Why and how to meditate

Breathe in, breathe out.

Wait, if I’m thinking about breathing, I’m not really mediating. Shoot.

Silence. Think of silence.

What are we having for dinner tonight? Oh yeah, lasagna. Stop, be quiet. Meditate.

Om shanti. I love when they sing that at the end of yoga class. What time is yoga tomorrow?

Be quiet. Meditate.

Create a daily meditation practice

Has this happened to anyone else? This was MY LIFE when I first started *trying* to meditate. I’d tinker with it, on and off, and I often felt discouraged that I wasn’t “doing it right.” Also, when I finished, I didn’t feel the benefits that I was *supposed* to feel; I was just kind of angry that I’d wasted some time trying to quiet my impossibly frantic thoughts.  it wasn’t until I learned why “why” behind meditating and the true “how” that I was able incorporate it into my daily life. And, it has changed my daily life. Meditation was a huge component of our Yoga Teacher Training, and here are some of the tips that I learned:

1) Find a quiet, comfortable spot in your house (or office) or wherever you will be meditating. For me, I know I can’t meditate in a room full of unfolded laundry. It will make me crazy. I have a clean, clutter-free area in our room, with a pillow on the floor, our salt lamp, and my Buddha. You can play music or light candles/inscence when you meditate, but if it’s distracting to you, don’t do it. All you really need is a comfortable, quiet spot. I’m really any crystal bowl albums from iTunes right now with the gentle humming and tonal vibrations.

2) Find a comfortable position, preferably seated. Many people do like to lie down to meditate, but the challenge with that is that it can often lead to sleep. (If you find that you are constantly falling asleep while meditating, it’s a good signal to improve nighttime sleep quality so you feel rested.) Also, you want meditating to be different from anything else you do. Try to avoid using as a crutch or assistance to sleep. Your mantra that you use meditation should be sacred for meditation time only. If you use it in life to calm yourself down, this could cause you to feel the emotions you were feeling (panic, anger, anxiety, sadness, etc) during your meditation. If you keep your meditation mantra for meditation time only, this will only give it power and help your body associate the mantra with feeling calm, relaxed and centered. 

3) Know your mantra. I’ll write about this more in my yoga teacher training recap post, but this was my absolute favorite part about YTT. I was given my own mantra to use for meditation, based on where I was born and the time I was born. Use a peaceful phrase to repeat silently to yourself as you meditate.

What is a mantra? It’s a sanskrit word, and the first syllable means “mind” (man) and the second is “instrument” (tra).

From this site:

Silently repeating a mantra as you meditate is a powerful way to enter the silence of the mind. As you repeat the mantra, it creates a mental vibration that allows the mind to experience deeper levels of awareness. As you meditate, the mantra becomes increasingly abstract and indistinct, until you’re finally led into the field of pure consciousness from which the vibration arose.

Repetition of the mantra helps you disconnect from the thoughts filling your mind so that perhaps you may slip into the gap between thoughts. The mantra is a tool to support your meditation practice. Mantras can be viewed as ancient power words with subtle intentions that help us connect to spirit, the source of everything in the universe. As you experience deeper meditative states, all thoughts and worries drop away and you experience the quiet that always exists beneath the noisy internal dialogue of the mind. In this stillness you may feel oneness with all life and profound peace.

Some sample (and simple) mantras:

“Ham-sah” (meaning “I am that”)

“I love you, I’m sorry, Please forgive me, Thank You” – Ho’oponopono (Hawaiian) Mantra  (Saul David Raye used this during a workshop, and I found it to be so healing and peaceful)

“Om” (there are 4 sounds to this: ah, oh, mmmm, and the silence that follows. “Om” is used as a charging sound, and brings intention to the universe)

There are many sanskrit mantras you can use, but I think if you’re just getting started, simple is better. If anything, pick two words that you know will bring you calmness and peace, and use those. (I used to use “peace” on the inhale and “calm” on the exhale before I was given my own mantra)

4) Don’t be afraid of thoughts. Initially, let your thoughts wander. Get it all out. Give yourself a few minutes to think before you start to center yourself and sink into your meditation. A good way to calm yourself as you begin your session is alternate nostril breathing, as it calms the nervous system and balances the body.

Before beginning meditation, I ask myself the soul questions:

Who am I?

What do I want?

What is my purpose?

How can I serve?

If you ask yourself these questions, try to dig beyond the superficial obvious answers. Keep asking yourself until you get deeper and deeper. It will be very challenging at first, but becomes easier each time you do it. 

Tree pose w liv

5) Once you’re ready to begin, set a timer -30 minutes twice a day is the recommendation, but I suggest starting with 10 and making it a habit from there- and close your eyes. Take long, slow, deep breaths and repeat your mantra silently to yourself. Sometimes it may slip away, and your thoughts will wander, and that’s ok. Your goal is to bring it back. The purpose of meditation is to fall into “the gap” which is without conscious thoughts. Sometimes a few seconds or minutes will go by, and you’ll later realize you were in the gap. (You won’t know you’re in the gap while it’s happening.)

6) What is the difference between meditating and praying?

Prayer is telling and asking; meditation is listening.

Some podcasts and apps to get started:

Headspace app

The mindfulness app

Simply Being app

Meditation Oasis podcast

The Meditation podcast

*If you know of any others that you love, please shout them out in the comments below 🙂

Some meditation benefits from this site:

10 Science Based Reasons To Start Meditating Today INFOGRAPHIC 

Do you meditate, or do something similar to center yourself for the day? What’s your strategy when you start to feel anxious or stressed?



ps. Thank you for all of your help with my photo dilemma! I ordered some old school albums for the prints I picked up at Walgreens. Going forward, I think I’m going to try Project Life per many of your suggestions! I love the idea of making an album a year (so this doesn’t happen again haha) and maybe I’ll use that as a new New Years tradition. You always save the day with your awesome suggestions and tips! xo

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  1. I really enjoy the “Brainwave” app. It has hundreds of settings and customizations. I use it to help me sleep, meditate, concentrate, everything! My favorite is the rain ambience (Tucson girl here). It also has a number of alarms to wake you gently out of meditation – I like the gong best.

  2. Thanks so much for the suggestions. Meditation practice is something I would really like to embrace as part of my daily routine. I am very guilty of having my mind ander which always allows me to be frustrated. Just the routine of breathing is beneficial.

  3. This is fabulous. Thanks for putting it together!

    I love using the Calm app. It has a ton of different meditations for whatever I might need and uses a lot of different layers of the chakras (body position, colors, words, images) to help with whatever I’m seeking. My favorites are the Inner Peace and the Sleep ones. I use Sleep when I wake up in the middle of the night and can’t chill. I usually fall asleep before it’s over.

    And now I want my own custom mantra!

  4. your intro is exactly my thoughts whenever i try to sit still. my mom loves naps, and i hate them, because my mind wanders and all i can do is think about my day (of course, i can watch tv endlessly… haha). running is my “me time”. kinda like it says in the poster. i use it to think/let me mind wander/plan out the day, but also sometimes tell myself, “hush. run.” and find that counting my steps helps
    (hey, that could be a mantra? 1, 2, 3, 4.) or sometimes when i run, i just repeat “1-e-&-a” with each step. (used that to count in orchestra.. it is forever ingrained in me now haha.)
    i especially love the end of the graphic,… “how much time you spend doing xxxxx, you could be meditating or taking that time for yourself” i’ll definitely keep that in mind, too 🙂

  5. Wow – I loved this post! I’ve been thinking all day about how I really need to prioritize “me” time, and I think I may just need to add meditation to the list of things that I can do solely for me and my health. I haven’t been successful with it in the past, but this post has really motivated me to give it another shot!

  6. I love meditation! So important for a stress ball like me!

  7. Great post- thanks for sharing! I was wondering if Liv ever meditates with you and if so how you do it with her? I’m a Grade 1 teacher and was thinking about incorporating a 10 minute meditation time at the end of every school day but need to do a lot of research to figure out how I should ‘run’ it. If you had any suggestions I’d really appreciate it!

  8. Thank you for this thoughtful post– one of the most approachable and concrete yet nuanced explanations of meditation I’ve read!

  9. This is one of my favorite posts that I’ve seen on your blog! Since I read this post earlier today, I decided to make a daily recurring appointment on my calendar and attempt to make time for meditation every evening – started tonight! My mind wandered a little but I tried to focus on my breathing. My dad has done meditation ever since he was in his early 20’s and is now in his 60’s and still takes no medications – I think that doing yoga and meditation has definitely contributed to this. I sent a link for this posting to several of my really good friends and hopefully they’ll decide to start meditation as well! Additionally, a family friend of mine started a non-profit that I thought you might find interesting because it involves teaching kids about mindfulness, yoga, and meditation. The link is : ivychild.org in case you or other readers are interested in learning more. Thanks for writing this wonderful posting!

  10. I like the Calm app, as someone mentioned above. I’m a teacher and am working on my meditation practice this summer because my whole school is working on mindfulness next year – your post was so informative and helpful! Thank you!

  11. Yay! I was so happy to read the title of this post and I’m so happy you’re finally enjoying meditation. I’ve been meditating every single day for the last 14 years and the difference it has made to my outlook, attitude, health, and every aspect of life is tremendous! After all these years, I can safely say that “I don’t meditate, meditation happens to me”.
    There is a Tibetan saying that goes: “Cultivating the space for meditation is the primary meditation.”

    Guided meditations are a great way to start and here are some of my favourites:
    (youtube has tons more!)

    Here is an easy mantra meditation technique that anyone can learn:

    I’m especially happy to see you embrace Om since I see some people of other faiths refuse to say Om because they associate it with Hinduism. It’s truly a universal sound and they miss out!
    As a wise man I know once said, you don’t become an Italian because you eat pizza or Chinese if you eat Chinese food. If we can embrace food from different parts of the world, and music from different parts of the world, why not embrace wisdom from different parts of the world? 🙂

    Incidentally, Om comprises of 3 syllables: ah, uu (not oh), and mmm.
    Each syllable corresponds to a different energy (creative, maintenance, and transformative energies) and Om integrates & enhances all 3 in us.

    Sorry for the long comment, but as you can see, this topic excited me so much!

  12. This was very helpful, Gina. I’ve been wanting to get into meditation.

  13. I’ve been trying to start my days more mindfully – thanks for putting together such an awesome resource!

  14. Thank you for this post! I’ve been trying to get into a regular meditation practice over the last few months, and I either end up asleep, or chasing all the random thoughts that pop into my head! This info. is super helpful, thank you!!

  15. I have never meditated, except for in yoga class. Thank you for all of these helpful ways to meditate. I am going to try to start 10 minutes a day. I really need to practice calming and quieting my mind outside of yoga!!

  16. What a great post! I haven’t quite been able to tame the monkey mind yet, but this inspires me to keep trying! I was that person who started trying to meditate by lying in savasana (it feels so good at the end of a yoga class!)…bad idea! Definitely turned into nap time, whoops! Right now I’m working on loving kindness meditation, and it really does put things in perspective for me 🙂

  17. Elizabeth B says:

    Thanks for this! I went to Wanderlust for the first time this past weekend in Aspen-Snowmass and went to my first meditation class with Noah Levine. He was fantastic! He also recommended that you record yourself speaking you mantra and listen to it for 30 minutes so you can hear yourself instead of listening to a podcast or something with someone else’s voice.

  18. I like to have a little time in the morning outside to just sit quietly.

  19. Samantha says:

    I love to meditate before bed. It clears my mind, relaxes me and I fall asleep so easily!

  20. Emily R says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! I have just started doing yoga and as I say doing yoga I mean starting a new journey in learning the flow of yoga, breathing techniques and most of all being present with my mind and body =0) I have started a 30 day yoga challenge and have been trying to learn on how to breath. My next step is dedicating out time to mediate but needed to learn on how to do this. Your amazing post is such a great start and puts things into perspective for me =0)
    I truly enjoy reading your post each day. Thanks again for another Great one!!!

  21. Thank you the tips! My best friend has been trying to get me to do meditation for years. We’re both very anxious people and she swears it has helped her focus and stay calm. I could never get into the groove though. She never could explain it in a way for me to understand which you just did.

  22. THANK YOU!! I can’t tell you how helpful this was, and how honest! I am aware of all the benefits of meditation, and I have the need and desire to do it regularly, but I just can’t seem to get the hang out of it or “find the time.” (i say that in quotes b/c it’s ridiculous). I will be bookmarking this post 🙂 Just reading about meditation relaxes me and quiets my mind- let’s see what happens when i actually do it.

  23. I really like the Spirit Junkie guided meditations. Usually I listen to the first two, but the other ones I really like depending on what I feel like I need that day. They reeeeally help me sort out my feelings.

  24. I meditate every night before bed, and I have no problem going to sleep! Love it!

  25. This is awesome, Gina! Thank you for this post. I’m really looking forward to this part of YTT! Right now we’ve been asked to meditate at least 20 minutes every day and journal about it. Some days it’s so hard!! The first part of your post sounds just like my mind! Haha! I’m hoping it will get easier and more beneficial over time if I just keep trying.

    I hope we get our own Mantra like you did! Love that!

  26. Wonderful advice, thank you. Meditating can be difficult, but it’s so important!


  27. I love this post – I’ve tried meditation off and on but haven’t really stuck with it regularly. I’m definitely going to try these tips and give it another shot! As a pretty high-strung, anxious person, I really think it would be beneficial! I also got a huge kick out of the guided meditation you shared on Facebook, it was hilarious!

  28. The why & how – GREAT point!

    Thanks for these tips. You’ve convinced me to really put the effort in to meditate now 🙂

  29. Gina, thanks for such a practical guide for creating a daily meditation. This is something that I would really like to start incorporating in my daily life, and I think you offer some fantastic insight into creating a lasting and sustainable meditation practice beyond the current hype that it is getting. I can’t wait to try some of your tips. I will let you know how it goes once I give it a long enough go.

  30. Lynice Anderson says:

    Thanks for the great tips! I am just starting to meditate and have struggled with finding “that place”. I will be trying your suggestions soon-

  31. Thank you for the tips and sharing the benefits of meditation with your readers!! I used to have so much trouble falling asleep, mostly after long days at work when I had 100 things on my mind.. meditation completely changed that. I went on a vitagene diet and health plan and they recommended meditation for me, and I didnt think anything of it until I started putting my phone away before bed and doing breathing/stretching exercises. I used to use soft music, but now I try to stay focused on my breathing 🙂 It changed my life, meditation works!

  32. I just recently went to a Chopra Meditation Workshop/Retreat in Carlsbad. This is exactly their method of meditation, Primordial Sound. I’ve been through YTT and we learned meditation there but this is the first time it stuck with me. I went to the retreat in April and have loved my daily practice. I wish others had a chance to experience this way of meditation. I honestly believe it has been the turning point in my life.

    • Fitnessista says:

      yes, that’s it! so cool you have your own mantra too 🙂 i would love to attend some classes and trainings at the chopra

  33. I agree mediation changes my life every time I do it. I usually can only carve out a few mins but it is the best!

  34. This post was so helpful! I got really into meditating during my YTT, but unfortunately lost it as a daily practice. I’ve been missing it a lot, what a perfect reminder to get back into it!

  35. Thanks for this 🙂 I m just starting to get on the yoga-meditation wagon. Since we moved to London from NYC I have been feeling off and disconnected. I thought that this might help, also i am a runner and I know that yoga works miracles for runners! SO thanks again 🙂

  36. Where did you take your yoga teacher training. Do you have any recommendations for YTT for people who live outside of CA? I am looking to get started in YTT and don’t know where to start, thanks!

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