Meditation is a time-honored mind and body practice that is utilized in the yogic and Ayurvedic traditions.
But meditation is not simply a means for enlightenment; more and more research studies attest to the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of this practice. One Harvard University study discovered that meditation can rebuild the gray matter of the brain. The brain’s gray matter is responsible for muscle control and sensory perception, such as seeing, hearing, memory, decision making, and self-control. It’s what helps us process information.
Meditation has also been linked to stress and anxiety reduction, better blood circulation, lower blood pressure, and more.
If you’re interested in learning more about meditation and its benefits, it’s important to understand the various meditation exercises and techniques associated with this ancient practice.
Meditation Exercises and Techniques
There are many different types of breathing meditation exercises. A great one to start with is the relaxing breathing exercises (4-7-8-breathing). This technique will help bring deep relaxation.
- Sit up tall with an elongated spine.
- Begin to breathe in and out through your nose, matching the length of your inhales and exhales.
- When you’re ready, begin to inhale for 4-seconds, hold your breath for 7-seconds, and then exhale for 8-seconds.
Start with 3-rounds of these breathing technique before increasing to a longer time. This breath should help improve your focus and leave you feeling alert.
Mantras are a powerful tool to help concentrate the mind by repeating a particular word or phase of words. This word or phrase may be something that resonates with you. Perhaps it is something as simple as I am Love, or maybe a Sanskrit term from a yoga teacher like om namo guru dev namo, meaning I bow to all that is. Repeat your mantra with your eyes closed for however long you would like.
To learn more, listen to Selina Van Orden discuss mantras.
Trataka – Candle Gazing
Candle gazing is a simple Ayurvedic practice known as Trataka. The traditional meditation practice of trataka uses a ghee candle, as the rich gold color offers supportive nourishment to the eyes; however, any candle may do. By gazing at a candle’s flame, you bring your attention to a specific focus, thus helping to quiet and clear the mind.
- Find a quiet place to sit. Light a candle and turn the lights low or off.
- Sit up nice and tall with your shoulders relaxed.
- Begin by closing your eyes and breathing in and out through your nose for 1 minute.
- Then, gently open your eyes, and take your gaze to the lit candle flame, continue to breathe deeply.
- Soften your gaze on the flame, allow a little flickering as the flame will move, but work to stay focused on the flame.
- Try this for 3-5 minutes.
- After, close your eyes for 1 minute to close out before blowing out the flame and turning the lights back on.
Counting mala beads is a lovely practice to bring clarity and focus. Counting mala beads slowly invites concentration to the quickened mind by giving a focused action to practice. You may move as slow as you wish to count the malas until the completion of the circle. Traditional malas have 108 beads, representing spiritual completion in the yogic tradition. You may recite your mantra while counting your mala beads or breathing deeply into your lower abdomen.
In mindfulness meditations, the intention is to pay attention to your thoughts as they move through your mind. Like watching clouds passing through the sky, mindful meditation help you become aware of your thoughts as they pass through. Without judgment or criticism, you become the observer of your thinking.
- Sit with your spine tall. Take a few deep breaths in and out.
- Close your eyes and tune inward. You may focus on your breath or your mantra.
- When you notice thoughts coming into your mind, pause, acknowledge the thought, let it go like a passing cloud, and then return to your breath or mantra.
- Repeat as often as thoughts come in.
This is one of the meditation exercises that will take continued practice, so do not be discouraged if thoughts continue to come in. Thoughts will always come, but with practice, we can become conditioned to acknowledge their presence and bring our attention back to our breath or mantra.
Visualization meditations help bring us to a child-like state. It is a technique of forming pictures in your mind, intended to enhance feelings of relaxation, peace, and comfort. To practice, try this forest meditation.
Close your eyes and imagine yourself walking on a trail in the forest. Smell the fresh air around you from the environment. Feel the sun peeking through the tree branches, kissing your cheeks. Lean into the sticks and leaves beneath your bare feet as you walk along the trail. Perhaps you hear a bird singing off in the distance. As you continue to walk, notice how good you feel. Take a breath in and smell the plants around you. Maybe you stop and sit on a log nearby to take in your surroundings.
A meditation exercise that is gentle and known to alleviate depression, increase blood flow, and improve sleep and overall well-being. Walking meditation is designed to bring the body and mind back into harmony. This type of meditation is practiced outside in nature, with an intense focus on each step taken. You can do this exercise to increase mindfulness. Start slowing, and perhaps barefoot, and intentionally walk in nature. Allow your mind to settle as you slowly move forward in peace.
Tai Chi and Qi Gong
These are two powerful moving meditations practiced for heightened focus and mental clarity. Tai Chi is a system of exercises and movement, while Qi Gong is a form of specific isolated movement and mind using intention and mindfulness to guide qi through and out of the body. Qi (pronounced chi), meaning “life force,” the energy that powers our body and spirit. Both Tai Chi and Qi Gong work to move this qi and are powerful exercises to heal and balance the body.
Strengthen Your Meditation Practice with Chyawanprash
Complement your meditation practice with a nourishing and rejuvenating herbal jam such as Chyawanprash. Chyawanprash is a dietary supplement that has been specifically crafted to help you boost your cognitive function and increase your body, mind and spirit connection. Take PIOR Living Chyawanprash for 40 days for the botanicals to take effect.
For additional ways to clear your mind, discover these Ayurvedic remedies for anxiety.
Clare Michalik, Ayurvedic Practitioner