Welcome to week five of our challenge.  By this time, I hope you have started to find a rhythm to your practice.  You may have found a favorite time of day that works for you.  You have likely had a few challenges with keeping to a daily routine.  This is all par for the course.  Continue to keep up the intention, keep a set schedule for your practice, plan ahead and be the constant observer.  Observe not only the before and after effects, but notice the barriers you may encounter when working on your intention to get to your mat.  These barriers are important to identify, as you will start to recognize patterns that stand in your way of achieving your goal.  Week five is perhaps the most important component of the challenge.  Everything that we do in our physical practices, leads up to being able to sit to meditate.  Find a quiet space where you know you won’t be interrupted.  Set a timer for five minutes and follow the next six steps. We’ve embedded an audio recording of these steps at the bottom of this post to assist your practice. 

  1. Comfortable Posture – find a position where your body is relaxed and doesn’t have to work to maintain the posture.  If you are sitting elevate your hips above your knees.  Sitting in a chair, on a meditation bench, a block, or a stack of blankets can be helpful.  Take a few minutes to experiment with these options to see which position feels right for you.  Place your palms down on your thighs and draw the elbows back so that they are under the shoulders. If sitting just doesn’t work, lie on your back with supports to make yourself comfortable.
  2. Body Scan – take a moment to scan your body from head to toe, to check in with your physical and energetic body. Let go of anything you are holding onto as you exhale.  If you have pain or discomfort that won’t go away with changing your position,  just note that area then move on.  This tells your brain that you are aware of the sensation, but are now focusing on something else.  This sometimes lessens the attention to the sensations.
  3. Belly Breath –  move your attention to the movement of the breath at the belly.  Observe the expansion of the breath at the belly on the inhale and inward movement on the exhale.  Allow the breath to be easy and effortless.
  4. Breath at the Nostrils – move your attention to the movement of the breath in and out of the nostrils.  You may want to follow the breath as it moves up the nostrils to the eyebrow center in the inhale and back down on the exhale.  Continue to keep the breath easy and relaxed.
  5. Mantra – Repeating a mantra or words in your head can help to focus the mind.  You may already have a mantra that you would like to use.  If not, a simple mantra is So Hum (I am).  Repeat in your head So on the inhale, Hum on the exhale.  Other words work well such as Let Go or Inhale Exhale.  As your mind wanders away from the mantra gently nudge it back and resume your mantra.  Resist the temptation to judge yourself, just notice that you have wandered and refocus your attention.  Over time it will get easier to refocus.  You will always have stray thoughts in the background, but with practice they will become less distracting.
  6. Observe the Effects – once your practice is complete take a moment to observe the effects of your practice.

Keep up the good work.  Once you have completed our January Challenge, you may find it easier to settle into a home practice that works for you.  Perhaps you will want to stick with this practice for longer and stretch it into February, March and beyond.  Hopefully you have started to see the positive effects of a daily sadhana.  Join us in February as we start to work our way through the Yamas and Niyamas.  We will start with Ahimsa, non harming.
Namaste – Janet
Janet Carscadden is the co-founder and owner of Evolution PT and Yoga.

This post was inspired by the work of Rolf Sovik PhD.
Meditation Resources: 
Moving Inward: The Journey to Meditation by Rolf Sovik
How to Meditate by Pema Chodron

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