In Yoga, the three main practices are breathing, postures and meditation.
The breathing practice, or pranayama and the physical practice, or asana are performed to prepare the body for the mental and spiritual practice of meditation.
Learning to clear the mind and bring awareness to the breath is the beginning of a meditation practice. Focusing on the breath can be thought of as a distraction, which keeps the mind from wandering and gently brings your focus back to the present.
Sit in an upright position with your spine lengthened and your tailbone pointing toward the floor. Your hands should be resting lightly on the knee or thigh with the elbows pulled into your sides. You can be in a cross-legged position on the floor or sitting in a chair.
If you are in a chair make sure both feet are flat on the floor. Wiggle your toes to make sure you are not tensing and to maintain a solid connection to the ground. If sitting on the floor, balance your weight and use a pillow for support, if necessary.
Close Your Eyes
Now imagine a string attached to the ground and traveling up your spine through your tailbone, “rooting” you to the earth. This string pulls your spine up straight and comes out through the crown of the head. This visualization will aid you as you build your practice.
It will take time for your muscles to strengthen and for you to be able to hold yourself in this position. When you feel tension in any area of the body, first check your posture to make sure that your weight is evenly distributed and the spine is long and strong. (Relieving Tension)
Bring your awareness to your breath (Breathing Practice) breathing through the nose and deep into the diaphragm. Become aware of any tension you are holding in your body and with each exhale feel that tension release. Visualize the clean, clear air coming in through your nose and traveling down inside the body, feeling the area right below your ribs expand.
As the diaphragm gently collapses to expel the air, feel the air exhale through your nose with the same control and speed as your inhale. The air travels as if in a continuous circle, starting at the top and traveling to the bottom and continuing back up again, without any distinguishable beginning or end.
The flow of the air through the nose is relaxing and drawing it deep through the body is energizing. The rhythm of this breathing pattern with its steady ebb and flow sets the stage for a mindful rest.
If you find your thoughts traveling to things that happened in the past or things that need to happen in the future, gently bring yourself back to the present with your breath. Even if you can only do it for 5 minutes at the beginning, that is 5 minutes that will be paid forward with increased energy, patience, and focus.
Angela Ewari, owner of Running Yogini, is a certified running coach and yoga trainer in Denver, Colorado. Follow Angela on Twitter: http://twitter.com/running_yogini
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