Ready to start meditating… Now what?

You’ve been contemplating meditation, possibly to compliment your asana practice or to explore it in and of itself. The benefits of meditation are numerous: it calms our overactive minds, creates a deeper sense of awareness, increases overall happiness and can reduce stress. It does this by bringing us to the present moment; we move away from planning for the future and mulling over the past. It brings us to the HERE & NOW, the only place where life really exists.
Oftentimes, a big challenge to getting started is not knowing HOW to start. Here are 5 helpful tips to get your practice flowing (and growing!)
. Create your SPACE. Set up a quiet, inviting space. Where ever it is, make sure it draws you in; set up candles, lay out your favourite cushion or blanket. Depending on when/where you are practicing, set yourself up to face the sun (ocean or falling snow). Inspirational images/quotes can be helpful too. Preparing ourselves for mediation is an important step to allowing our busy minds to settle.
. Take your SEAT. Ensure you have something to prop your hips up (a pillow, bolster, or block). Sit comfortably. Take a moment to ensure your sit bones are anchored, allow your weight to rest evenly. Lengthen your spine and soften your belly. Once settled, COMMIT TO YOUR SEAT. Become aware of any urges to shift or scratch your nose (suddenly everything is itchy!). Breathe, commit to your seat & the itch will pass (I promise). Set your timer (5, 10, 30mins - it's your choice). Start slowly and gradually make your way up to longer practices.
. Come to your BREATH. The quality of your breath and the state of your mind are interrelated. Take a few moments to observe your breath without changing it in any way. Observe your inhales, observe your exhales; allowing each breath to rise and fall. With this awareness, your breath may naturally start to slow and soften.
. FOCUS. Choose something specific to focus on during your mediation practice. For example; it can be your breath (counting your exhales), a body part (softening of your belly on each inhale), a mantra (OM or So’ham), or an intention. Practice bringing your attention to your chosen focus. Every time your mind wanders (and trust me it will!), become aware of it and make your way back to your focus. 
. Practice, practice, PRACTICE. Each time we take our seat we are establishing a habit, breaking old patterns, creating new ones. Creating space, opening ourselves to stillness, being present with what is. 
Stella Artuso, MPH
500RYT/ Hatha/ Yin, Restorative & Trauma Sensitive Yoga