To someone who doesn’t incorporate a meditation practice into his or her day-to-day life, the concept of dedicating time to reflect, breath, and find your center might sound like an unachievable feat. Or, perhaps to some, useless. We sat down with LA yogini Naomi Zelin to teach non-meditators like us a thing or two!
The benefits of meditation sound so incredible, but the idea of shutting off our mind and focusing exclusively on slowing down sounds near impossible. Where do we start?
Naomi: When starting a meditation practice, things can seem a little overwhelming – how you're going to sit, breath and focus your mind all at the same time. The best tips for beginners is to first acknowledge that we are humans, and humans think. We will always have thoughts running in our brains even if when we meditate. The first step of meditation is learning that thoughts will come and go and meditating is our opportunity to not listen to them so loudly.
Are there time specifications to ensure efficacy? 30 minutes? An hour?
Naomi: Make sure that you don't set yourself up for failure. Yes, sitting still for an entire hour sounds fantastic, until you have to do it! Start small with 10-15 minute increments and slowly add more time as you get physically and mentally comfortable sitting for longer periods. Begin by focusing on your breath, trying to make your exhales longer than your inhales. For instance, count to 4 on your inhale and count to 8 on your exhale. This will begin to relax and focus your mind and body.
Is there a time of day that makes meditation easier or better for you?
Naomi: Like yoga or any other physical or mental practice, time of day, intensity and duration are dependent on the person meditating. I personally like to meditate in the morning because my mind is still a bit foggy from sleep and has not met the day’s stressful agenda. Others might like to meditate before they go to sleep, as meditation is a great way to combat insomnia and helps with restful sleep. Mid-day meditation? Great for people who work in high stress environments who need to recharge or re-center their minds.
What’s all the buzz around controlling our breath?
Naomi: Breath is the key for everything; your breath is both automatic and controllable. When life seems to be pulling you in all directions, anxiety arises, and with anxiety comes either shortness or breath or not breathing altogether. Shallow breathing causes more anxiety because the body enters fight or flight mode. To cancel all these negative experiences, breathe as deeply as you can for about 5 breaths. This will allow your body to know its safe by lowering your heart rate and blood pressure. Once your body and mind feel more in control, you will be able to experience more clarity and better decision making.
Combining her Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology with her love of natural healing, Naomi became a certified yoga teacher in 2013. She’s participated in several additional training seminars in India, Thailand, Nepal and Indonesia. Catch one of her incredible classes all over Los Angeles!