As one of the most stressful years in modern history draws to a close, we all could use a reset. Many of us have spent a good deal of time this year in fight or flight mode, just trying to survive. How do you cope under stress and pressure? Walks in nature, chats with friends, reading, journaling, and listening to music are healthy coping mechanisms that can also calm your weary soul. If they are not part of your arsenal already, yoga and meditation are also wonderful resources to help bring healing and comfort during challenging times.
Many people think of yoga as a great workout or a good stretch, but it is so much more than that. Yoga can lower our heart rate and stabilize blood pressure, refresh and balance our nervous system, release blockages in our body’s energy center, and refresh and center our mind. In fact, the ultimate goal of yoga is to quiet the mind, according to the ancient yoga text The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.
Combine yoga with meditation to enhance the benefits even more. Like yoga, the ultimate goal of meditation is to quiet the mind. Often meditators sit quietly in peaceful silence for a certain length of time. Of course, the mind will wander away to other thoughts, and that is ok and to be expected. When it does, gently return yourself back to the present moment and the breath to quiet the mind. Practitioners of meditation sometimes set a timer for the length of time they wish to meditate. It can be short to begin, five minutes is a fine length of time for a beginning meditation practice. You can add five minutes more at a time when and if you feel ready to do so.
There are many types of meditation, including walking meditation. For a walking meditation, you walk calmly and quietly, usually in a serene natural setting, both returning to the breath and taking in your scenic surroundings as you go.
Yoga itself can be a meditation. The breath is truly the bridge that unites body, mind, and spirit as we practice yoga. As you begin your yoga practice, take a moment, just a minute or a few, to quiet your breath and center yourself. Then use your breath as an anchor to guide you throughout your practice. Whenever you feel your mind wandering, gently come back to your breath. We get so much more out of each of our yoga poses if we are fully present in them without a wandering mind. The mind will wander some, but gently bring it back to your practice and your breath when it does. At the end of your yoga practice, conclude with five, ten, fifteen minutes or more of meditation.
We live in tumultuous times, but we can cope and make it through by using our breath to anchor us to the calm peace of the present moment. As we continue our yoga and meditation practice, we find ourselves bringing what we learn on the yoga mat into all aspects of our life. Yoga and meditation can be our trustworthy ship as we navigate through the sometimes stormy waters of life.
May the new year bring peace and health to us all. Be well!
This content was originally published here.