6 Important Steps to a Successful Meditation Practice

April Saunders
6 Important Steps to a Successful Meditation Practice

There are many ways to meditate, and what works for one person might not work for another. Listed here are some not-so-obvious but basic techniques that will get you right where you need to be — comfortably seated in order to reach your zen.

Whether you are advanced in your meditation practice or just starting out, go back to basics with these important pointers.

1. Find Physical Comfort

Comfort of mind cannot be achieved without first achieving physical comfort. That means that Lotus Pose might not be the ideal asana for you when practicing seated meditation. However, some basic elements of the seated meditation posture should be considered when attempting to calm the mind.

Step one is to simply sit down. Consider if a seated cross-legged posture is right for you. If you have knee issues, or find that there is physical strain that keeps you from being able to focus your mind, you might benefit from the use of props.

A block or bolster under your seat or knee, or cushioning yourself under a meditation pillow is not cheating. If this still doesn't allow for comfort and the inability to fidget, consider extending the legs long in front of you while seated on the floor, or simply sitting in a chair.

The question sometimes comes up if meditating while lying down is okay. I do not suggest this. Savasana is different from seated meditation. You are also more likely to fall asleep.

2. Elongate the Spine

Once a firm foundation is established, the next step is elongating the spine. Rooting down through the Sitz bones, imagine lifting each vertebrae starting with the sacrum and lumbar spine, and creating space through each vertebra through the cervical spine, stacking each one on top of the other.

This allows for the energy of Kundalini to awaken, like a coiled snake climbing up the spine from the bottom to the top.

3. Find a Comfortable Hand Position

There are many ways to position your hands. The most simple is to place your hands in your lap, palms facing up, like you are about to receive a gift. It is thought that this creates more heat and energy in the body, which can be useful if you are feeling sleepy.

The left hand signifies wisdom, and the right hand compassion. In this gesture you are bringing the two together.

You may also place your hands in a Vishnu Mudra, with the thumb and index finger touching. The thumb slightly covers the tip of the index finger, signifying the higher power (thumb) taking priority of the self or ego (index finger, "I").

4. Relax the Shoulders

We have a tendency to roll the shoulders forward, creating a roundness to the upper back and neck. Driving, sitting at a desk, and typing on a computer contribute to this.

While seated, let the muscles in your shoulders and back relax. Round your shoulders down and back, opening your chest with a slight tuck under with the chin to lengthen the back of your neck. There is a touch of vulnerability in this point of posture as we expose our tender heart.

5. Relax the Jaw and Tongue

Clenching the jaw is a sign of stress. Relax the muscles of the jaw, creating space between the teeth. You will feel your face release as well. Allow the tongue to fall away from the roof of the mouth.

6. Relax the Eyes

Focus your drishti, or soft gaze, about a foot in front of you. Pick a spot on the floor that will not change or move, and rest your eyes there. If maintaining a fixed gaze makes it possible for you to focus your mind, then keep them open for meditation. You are also less likely to fall asleep with your eyes open. However, closing the eyes may be more comfortable, but make that decision before beginning your meditation practice.

Once firmly established, do not sway from your meditation routine. Be consistent in your practice, and you will be rewarded with the benefits of a calm mind and the ability to reach Samadhi.

Om Shanti.