I have attended meditation classes, and often we do some meditation in yoga class. It really helps to clear my head, so I’d like to do some at home. Can you give me some tips for starting a regular meditation session? How long and how many times a week should I meditate? Jim Stuart, via email
It’s ideal to develop a daily practice. Try to be consistent so that you create a routine. You can do this by using the same space. Choose a spot that is comfortable and available to you anytime.
Good times to meditate are sunrise or sunset, but preferably early morning. Pick a time that fits with your daily routine. First thing in the morning works well as it is before activity begins, and meditation is more effective on an empty stomach, as we tend to be more alert. Everyday can be different, so try to relinquish expectations and to relax. Creating a regular practice is more important than the length of time that you sit. Start with a time that you can sit comfortably, even if it’s only 10 minutes, then as you become more experienced you can gradually increase the time.
An effective technique to anchor the mind in the present is to observe your in-breath and out-breath without trying to control it. Ideally, keep your eyes closed, but if that’s too difficult, try half-closed. Focus your internal gaze on a point, either between the eyebrows, at your third eye or the tip of the nose.
Feel the sensation of the breath, for example: the coolness of the inhalation on the back of the throat; the movement of the exhalation on your upper lip; your chest and belly moving to accommodate the breath. You may wish to count the breath, “one, two”, over and over.
Concentration, known as dharana, brings a meditative space. Developing concentration does not happen overnight. Try to avoid berating yourself if you find thoughts competing for your attention or you become emotionally engaged with them. Simply bring your attention back to the breath each time this happens.
John Ogilvie, founder and director of Byron Yoga Centre, has been teaching yoga and training yoga teachers for more than 25 years. He holds workshops, trainings and retreats around Australia and internationally. For more information, visit www.byronyoga.com.