Meditation and mindfulness are major aspects of yoga. In fact, it was the with aim of preparing the body for hours and hours of sitting meditation that the ancient yogis came up with all the different asanas that help us keep fit today. We have talked about this numerous times in the blog before.
A lot of people who are new to meditation and mindfulness have a hard time keeping their attention on their breaths for even two minutes. To help you get better at meditation, we must first ask what are the obstacles that are coming in the way of your mindfulness sadhana (practice), and then we will talk about ways to deal with those obstacles.
OBSTACLES TO MINDFULNESS
#1 Discomfort caused by sitting in one position for a relatively long time
If you’re a beginner at yoga, then you may not be flexible enough to sit in classic meditation poses like siddhasana (perfect pose), padmasana(lotus pose), or sukhasana (comfort pose). These are three standard poses for meditation mentioned in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, which an authoritative manual on hatha yoga written in the 15th century. If you force yourself to sit in these difficult poses then naturally it won’t be a very pleasant meditation experience. And even if you do manage to sit in proper posture, the pain and discomfort will show up after a few minutes.
#2 You get lost in your thoughts
If I tell you “don’t think about pink elephants”, the image of a pink elephant comes to your mind immediately. Similarly, if you badly want your mind to stop thinking, guess what, it will be even harder to control your thoughts (if you think that’s what meditation is about). But this is not even a real problem, as we will see.
#3 You don’t know how to meditate
There are so many meditation techniques and schools of meditation out there, it can be hard to figure out which one is right for you. You can do mantra meditation, breathing meditation, or hear the sounds of your environment and be aware of your body. It is important to choose and try these techniques one at a time, sometimes people switch between these methods or do them incorrectly.
DEALING WITH THE THREE OBSTACLES
#1 It Really Doesn't Matter Which Position You Choose To Sit In
Patanjali, an ancient sage often referred to as the founder of yoga, describes the best posture for meditation as Sukham Sthiram Asanam. Which means a posture (Asanam) that makes you feel comfortable and happy (Sukham) and still (Sthiram).
This means that if a yoga pose like padmasana (lotus pose) is not comfortable for you, then it is not the right posture for you. Dhyana (Meditation) is more of a mental activity compared to its counterpart Asana which is a physical activity. You can even meditate sitting on a chair as long as you are practicing mindfulness. You can prep your body by practicing easy asanas in the begging to become more flexible and soon you will be able to sit in the postures mentioned above.
#2 It’s Okay to Get Distracted by thoughts
As we saw in the pink elephant example if you try to “stop” your thoughts while meditating, it's only going to backfire. Mindfulness is not about stopping your thoughts, it’s about observing them. And when you observe your thoughts without trying to stop them you develop a detachment from your thoughts, this is called meta-cognition in Neuropsychology and vairagya in Sanskrit literature on yoga. If you’re doing breathing meditation it’s completely normal to lose focus from your breath and start thinking, but don’t repent, simply bring your attention back to your breathe or mantra. In this way, you can slowly and incrementally increase how long you can focus on your breathing and thus learn to be mindful for longer periods of time.
As we said before there are many meditation techniques you can choose from. The ancient scripture Vigyan Bhairav Tantra has 112 meditation techniques! You don’t need all the 112 techniques but only one to help you become more mindful. The key is to choose the right one and stick to it. To get insights on how to meditate correctly you can check out this article.