I started going to therapy sometime in the fall of 2015. One of the very first things suggested to me was meditation. At that time I just did not really know how to do it. I read descriptions and guides and even tried a few guided meditations. I was so lost and frustrated. At that time all I could accomplish was trying to control my breathing for two minutes, and even that was hard. I was experiencing a lot of panic at that time, and really struggled to focus for two whole minutes.
Slowly, over a long period of time I started to find some things that worked for me. The biggest, by far, was doing yoga. I love Yoga With Adriene. I found Adriene when my back was hurting badly one day (kind of like it is today) and I googled “Yoga for back pain” becuase I was willing to try anything free to get some relief. I found Adriene’s video and was so impressed. Adriene was the best yoga instructor I’d ever seen. She was extremely inviting and somehow felt like she was speaking right to me, even though it was an old YouTube video! Adriene just has this way of communicating that is so respectful and inviting. I even said to myself “She talks like a good therapist.” I loved the video so much I did more and more!
I didn’t expect the videos to help me learn to meditate, but they did. Adriene is able to gently and expertly guide you though the movements while coaching you to keep breathing and to focus on your body and breath. Her constant guide of “find what feels good” gave me the freedom to modify poses as I needed. I was learning to ignore all the racing thoughts and feel my body while paying attention to my breathing. For me pairing movement with breathing was the key I needed to learn to meditate. Over time and with practice my time on the mat, guided by Adriene’s videos, became a key part to my healing and getting my anxiety under control.
Each practice would end with shavasana, which was a new practice to me. At first being still and relaxed and focusing on breathing deeply was extremely difficult, but the practice of yoga made my body feel so good that I kept coming back. Day after day I did yoga and ended in a meditative pose. On the days that I would really be able to focus on my breathing instead of my thoughts I would find all sorts of strong emotions rising up. I would find myself sobbing at the end of a practice thinking of departed friends and old wounds. It really helped me discover the places of hurt hiding in the recesses of my mind that needed work. I had no idea that yoga could do that.
Recently I started adding time for meditation at the end of yoga. I don’t time it, but I think its generally about five minutes that I lie on the floor, just focusing on my breath. Of course all sorts of thoughts pop up, but I really try to just let them go and come back to my breath. I’ve also found that bringing my hands to together in front of my face helps. Feeling my fingers resting on my face and forehead give me a physical point to focus on.
Five minutes doesn’t feel like much, but it is. Especially paired with yoga, it makes a huge difference in my day. I am starting to notice the days that I struggle a lot and am short tempered with the people I love are the days I skip yoga and meditation.
It’s taken me 15 months to get the point that I can meditate for five minutes several days a week. Thats a long time, but the pay off has been absolutely huge. Its quite hard for me to quantify how much its impacted my life for the better. I’ve always seen myself as a snappy and sometimes straight up mean-spirited person, but that view and that reality is changing, and its in large part thanks to meditation. On days that I meditate, I feel more focused, more empathetic, and more flexible, things I’ve always valued but struggled to actually live out.
If you have wanted to try meditation but are scared to start, or worried you might fail, or don’t know how to get started, I urge you to just start somewhere. Before I found yoga I would set a timer for two minutes, and go outside at night and just look at the stars. It wasn’t quite meditating, but I would spend those two minutes breathing deep and it would help give me a short break from the anxiety that was nearly constant at the time. If I can do that at my lowest I’m sure everyone can find something they can do to bring some calm and peace to their minds for a few moments each day. I know if you try you won’t regret it.