You might already know this, but old-school yogis did yoga poses as a means to prepare for meditation. By adequately preparing physically for the task of sitting still they could withstand a solid hour (or much longer!) of meditation.
Practicing yoga is the perfect complement to a meditation practice.
In fact, if you explore the eight limbs of yoga you’ll see both physical poses (asana) and meditation (dhyana) represented as parts of a bigger whole, that when practiced together create a unified path — or what we know as yoga.
Meditation vs. “Yoga”
Meditation and yoga are actually one and the same! Meditation, though, seems to often get left behind and has definitely not gained the same popularity as asana practice. In fact, even many dedicated yogis feel a sense of intimidation when it comes to sitting still.
I totally understand the meditation fear. When I first meditated many years ago, I lost my shit. I didn’t know how to be still and quiet and it really freaked me out.
It’s easier in this modern world of demand and action to see how movement is beneficial. We know that we need to move to keep our bodies healthy, but what about the other end of the spectrum -- stillness to keep the mind and spirit balanced and thriving?
The art of stillness is way undervalued.
We value the yang -- power, strength, the go-go-go, while we tend to turn our noses up at the yin -- softness, surrender, the chill-chill-chill. Slowly though, it seems the tides are shifting. Stillness is becoming publicly prized, and meditation is being hailed as a powerful tool for health, longevity, and happiness. Hallelujah for us all!
Preparing to Meditate
If you’ve ever tried to sit in meditation for three minutes (let alone sixty), you know that finding comfort in the bod can be a big hurdle. If you’re super new to the practice, it can be extra hard to focus on anything but the discomfort.
If you’ve ever tried to transition from sitting at a desk all day to sitting in meditation, you know it’s a pain in the ass (and shoulder and neck and low-back).
What I suggest to make meditation more accessible is to prepare for it. Balancing action (pre-meditation yoga poses) with inaction (sitting in meditation) will create more harmony in your body and mind. It will make it easier to find stillness so that you can dive deep into your meditation practice.
Here are 3 perfect pre-meditation yoga poses to try:
1. Child’s Pose
Spread your knees to create space for your belly. Sink your butt back as far as feels good, and reach your hands forward so your arms are long. Really focus here on the idea of spaciousness.
The nature and shape of this pose will allow you to more easily turn inward, which is what meditation is all about.
2. Passive Open-V Forward Fold
This pose is great for releasing the backs of the legs, groin, and low back, which is great for meditation.
Resist the urge to tug yourself deeper into the pose. Instead, drop subtly froward with every exhalation. If there are big sensations (aka: every muscle is singing) use your breath and concentration to move into the challenge rather than shrinking away from it.
3. Supported Heart Opener
I leave my head dangling but that might not be your jam. Support your head if it makes your neck happier.
Let your heart be bolstered up by a pillow or blanket. Generate space in your chest here so that when you sit in meditation your shoulders will soften back and your heart will lift. Connect your hands to your belly and feel the breath moving through you.
Put it All Together
Try doing each pose for five to ten steady breaths and then sitting still in meditation for three to ten minutes.
How’d it go? In the comments section below, be brave and share your experience alongside any of your favorite pre-meditation poses, tips, or insights.