How to re-start your meditation practice

meditation-practiceWe all have the best intentions to keep a daily meditation practice going, but sometimes it’s easy to simply get out of the habit. It could be having an illness, a change of routine in summer holidays or at Christmas, or another life event we can’t control. We might just be too busy or stressed or upset to keep our practice together.

No matter what the reasons for quitting meditation were, here are some simple tips to get you back in the groove.

 

1. Keep it simple
I’ve found that my mind can exaggerate how complicated it might be to restart my practice, so I keep putting off doing it. So I beat my natural resistances by making it absolutely simple – just light a candle. Just sit for 10 breaths. Just sit on my meditation cushion for 1 minute. The more achievable and easy that first step is, the more likely I am to actually do it.

 

2. Get support
Talking to your meditation or yoga teacher is often enough to allay any fears or resistance about practice. I always ask my meditation students to drop me a line or ring me when they’re going through these dry periods – it’s not unusual and everyone goes through it from time to time. That reassurance and encouragement might be all you need to restart.

 

3. New week, new start
It may be a trick of my mind, but I find Mondays a good day to start over. It works for my 5:2 fasting and it definitely helps with my meditation. So – say to yourself that you’ve got a clean slate to start again – and Monday is the day!

 

4. Love and accept yourself
We can feel guilty, ashamed or just plain annoyed with ourselves for not doing the very things that make us feel better (i.e. meditating!). So let go of the self-judgement. Know that it’s a normal part of any journey of self-development, and start again.

 

5. Peer support
The most successful meditation training courses I’ve ever taught were those where the students met up regularly between modules. So get in touch with your yoga or meditation buddies, go on a workshop or retreat, or have a mentoring or one-to-one session with a tutor to be re-inspired to restart your practice. It’s going to be easier than you think, so go for it – one step at a time! Good luck!

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Jane Saraswati Clapham is a Dru meditation teacher trainer based at our head office in Snowdonia.

 

For yoga and meditation holidays, teacher training and local classes visit our website.

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August 2013 – the crane

bakasana-for-blogThis posture helps the circulation of the blood to the head as it falls into the inversion set of postures. It helps to strengthen the spine, the pelvic girdle and the legs and it also helps with physical balance.

The actual performing of the posture allows lots of muscles to be in use at the same time – the hamstrings are both stretched and contracted, the forearm flexor muscles are stretched, the gluteus maximus muscle and the core stability muscles are also contracted.

Because it is an inversion posture it helps on the mental / emotional level with releasing stubborn habit patterns. It creates a wonderful flow of energy through the spine activating all the chakras.

Who shouldn’t do this posture:
Although the benefits of this posture are excellent you need to make sure, as with all inversion postures, that if you are suffering from high blood pressure, have a hernia or a detached retina, have spinal disc problems or are pregnant then you should not do this posture.

Body preparations:
It is really important when doing this posture, especially for the first few times, that you do not over extend the raised leg causing the hips to twist. Having a partner to guide you until you become more aware of the flat lower back when in the posture will help you. To prepare for this posture you will need to strengthen the Gluteus Maximus muscles and work on stretching the hamstrings.

How to do this posture:
1. Stand in Tadasana. Place hands flat on thighs, breathe in and as you breathe out slide hands down legs towards the floor making sure you are bending at the hips.
Place both hands on the floor about two hand lengths in front of your feet (bend your knees if you need to).

2. Raise the right leg behind as high as possible but making sure the hips and lower back are flat and trying not to twist the pelvis (get someone to watch and check this for you until you can feel that you are in the correct position). Allow the stretch to extend from the hips to the toes.

3. Slowly lower leg down to original position. If this is uncomfortable you can always bend the knee and then place the foot on the floor.

4. Uncurl spine raising up to Tadasana before completing on left side.

The beauty of this posture is that even if you can’t get your hands down to the floor you can use blocks to assist. You can also use the back of a chair or the seat of a chair. If you use the back of chair you just need to lift the knee, pushing the heel away behind you whilst holding onto the chair. If you use the chair seat for support, lift the knee and push the heel behind you. It is just as important to make sure the pelvis doesn’t tilt when using any of these modifications.

Top Tip:
This is an excellent inverted posture to do, especially if you are not comfortable with shoulder stands as it allows you to fully experience the magical effects of the chakras moving throughout the body whilst you are in total control of the posture. Have fun with this and play around with the modifications too.

FREE meditation video

Sky Meditation – Dru Meditation DVD from Dru Team on Vimeo.

Sky Meditation – Dru Meditation DVD

The Dru Meditation DVD’s Sky meditation helps you regain your perspective on life, broaden your vision, lift your eyes from a situation in which you are bogged down, and see the larger perspective. Use it when you want to regain your enjoyment of life and all of those great things that are really important to you.

July 2013 – the child

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Pindasana, or the Child Pose, is a calm, quiet posture which helps to free tension in the area between the shoulder blades and along the whole length of the spine.

On a mental / emotional level you may experience a feeling of security and inner peace, as well as feelings of humility and child-like innocence.

Energetically, this posture allows for a resting phase on the earth, creating a wonderful circle of energy flowing over the top of the head and neck, shoulders, arms and hands to the feet, legs and over the back.

Who shouldn’t do this posture?
Although there are no recognised contra-indications to this posture, heavily pregnant women should take care, work with their own bodies and adopt one of the modifications below.

How to do this posture:
Get yourself a couple of blankets ready and some blocks (or books) to support the head.

From Vajrasana (kneeling, with the weight back towards the heels), bend forward and bring the forehead to the floor close to your knees. If the forehead does not reach the floor or you place the top of the head on the floor, then use a block. This is not a type of headstand – it is a relaxing posture! You can place a block under the forehead or alternatively bring your hands into fists and rest the forehead on your stacked fists.

In this posture, the buttocks should ideally rest on the heels, if they don’t, fold up the blankets and place them on the heels and the backs of the calves. Play around with the folds of the blankets to get them just right to correspond with the forehead on the floor.  If it’s more comfortable you can also take the knees apart slightly to allow your abdomen to rest between the thighs – this is especially useful in pregnancy.

Once you have sorted out the blankets and blocks allow the arms to relax by the sides of the body. Breathing in focus at the base of the spine and then feel the breath moving along the spine towards the neck. As you breathe out relax the whole area of the shoulders, neck, arms and hands. Rest in this posture for several minutes, and slowly raise up when you are ready.

Top Tip: 
It is worth taking the time to get yourself sorted for this posture, playing around with the height of any blocks you need, checking whether the hips touch the buttocks, in this way you can experience the amazing relaxation this posture brings.

June 2013 – the triangle

triangle-for-blogThe extended lateral triangle posture or ‘Utthita Trikonasana’ is invaluable for developing strength and flexibility in the trunk and thighs. It helps to mobilise the pelvic girdle, extend the spine and tones the abdominal, upper back and shoulder muscles.

The posture is also excellent for releasing stuck energy from the sides of the torso and can help us to perceive a wider picture in our lives. On an energetic level this posture activates the earth energies in the base chakra, and encourages it to raise upward, enhancing our artistic ability, creativity and powers of expression.

 

Should I do this posture?
As this posture creates a strong stimulation to the lower two chakras, it is not recommended during menstruation, pregnancy and for the first three months after giving birth. If you have back, knee or hip problems please exercise caution in performing and holding this posture.

If you have weakness in the lower back or abdominal muscles, you can do this posture with more ease by bringing your feet even closer together and bend your knee when moving into the posture.

Preparing the body
The triangle is generally quite demanding physically and therefore ensure that you have warmed up the body with some activations (one great way to get warmed up is to put your favourite music on and dance!) It would also be advantageous to stretch the pectorials and adductor muscules.

How to do the posture
1. Stand in tadasana. Allow your joints to be soft and relaxed and feel your connection with the earth.

2. Adopt the standard triangle base as follows:
 Separate your legs by two to three feet. Turn the right foot 45 degrees to the right by pivoting on the right heel. Now pivot on the ball of the right foot to bring the right heel in line with the toes. You should now find that your right heel is in line with the medial arch of the left foot. Push the left heel slightly to the left to allow you to anchor the left foot to the floor when you move into the side bend.

3. Pause and check that when you bend your right knee that the shin vertical. If its not – adjust your stance to bring your feet closer together – or if the legs are already too narrow, adjust the width between your feet accordingly.

4. Refresh your core stability. Breathing in, raise your arms sideways to shoulder height, palms facing forward. As you breathe out, reach towards the right extending from the base of your spine and then down towards the floor. Keep your body in one plane—the torso does not come forwards.

N.b. Keeping in one plane will restrict your movement considerably but it is more useful to bend just a little to the side with correct alignment than to bend a lot more but incorrectly.

5. Once you feel perfectly balanced, become aware of your arms. Rest the back of your right hand against the right calf or ankle. Stretch your left arm upwards and feel as if you are lifting from the armpit. Allow your left shoulder blade to relax towards the right shoulder blade. Elongate your neck and turn your head in order to look up towards your left hand.

6. To come out of the posture, reverse this sequence as follows:
Look forwards, bend your right knee and on an inhalation slowly raise your torso upwards, contracting your pelvic floor and lower abdominal muscles to help with the lifting movement. Arms remain out sideways at shoulder height. Once in the upright position lower both arms.

7. You may wish to rest in a relaxed forward bend position before repeating on the other side.

May 2013 – the bow

bow-for-blog

Dhanurasana or the Bow is an amazing backward bend, which also opens the chest and stretches pecs and quads. This posture gives a complete activation of the whole spine, helping maintain both its suppleness and strength and also of the hips.

In the final rocking stage the bow gives a gentle massage to the abdominal organs, obviously aiding digestion.

In this posture the Manipura chakra (the solar centre) and Vishuddhi chakra (the throat centre) are activated. As a consequence we find that on a mental / emotional level this posture helps us to become more able to express yourself.

The bow is a very powerful posture for helping us to train the mind. In the practice of archery it is said that the concentrated focus on a target helps the subject and the object to become one.

Contraindications:
If you are suffering from heart problems, high blood pressure or have had recent abdominal surgery please avoid this posture. Women who are pregnant or are menstruating should also avoid this posture.

Body preparations:
It is really important to prepare the body for the stretches this posture brings. Use the Quadriceps stretch (stand on one leg and hold the other foot close to the buttocks – keeping the knees close together and the sternum lifted), the Iliopsoas stretch and the pectoralis Stretch (take a yoga strap – or your hubby’s tie – and hold onto it with your arms about 1m apart – then lift up and over your head, so your arms are stretched out behind you).

How to do this posture:
You can perform this posture on a blanket if you need to cushion the hip bones. You may also find that you need to use straps to perform the individual stages of this posture. If your hands don’t reach your feet easily then please take care not to over-stretch – use a strap or a sash hooked around the ankle. It is important to gain the benefits of the posture without any pain.

Stage 1 (preparing the knees and thighs)
Lie in the prone position with both hands extended in front and the forehead placed on the floor. Bend the right knee and bring your right hand back and take hold of the foot. Draw the foot towards the right buttock so you can feel the stretch along the front of the right thigh.

Then bring the left hand also to the right foot. Breathe in and as you exhale raise the right thigh by pushing the front of the right foot into your palms and moving your heel away from your buttock, whilst at the same time lifting your head and chest off the ground. Hold for a few seconds, breathing normally. On an exhalation lower your head and chest to the ground and release hold of your right foot. Make sure you release hands and feet gently back to the floor.

Rest in Makarasana for a few moments before repeating with the left leg.

Stage 2 (full posture)
Remain in the prone position, bend both knees and take hold of the right foot with the right hand and the left foot with the left hand. Breathe in and as you exhale raise both the top of the body and the legs off the ground. As the body balances on the abdomen it rocks gently with each breath (the breath will be faster than normal in this position).

Your arms are like the bow-string which tenses to bring the body back into the shape of the bow.

Top Tip: 
It is important to follow this posture with some forward bending postures. Either the knee-to-head posture (Janu Sirsasana) or the sitting forward bend (Paschimottanasana) would be ideal.