Need help chilling out? We’ve got a whole chapter dedicated to it in The Fit Bottomed Girls Anti-Diet!
Was starting a regular meditation practice one of your goals for the New Year? I know that, for me, I wanted to take the usual 10 to 15 minutes most days of the week that I meditate and increase it a bit — even if it’s just five minutes of calm — so that meditating is truly a daily habit and not just something I do when I’m stressed or “feel like it.” And that’s going pretty well. But I can always use meditation tips to help me strengthen my practice — and I know there are a lot of you who want to give meditation a try but just aren’t sure where to start.
So, we decided to pick the yogi brain of Carin Gorrell, editor in chief of Yoga Journal, to share her best meditation tips, dos and don’ts and even her fave meditation to do. After all, when you’re looking to try something for the first time or get more skilled at it, it only makes sense to go to the pros!
Meditation Tips and Q&A With Carin Gorrell
If someone wants to start a meditation habit in the New Year, how do you suggest they get started? I’d start by finding the meditation technique that most resonates with you. Not everyone can or wants to sit in Lotus Pose for extended periods, and if you’re distracted by discomfort, it makes meditation all the more challenging. So try a few different techniques — say, a seated visualization practice, a mantra practice, a walking meditation — for a week each, and if it’s useful, jot down how you feel after each session and how long you were able to meditate with each technique. Then look back over your journal to see which technique worked best for you and go with that.
Any meditation must-dos? Must-don’ts? Proper posture is key. Again, you don’t have to sit in Lotus, but you do want to make sure that your back is upright — straight but not rigid — so that your breath and energy can flow freely. As for don’ts, I’d say don’t give up. Not every session will feel inspiring or successful, but off-days are part of the practice: Pushing through those sessions helps you train your body and mind to return inward.
Why is the New Year a great time to start meditating? Any time is a great time to start meditating, but if the New Year makes you feel more motivated to try and stick to healthy new habits, all the better! Plus, meditation’s many benefits — stress relief, increased attention span, a healthier immune system and so many more — may help you keep any other New Year’s resolutions you’ve made for yourself.
Is there a specific type of meditation (or a mantra or pose) that’s great at the beginning of the year? There are so many to choose from; it really depends on who you are and what you seek. I’m always a fan of the Loving Kindness Meditation, a Buddhist practice that increases feelings of warmth and kindheartedness toward yourself and others.
To do it, sit comfortably, silently directing the loving phrases below first at yourself; then toward someone else; then a third time to cast compassion out to the world:
May I be well
May I be peaceful and at ease
May I be happy
How can meditation improve your well-being? The list of meditation’s science-backed benefits is vast and growing. It reduces feelings of stress, anxiety and depression; it supports the immune system; it increases activity in areas of the brain associated with positivity; it increases concentration and feelings of compassion; it’s even been shown to impact our DNA, essentially by turning on clusters of “good” genes that make us healthier, while turning off clusters of “bad” genes that lead to disease. There’s more, but that’s a pretty impressive list!
What’s your meditation practice like? Do you switch it up for the New Year? Like everyone, I’m busy, so it can be hard to find time to meditate. But I try to find at least five minutes a day to sit quietly, eyes closed, and focus on a mantra that’s resonating with me that day. Sometimes it’s while I’m rocking my son to sleep at night, others it’s at my desk when I have a little time between meetings and can close my door for a few uninterrupted minutes. And any time I have more than five minutes I relish it!
Anything else you’d like to add? Yoga Journal is publishing a special issue on meditation and mindfulness that will be sold on newsstands only starting in early February. It’s designed for everyone — newbies, lapsed meditators who want to reignite their practice and longtime meditators looking to deepen their practice. I hope you’ll keep an eye out for it, it’s a must-have!
I’m going to have to try the Loving Kindness Mediation. Leave a comment if you plan to, too! —Jenn