Every morning, when I sit down to meditate each morning, I am often met with an internal resistance towards stillness. When I close my eyes, I feel a burning sensation on my top. I cannot get my position to be comfortable and it feels like strain.
The Yoga Sutra’s sole instruction on sitting in meditation is ” Sukha sukham asanam,”. This means that the posture should feel stable and easy. But this is far from the feeling I had the first few moments.
It has been a great help to me in my meditation practice over the years to take a few moments to stretch and get rid of all distractions. Moving helps me wake up in the morning, and later in the day, stretching before I sit can help to temper the chaos that creeps in my consciousness.
This sequence will help you to move into stillness in 5 minutes
These stretches can be used to help you get rid of your jitters and relax into stillness . They focus on stretching the muscles necessary for deep breathing. If you plan to sit in Sukhasana, they will also open your hips.
Side-to-Side Neck Stretches
This will help you sit in meditation. Neck stretching can be especially beneficial in the morning, or after a long day looking at a computer screen. They allow us to release stagnant postures. You can regulate blood flow and breathing by gently tilting your head down as you sit in meditation. Allowing your neck to relax can prepare your body for the seat.
How to: Lie down in Sukhasana (Easy Chair) or Vajrasana with your feet on the ground and your seat on a block or your heels. Place your right hand alongside your right hip, and place your palm on your forehead just above your right ear. As if your head were being held in your hands, breathe in and stand tall. Breathe in and tilt your head to the left. Don’t press on your neck or pull on your head. To increase the stretch, allow your natural weight to be supported by your hand. For 3-5 minutes, continue this neck stretch. Then switch sides.
This stretch can help you sit in meditation. While we often think of our breath as a forward-moving motion, our backs have significant lung capacity. This stretch will open your lungs to the sides and back, as well as the front.
How do I: As in the previous stretch, sit in Vajrasana. Interlace your fingers with the thumb in front. Turn your palms upwards and extend your arms above your head. As you take a deep breath, arch your back and press your palms towards the sky. Your palms should be pushed forward, bringing your hands to the ground. For 3 to 5 times, repeat the process. This will create a feeling of space in your back and in your lungs.
This stretch can help you sit in meditation. The kneeling Cat-Cow stretch is similar to the seated version. It helps open up your front and back and prepares the body for breathing. These movements are an excellent counter to meditation’s hip stillness.
How to: Start seated. Place your hands under your shoulders, and your knees beneath your hips. Spread your fingers out and press your palms into the ground. As you inhale, lower your belly, lift your chest and gaze toward the sky. Inhale, ground your hands and lower your gaze towards the sky. Continue this for three to five times. Concentrate on the opening of your chest and upper back muscles.
Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose)
This stretch can help you sit in meditation. The Downward-Facing Dog works well for strengthening your entire back, including the legs. The pose is an inversion because your head is lower that your heart. It’s also energizing, and it helps increase blood circulation.
How to: Start at Tabletop by tucking your toes. Then, lift your hips high and turn your back towards Downward-Facing Dog. To lengthen your back, bend your knees slightly. Spread your fingers and toes out and evenly distribute your weight among your hands and feet.
Allow your Down Dog to explore, as if it were having a conversation about what is important today. Relax your shoulders and extend your arms up. Your ribs should be drawn in towards your back. Lift your sitting bones toward heaven by lifting your ribs toward the sky. Your low arch can be countered by moving your tailbone towards your pubic bone. Keep your knees bent and press your thighs against the wall. Relax your gaze, and then lower your head until your upper arms meet your ears. Straighten one leg and bend the other. For 5-10 deep breaths, breathe steadily along the length of your back.
How this stretch can help you sit in meditation. This position is great for opening your intercostal muscles, the muscles between your ribs. It also helps to move your chest while you breathe. Parivritta Janu Sirsasana also stretches your hips, back, shoulders, and hamstrings.
How do you: Start in Down Dog. Lower your knees, and then sit down with your legs extended out in front. Place your left leg on the inside of your right knee. Place your right foot on your right side and bend towards your left leg. If you want to bring the ground closer, you can place a block underneath your forearm. This will allow you to maintain your length from your sides and back.
For 3-5 deep breaths, wherever you are, focus on your right side and breathe in deeply. Breathe in, rise up and exhale to get out of this position. Straighten your leg by bending your left knee. Repeat the process on the opposite side.
BaddhaKonasana (Bound Angle Pose).
How this stretch can help you sit in meditation. This position is great for opening your hips and lower back. This forward fold variant is great for your nervous system and a great way to get into meditation.
How to: Sitting down, place your bottoms together and raise your knees. Place your feet about a comfortable distance from your pelvis. Place your hands on the outsides of each foot. Breathe in to raise your head and open your chest. Then, breathe out to extend your chest forward. Finally, fold your back flat.
Place your hands on your feet, and then turn your feet up. You can slide your forearms under your shins, and then place your hands on the mat. You can choose to do whatever expression feels natural or expressive.