

The benefits of meditation — and yoga in general — are boundless. Some include:

  • Mental clarity, peace of mind
  • Decreased anxiety and increased emotional stability
  • Creativity boost, mental sharpness
  • Relaxation
  • Happiness

How can you say no?

2. Start small

Morning routines are hard to change. As humans, we fall into patterns so easily. Start small by moving your phone out from our of your pillow or further away than your bedside table when you sleep. Resist the urge to check emails, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter — whatever your vice — first thing in the morning. Shut off your alarm, sit up in bed, close your eyes and take 10 deep breaths. Do that for a week or two and notice shifts in your body/mental state. If you’re ready for something a little more, move off your bed and sit atop a pillow or yoga block.

Bonus: I created this sequence for bedtime, but it will work in the morning too!

3. Practice pranayama

Prana = breath. Pranyama is the practice of controlling the breath. Think about it: Breathing and heart-beating occur throughout the day without any effort or thought. Unlike the heartbeat, the breath can be controlled (though some hXc yogis might argue the heartbeat can too).

Focussing on your inhale and exhale is the simplest way to start meditating. It forces you to focus on one thing and one things only. To learn more tricks, I recommend heading to the pranayama section of YogaJournal. Then, check out my quick video on nadi shodhana (alternative nostril breathing):

4. Download an app, take a meditation workshop

Check studios in your area for meditation or mindfulness workshops. Boston peeps, there are a lot! No time for workshops? I recommend the Headspace or Calm apps. You could also look into meditation on tape > CD > er, digital download.

5. Invest in meditation props

So you’ve set aside time in your day for meditation, but how do you make it a habit? Like with cute workout clothes, that expensive blender or a new party shoes, activities are more exciting when you have fun toys. Personally, I am more motivated to workout when I have a cute outfit on and I’m more inclined to make smoothies now that I have a quality blender. It sounds vain and materialistic, but I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. Remember: It’s not about how you look it is about how you feel, and sometimes that rad outfit makes you feel great.

Right now, I’m coveting a meditation pillow like the ones in MariposaZen’s Etsy shop. What I do have is a yoga block which you can find at Target, REI, yoga studios or your favorite sporting goods store. Take your meditation props and set up a space in your home to make meditating accessible and the process desirable.

Still need a little more guidance? Check out this great meditation infographic from MindBodyGreen. Also, another hot to meditate tip from me.

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