In the age of constant communication, 24/7 jobs, and mandatory multitasking, finding a moment for reflection is almost impossible — almost. Courtney Somer made mental wellness her mission, creating Eyla, an online resource packed with inspiration and real-life tools to maintain your personal peace. We'll be sharing some of this goodness every week on R29 Guest Stars, so whether you're looking get spiritual, clear your mind, or just read some motivating interviews, Eyla is here to help you shine brighter.
I understand that if you live a fast-paced life then it can be a daunting task to consider sitting with yourself or even being still for a few minutes a day. However, the benefits of meditation are enormous and not just those that the health experts talk about (reduced stress, anxiety, depression; lower blood pressure; and improved brain function). What meditation does for the mind is what going to the gym does for your body. It is one of the easiest habits to incorporate into your daily routine and can have life-altering results.
Meditation moves the center point of living from the brain to the heart. It also creates space in your mind and in your life. Yogis believe that if you live from the heart, you will be wealthier than ever (and that’s not just in your bank account). And connecting to yourself will help you live by destiny versus fate, so that you are riding the wave of life versus it riding you. The key is to practice it daily, and all you need are a few minutes. Think of this time as an investment you are making in your well-being.
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Here are the basics to get you started:
- The most powerful time to meditate is when you first wake up. This sets the tone for the day and is when you are most connected to yourself and your subconscious. It is best to do this before you check your phone/email in the morning, have coffee, or do anything that starts to trigger your brain. Additionally, between the hours of 4:30 to 7 a.m. is when the sun is at the right angle to the earth, which allows for a deeper meditation.
- Whenever you decide to meditate, make it realistic and easy for you. If right before bedtime is better or one minute is all you can handle at first, don’t judge yourself; just start with that. The key is to stick with it, and do it daily.
- Wear comfortable clothing, nothing tight. The lighter the colors you wear, the better (i.e., choose white over black).
- It's preferable to sit on a comfortable pillow or in a chair with your feet on the ground instead of lying down where you’re more likely to fall asleep.
- If you are sleepy, one way to stay awake is to bite down on the back of your molars.
- Don’t be disturbed. Put away all electronics, and turn off your phone. Better yet, go in a separate room from them altogether.
- In yoga, there is a saying that 1,000 thoughts are released in the blink of an eye. Your identity grasps one of these and develops a relationship to that thought, which creates the endless thinking. Here are ways to stop thoughts when starting to meditate:
- Deep breathing and concentration on the breath.
- When you close your eyes, roll them up and into the third-eye point (center of the brow).
- Sit tall with a straight spine. This helps quiet the mind and serves as a connection from your higher self to the earth.
- Be as still as possible; movement triggers the brain.
- Try different things. Consider when you learned to cook or even used a new app on your phone: You play around, and if something does not work, you try another. For meditation, see what you gravitate toward. Do you like listening to soft music, saying a mantra, or meditating with a purpose, such as a meditation for health, head to toe, or to conquer a fear?
- Notice your thoughts that come up. Don’t judge them; just observe, and let go by placing them on a passing cloud to float away.
- Practice moments of awareness throughout the day. This can be as simple as feeling your feet on the ground, being fully present in the moment, thinking of three things to be thankful for, or taking deep breaths.
Photo: Glynnis McDaris; Courtesy of Eyla.
Here are three easy meditations to start with:
I have one minute: Be still. Take five deep breaths, inhaling for the count of five, holding for the count of five, and exhaling completely to the count of five. Aim to get your inhale to be as deep as your exhale, and pay attention to the movement of the breath in your body and feel its wave-like motion. End by setting an intention for the day (i.e., “Today I am going to experience _____ (joy, fun, love.").
I have three minutes: In a comfortable, seated position, breathe deeply. And starting with your toes, become fully aware of them and slowly start to move up to your feet, calves, knees, etc., until you reach the top of your head. Notice any tension, any aches, and just be aware. Continue deep breathing. Really feel each part of the body, and imagine a bright light filling you up as you move toward the head. This helps build the awareness of being in the physical body to be more present in our daily activities.
I have seven minutes: This is a simple meditation to help to build your inner knowingness and help make decisions easily. Sit in a comfortable seated position with legs crossed, spine straight, and chest lifted. Sit on a meditation pillow if it is easier on your back. Another alternative is to sit in a chair, feet firmly planted on the ground. Bring your hands into prayer pose at the center of your chest; then slide the left hand up until the entire palm is higher than the right. Your right palm will be touching the left, just below the wrist.
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Breathe deeply and as long and slow as possible. On the inhale, silently, to yourself, say “sat” and on the exhale “nam.”The mantra "sat nam" connects you to the truth that is within you, chanting this helps you find your destiny and balances the five elements of the body (tattvas).
Note — these can all be done for any length of time that works for you! In yoga, we tend to use intervals that work well in numerology (i.e., one minute, three minutes, seven minutes, or 11 minutes).
Photo: Alison Scarpulla; Courtesy of Eyla.