Effective ways to improve your yoga and meditation practice

So you’ve proudly managed to find your ‘quiet time’ in the middle of a hectic schedule. You’ve changed into clothes with more zen-inspiring potential and maybe even lit a candle or two to set the mood. But as you settle in for your yoga or meditation, you can’t get your mind off that work problem, or how rude that cashier was or how you’re every going to manage to squeeze all your ‘to-do’s into the rest of the week. You know what a meaningful yoga/meditation practice is supposed to look like but every time to try to direct your mind towards your idyllic goal, it throws a fit and refuses to cooperate.

So what is one to do? The best thing to do is nothing. Let the mind brood, worry, complain, whatever, but you simply watch without engaging. However this can be a challenge at first and so here’s a few methods I use that can hopefully help to guide you back to attentiveness or if you’re having a good session already, to make it more effective.

The ‘First or Last Time’ method

This is the name I give to the method where you imagine that you are doing your practice for the very first time ever or for the very last time ever. (Those who might find the latter a bit disconcerting, can go with the former.) The aim of this method is to inject curiosity, of which attention is a natural consequence. Imagining that you’re doing something for the very first time or for the very last time will naturally make you more observant and bring your attention to the ‘here and now’.

The Dedication method

Dedicating your practice to someone or something else, can give an added kick of motivation. I first came across this concept in the movie Eat, Pray, Love where Julia Roberts’ character dedicates her practice to help fulfil someone else’s wish. While it is likely desultory to dedicate your practice to the fulfilment of your own desires, like perhaps the desire for enlightenment, dedicating it to someone else removes that sense of pressure and personal gain from the equation. You could dedicate your practice to someone specific or maybe just generally to suffering people in the world.

Gratitude and giving

Being in gratitude also helps to keep away thoughts of ‘what am I getting out of this’ when you may be questioning your motivation or the effectiveness of the practice. Just being grateful that you are lucky enough to be able to do your practices – because you’re alive, you’re healthy and you were fortunate enough to be guided to the path – can be enough to rev up your commitment and attention. Also, approaching with an attitude of true giving, where you give your attention fully, as if giving in gratitude, transforms the quality of your practice (or any act for that matter).

Meditate like your hair is on fire

I heard about this tip in a YouTube video of Yogiraj Satgurunath Siddhanath and have to admit it’s come in handy a couple of times. If you’re lacking intensity in your practice, then try this one. It is less morbid than the method of reminding yourself of your eventual but inevitable death which is the other way to get you more fired up!

If you’re doing something, DO it!

This is something you can remind yourself of in the midst of any action. Basically, there is no point in wasting time. If you’re doing something, then DO it. Fully. With all you have. Not with half a mind and half a heart, because in that case you’re not really doing the task, you’re only doing some half-version of it.

Focus on breath

This simple method is the most often recommended and works very well. If you can follow it, then you don’t need any of the methods above but in my personal experience, there are times when this method proves too weak (or I prove too weak, rather) and I need a more substantial kick to my powers of attention!

Share any other tips that have worked for your below!

 

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Shruti Bakshi

Shruti Bakshi is the Founder of the LivingWise Project. She has worked for several years in banking and financial services in London, Paris and Mumbai and holds an MBA (INSEAD) and MPhil in Finance (Cambridge). She is also a certified Hatha yoga instructor. Shruti writes about life at the intersection of spirituality and modern society. Her debut novel ‘From Dior to Dharma’ was released in May 2017. Her latest novel is ‘Yoga, Work and Life: Indian Wisdom for Modern Times’.


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