A reader of the World Yoga Forum asked us this question – “What exactly are you supposed to think when you try meditation?“. This question can exist for a lot of beginners. The mind is difficult to control and when you sit for meditation, it’s possible there are a hundred thousand thoughts that can come into your mind.
The goal of meditation in the context of Yoga is simple – to still the mind!
The answer to what should you think while meditating is simple – Nothing. You have to bring your mind to a non-active state.
The next question is – How do you do that?
Before you begin meditating, it’s important to get the wandering mind in one place. There are many techniques that you can follow to stop the mind from wandering. The easiest way is to close your eyes and focus on your breath. When I began doing this, it was even more difficult for me to focus on my breath. After 5-6 breaths, I would start thinking about something else and a few seconds later realize that I am not focused on my breath. I did this multiple times. You should also try this and check. As a beginner, an uninterrupted focus on even 15 cycles of inhalation and exhalation can feel like quite a task.
The simple thing to start even before you start focusing on your breath is to do the following 2 breathing techniques. They work well in stopping the mind from wandering
1. Alternate Nostril Breathing – Anulom Vilom
Anulom-Vilom is a very simple Pranayama in Yoga. The breathing exercise involves inhaling from one nostril only while closing the other nostril, and subsequently closing the other nostril while exhaling. You then can repeat this process. You are fundamentally inhaling from one nostril while keeping the other nostril closed with your fingers, and then exhaling from the other nostril while closing the nostril from which you inhaled.
According to many scientific studies, this pranayama has many health benefits including improved respiratory function, reduction of stress, and even improved cardi-vascular function.
How to practice Anulom-Vilom
- Find a quiet place, fold your legs, keep your spine and neck straight and close your eyes.
- Try to first clear your mind of all thoughts and only focus on your breath.
- Using your right/left hand, fold your middle and index fingers toward your palm.
- Place your thumb on your right nostril and your ring finger on your left nostril (if you are using the right hand, else the opposite).
- Close your right nostril with your thumb and inhale through your left nostril, slowly and deeply, until your lungs are full.
- Close your left nostril with your ring finger and release your thumb.
- Exhale slowly through the right nostril.
- Now inhale from the right nostril and reverse this process.
- Do at least 5 sets of this in one go.
2. Humming Bee – Bhramari Pranayam
Bhramari is a sanskrit word derived from the black Indian bumble bee “Bhramar.” It describes the distinctive humming sound made during this breathing exercise when exhaling (47).
How to do Humming Bee Breath
- To practice Bhramari breathing, sit in a comfortable position on the floor, in a chair, or on your bed.
- Sit cross-legged or kneeled with a cushion or blanket for support, whichever is most comfortable for you.
- Close your eyes and take a deep breath.
- While stretching your spine and keeping your back straight, take in the scenery around you.
- By gently pressing your thumb on the cartilage of your ears just below your cheekbones, you can block out any external sound.
- With your index and middle fingers, gently close your eyes.
- Inhale deeply through your nose and exhale slowly through your mouth, keeping your ears closed.
- When you exhale, make a humming or buzzing sound.
- Breathe normally for at least six cycles, or as long as you want.
- After you’ve completed Bhramari breathing, sit in silence for a few moments and breathe normally.
Understand its benefits
Humming bee breath also known as Bhramari Pranayama reduces anxiety, stress, aggression, insomnia, and depression. This breathing technique is extremely beneficial for improving one’s mood and relieving anxiety and depression.
Precautions and Safety while Performing
Avoid putting pressure on your face or eyes when practicing Bhramari. Make sure you don’t get out of breath while humming.
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