How to meditate

September 13, 2012, 2:04 pmwomenshealth

Flex your relaxation muscles with the mindfulness of breathing meditation.

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New to meditation? Not to worry. Even five minutes a day can be beneficial. Follow our beginner's guide to meditation and feel the great effects on your health


John Barter, a Sydney-based psychologist and meditation teacher recommends building up to at least 20 minutes a day – “but if you’re beginning, even 5 minutes a day is good.”

Here’s how to do it:

Prepare for meditation

Set a timer on your mobile, so you don’t get distracted by worrying about the time.

“Sit in a balanced, symmetrical posture where you feel comfortable – on a chair or cushion – with your hips slightly higher than your knees, and your hands resting in your lap or on knees,” says Barter.

“I generally recommend eyes to be gently closed with your head balanced on your neck as though you’re looking directly ahead.”

Stage 1: Breathing

Focus your awareness on your breathing. After each exhalation, count one, two, etc up to 10. If you lose count, or get stuck on a number, start back at one.

When you get to 10, start your count back at one. This way, you won’t drift off and find yourself at 187 and counting (non-mindfully). Whenever your mind wanders – and it will – “calmly and kindly bring your attention back to the breath,” says Barter.

Stage 2: Counting

Swap your count to before each inhalation, and again count up to 10 breaths, before beginning the cycle again. Can’t focus? Don’t fret.

“It’s natural that unwanted, unnecessary, unhelpful thoughts will come up in meditation. Try to think to yourself ‘This is just a thought, I don’t need to answer it now’. The idea is to see if we can be friends with our mind rather than try to control and react and resist and be angry at it,” says Barter.

Stage 3: Awareness

It can be helpful to keep practicing the first two stages for a while before moving on to stages 3 and 4. In stage three, simply let go of the counting and try to keep a steady awareness of your breathing – still with a relaxed, open mind.

Notice the full sensation – how each breath is subtly different; the gap between your breaths etc. You may find yourself becoming more attuned to the flow of your breath and find it becomes a pleasure to keep our focus on it.

Stage 4: Attention

In the final stage, bring your attention to the point of your body where you first feel the breath. It could be your nostrils, your upper lip, the back of your nose. Try to keep a relaxed attention on this spot.

Don’t beat yourself up if you’re finding it hard - just carry on trying, says Barter.

“Often people get disheartened, but meditation is a process and a practice that develops over time.”

And it’s well worth it!

For more meditation and yoga advice, check out the Women's Health Yoga page

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