It is not unusual to feel the physical benefits of yoga before you achieve similar results with the mind. A perfect example is at the end of many yoga classes. Your body feels good from the exertion and focused effort, but then you lie down in savasana. As the body relaxes, the mind is still at work, bouncing around from thought to thought or planning activities for later in the day.
Ultimately, one of the goals of yoga and meditation is to stop these fluctuations of the mind, the random thoughts that seem to constantly bombard our brains. It takes practice and is, for many people, the most challenging aspect of yoga. Here are three tips to help quiet the mind when you are lying in savasana or sitting in meditation.
Body First, Mind Later
When you attempt to remain still, the body does not always cooperate. In can take several minutes in savasana before the body actually becomes relaxed and quiet. It is only at this point that the mind can become quiet. When the body is tense and not yet letting go, it is even more difficult for the mind to be calm and focused.
Be patient when you first come into savasana or sit for meditation. Allow time for the body to settle before you focus on the mind. Only when the body has become still, can you expect that the mind will follow along.
Make an Appointment for Your Thoughts
How do we deal with thoughts that arise when we are trying to keep the mind quiet? One approach is to let them drift away; don’t engage thoughts that pop up in your head. Sometimes that doesn’t work. When you have a nagging thought, make an appointment for it. If you start to think about the meeting you have tomorrow, vow to plan for it after you get home. Then let go of that thought.
Often, the mind will cooperate with this approach. You may have to make a lot of appointments, but that is okay. You are making progress toward having more control over your mind, just like you have with your body.
Name That Sound
Sometimes, when we try to meditate, we are distracted by external things. Sound is certainly one of these. You can be in a relaxed mental state when the sound of a car horn or a lawn mower puts your attention on alert and the mind in gear. Quickly naming the sound, quietly to yourself, will often often settle the mind before it gets going again. Think “car horn” or “lawn mower” and then let go. Usually, your mind will disengage from the external stimulus.
Though these methods are effective, don’t expect immediate results. Just as we have to practice yoga poses regularly to become stronger, more flexible and balanced, we must practice the techniques associated with meditation before we can expect the mind to respond. With calm, quiet and determined effort, we can make progress toward a state where the mind is quiet, focused and aware, free of distractions.