Becky Nickerson, owner and teacher at Infinity Yoga shared with us her secrets to success for meditating and why it is so important.
What advice would you give to someone beginning their meditation practice?
There are steps to meditation. Begin by finding a comfortable seat, relax, breath well, un-attach to your thoughts, and rest your mind using a support such as the sound of a mantra, visualization or feeling your breath.
This first step can be one of the biggest hurdles and misconceptions of meditation. Please know that finding a comfortable seat does not mean you have to be in lotus pose. A chair is a great place to meditate, just be sure to pick one that isn’t too comfortable otherwise you run the risk of falling asleep!
If you choose to sit on the floor, use yoga props like blocks and blankets to prop yourself so that your knees are lower than your hips and maybe even set up against a wall for back support. If your posture is not comfortable all you will do is think about how uncomfortable you are rather than meditating.
Yoga asanas (postures) are a great way to get your body aligned well to sit, and also teach you to systematically relax and breath correctly. This sets you up for success, it’s like cross-training for meditation!
How long should someone meditate to get the benefits?
Start small, then build to longer periods of time. Begin with three minutes once a day for a week, then the following week increase to five minutes. Once you are comfortable with that, gradually increase the time again. Just a few minutes of stillness does wonders for the mind! I also recommend doing your practice around the same time each day to help with developing the habit.
What is your favorite way to meditate and why?
There are so many ways to meditate! Sometimes I meditate on a sound, sometimes on the feeling of the breath, and other times I like to meditate on a visualization. Find a style that you find to be practical, useful, and pleasurable.
Using a mantra is one of my preferred methods because it’s the mind’s job to think, and giving the mind a mantra to repeat is a very low energy task for mind. When using a mantra the sacred sound is a like a fruit, when chewed in the mouth the sweet juices are released. A mantra is like the fruit and when chewed in the mind it’s wisdom is released.
When I was initiated into the Sri Vidya lineage I was given a mantra by my teacher. I remember being so excited to receive a mantra, in a way it felt like a new toy to play with. However the mantra given to me was a challenging one as it did not flow with the breath, so it took some time to find a pace at which I could repeat the mantra. It took practice and patience – just like any mantra!
Why is meditation important?
There are so many benefits of meditation physically, mentally and emotionally. Meditation is like strengthening a muscle, but for your brain! It gives you the ability to concentrate your focus and attention and be less distracted in life. It teaches you to become more empathetic, kind, and compassionate with less anxiety. It lowers blood pressure, teaches you how to deal with stress, and is a great pain management system without the negative side effects.
When you get to a place where your mind is quiet you experience a deep seeded sense of peace. We don’t always get to this place, especially when beginning our meditation practice, but it’s why we must always get back on the meditation cushion.
Think about when you’ve had a bad day and are freaking out about something, the mind going a mile minute thinking about all of the terrible outcomes of the day. Then, there’s this little voice in the back of your head that whispers “Hey, quit freaking out. It’s going to be ok.” That is your Self talking, and it will give you good advice. Meditation gives you something that nothing else can: it gives you a relationship with your Self.