Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Breathing, Meditation, Yoga & More / How do I get out of my head?

Mindfulness Meditation & Yoga Tools to help during COVID-19

What is meditation?  

  • Inward reflection/investigation/awareness. 
  • Not a technique but a way of life.
  • Training your mind in awareness to gain a healthy perspective.
  • Observing thoughts without judgment to increase understanding.

Meditation is used to create mindfulness by bringing your attention to the breath and back to the breath each time your mind wanders.  It can also be used to heighten awareness of the thoughts, feelings, judgements,and sensations that arise in your mind. 

Why Meditate?  

1. Understand your anxiety/pain/worries   
2. Lower stress levels
3. Make better connections
4. Improve focus
5. Reduce brain chatter

 

 

 

Benefits of Meditation:

  • Increased awareness   

  • Better focus

  • Less anxiety

  • More creativity

  • Increased compassion

  • Improved memory

  • Reduced stress

  • More gray matter in the brain which leads to more positive emotions, longer-lasting emotional stability and heightened focus and lessens the decline of cognitive functioning

There are many forms of meditation, from simply observing your breath to staring at a non-moving item undefinedwithout blinking, to using touch to observe something.

Below are some of the most popular meditation categorizations. 

1. Mindfulness: being fully present with your thoughts. Observe your thoughts and emotions letting them pass without judgement. Imagine your thoughts are a passing cloud.

2. Movement: running, walking, swimming, knitting, puzzling etc.

3. Focused Meditation: Focus on the specific activity that you are engaged with – no multi-tasking. For example, eating a strawberry, playing chess, drinking a cup of tea, etc.

4. Guided Imagery and Visualization: Typically led by a teacher. YouTube/Google to find many guided meditations. Invoke all of your senses to form a mental picture or situation of something relaxing.

Example: imagine something that creates a particular feeling or quality. For example, imagine a beautiful mountain lake, an open sky, etc.

5. Chanting/Mantra: Repeat a word or phrase with a focus on sounds of the word/phrase. Start with OM.

6. Spiritual: prayer

7. Simply Breathing: Repeating a mantra, such as a word, sound, or small phrase while focusing on your breath. It removes the need for deep concentration or effort.  For example:

Breath in: So

I am you

Breath out: Hum

You are me

8. Yogic Meditations. Examples include:

1. Third-Eye Meditation: focus on the point between the eyebrows. Notice what comes up. Color? Thoughts?

2. Loving-Kindness Meditation: Start by directing loving kindness to yourself and then eventually sending it out to the universe.  Send it out:

1. yourself

2. people close to you

3. a neutral person (i.e. a neighbor you don’t know)

4. a difficult person

5. all four of the above equally

6. the entire universe

Repeat a mantra such as “May I be happy. May I be well. May I be safe. May I be peaceful and at ease. May ** be happy…”

The Prayer of Light is popular.

3. Chakra Meditation: There are 7 chakras (centers of energy) throughout the body. A chakra meditation brings them all into balance through a relaxation practice.  Can involve visualization and chanting for a specific chakra (lam, vam, ram, yam, ham, om).

 

4. Gazing Meditation: fix your gaze on an external object, typically a candle, image or a symbol. Start with your eyes open and then close them. With eyes closed, keep the image of the object in your mind’s eye.

5. Kundalini: There are many Kundalini meditation practices; one type is breathing. Block your left nostril and inhale long and deep. On your next inhalation, block your right nostril. Repeat and let your mind clear as you concentrate on breathing.

6. Kriya: Movement and breath so rapid that your mind becomes confused. This is an advanced practice. From personal experience, I can tell you it is transformative.

7. Nada (Sound) Yoga

1. Assume a comfortable seat.

2. Close your eyes and concentrate on an external sound. For example, ambient alpha wave music, the sound of a rushing brook, your neighbors, the lawn mower, your children in the next room, traffic outside, the garbage collectors, etc.

3. After you’ve mastered listening to the external sound, start to focus on listening to your body and mind.

4. Eventually, you’ll hear the sound that has no vibration: the sound of the universe — the OM.

8. Tantra is often misunderstood and is usually associated with sexual, intimate, weird, etc. but it is an ancient practice with a powerful combination of asana, mantra, mudra, bandha (energy lock) and chakra (energy center) work that can be used to build strength, clarity, and happiness in everyday life.

9. Pranayama (Breathing): There are a number of breathing exercises to help ease the mind. For example:

1. Repeating a mantra, such as a word, sound, or small phrase while focusing on your breath. It helps remove the need for deep concentration or effort.

Breath in: So

Breath out: Hum 

2. 4-Part or Square Breathing. Breathe in counting up to 5, hold your breath for 5 seconds, breathe out for 7 seconds, and hold your breath empty for 5 seconds.

Breathe through your nose into your abdomen.

3. Alternate nostril breathing. Gently close your right nostril with your thumb. Inhale through your left nostril, then close it with your ring and pinky fingers. Open and exhale slowly through the right nostril.  Inhale through your right nostril.  Continue.

undefined4. Lion's Breath. Inhale deeply through the nose. Open your mouth wide and stretch your tongue out, curling its tip down toward the chin, open your eyes wide, contract the muscles on the front of your throat, and exhale the breath slowly out through your mouth with a roar.

Examples of Meditation

 

 1. Sit comfortably. undefined

 2. Close your eyes.

 3. Focus on breathing.  Inhaling and exhaling through your nose slowly and deeply.

 4.  If a thought enters your consciousness, don’t judge it and don’t hang onto it. Let each thought pass by like a flowing stream undefined

 5.  Treat all physical sensations and feelings like your thoughts: register them, let them go, and return to breathing.

Read through the steps before beginning and then set a timer for 2 minutes. undefined 

1. Find a comfortable seat.  

2. Focus on your breath. Where do you feel your breath most? In your belly? In your nose? How does it feel? Is it cooler when you breathe in and warmer when you breathe out?  Keep your attention on your inhale and exhale. Just notice.

3. At the end of 2 minutes, take a deep inhale, expanding your belly, and then exhale slowly and longer, contracting your belly.

 

Notice what happened. How long was it before your mind wandered away from your breath? Was your mind busy even without consciously thinking about something specific?  Did you get caught up in your thoughts?

It is normal that your mind wanders.  Maybe it wandered to what happened yesterday or what you need to do today.  When it wanders, bring it back to your breath and with regular practice, it becomes easier. 

Set a timer for 3 minutes.  undefined

1. Sit or lie down.

2. Close your eyes.

3. Breathe without trying to regulate your breathing.

4. Let the breath come and go.

5. Put your hands on your heart and stomach.

6. Pay attention to the sensations of breathing, attend to the rise and fall of the abdomen, the chest, the shoulders and the in-and-out of air through your nostrils. 

7. When thoughts go astray, return back to your breath.

8. Continue for 3 minutes.

9. Gradually increase your time.

 "Imagine you are sitting on the bank of a flowing river.  The water is rushing past. You can’t put your hand in and grab the river, because it is ever flowing. Leaves, sticks, stones, and other debris flow by, carried on the current.  These objects are like our thoughts, memories, images, and worries – all floating by as we sit on the bank, just noticing them” (Winston, 2019 p. 53).

 

PEACE (or whatever word you want to replace peace with - LOVE, HOPE, COURAGE, STRENGTH, HEALING, etc.) BEGINS WITH ME. As you say each word, touch your thumb to one finger at a time.

1. Take 3 deep breaths to begin.   undefined

2. Say the first word (PEACE) as your thumb touches your index finger.

3. Move your thumb to your middle finger, say BEGINS.

4. Move your thumb to touch your ring finger, say WITH.

5. Move your thumb to touch your pinky finger, say ME.

6. Repeat at least 5 times.

1. Sit comfortably with your gaze focused on a single object, such as a candle, undefined waterfall, or symbol. Don’t blink for as long as you can.

2. Maintain focus until your eyes begin to feel uncomfortable and then close your eyes.

3. Keep the afterimage of the object in your mind’s eye for several minutes.

4. Open your eyes and start again.

1. Sit comfortably with a straight spine. undefined

2. Choose a mantra. Om is the most well-known, but there are many other options, such as om namah shivaya, ham, yam, rama. so-ham, and om mani padme hum. Search Google for mantra.

3. Repeat the mantra in your mind.  Do this for a set amount for time (start with 3 minutes and build your way up to 20+ minutes) or for a number of repetitions (108).

4. If you find it difficult, coordinate the mantra with the rhythm of your breathe or whisper the mantra.

5. With practice, the goal is to release all thoughts except for the internal sound of the mantra.  

undefined1. Sit cross-legged in chair on the floor. 

2. Direct your focus to the spot between your eyebrows.  Wherever it feels right (below the brows at the tip of  your nose, directly between your brows, or above your brows).

3. If you get distracted, continue to redirect your  focus to the third eye each time that other thought arises.

4. With practice, your mind will experience stillness and the space between thoughts will lengthen.

Walking meditation involves very deliberating thinking about each step you take.  Try this meditation for 10 minutes a day.  When you notice your mind wandering, bring it back to each deliberate step.

undefined

Focus on each part of the step. 

1. Lift your right foot to take a step.
2. Slowly move the foot a bit forward of where you’re standing.
3. Set the foot down, heal first, followed by the ball of the foot, and finally your toes. Notice as each part hits the ground and recite 
"I am here now."
4. Go through the same process with the left foot repeating the same mantra.  

6. Observe your back foot as it swings forward and lowers.
Observe the back foot as it makes contact with the ground, heel first.
Feel the weight shift onto that foot as the body moves forward.

Observe each part of the movement.

undefinedAlso known as Alternate Nostril Breathing, Nadī Shodhana isolates each nostril.  The right nostril is the yang/projective/solar/masculine side and the left nostril is the yin/receptive/lunar/feminine side. Alternate nostril breathing quiets the mind, promotes balance, improve heart and lung health and help increase relaxation for a deeper meditation.  Start slowly.

1. Sit comfortably. 

2. Place your pointer and middle finger on the upper bridge of your nose, between the eyebrows or curl them down.  The thumb is on the outside of the right nostril and ring finger is outside the left nostril.

3. Close your eyes.  Look towards your third-eye.  Close your right nostril with your thumb.  Inhale slowly through the left nostril for 3 counts.

4. Release the right nostril and close your left nostril with your ring finger. Exhale slowly through the right nostril for 3 counts. Inhale through the right nostril for 3.

5. Release the left nostril, and close the right nostril. Exhale through the left nostril for 3. This concludes one sequence.

6. Repeat for 3 to 5 minutes.

Increase the length of inhales and exhales if comfortable. 

  1. Lie or sit down.            undefined
  2. Tighten 1 body part at a time. 
  3. Start with your toes and work your way up.
  4. Inhale and contract each muscle for 5 – 10 seconds.  Then, exhale and and release the tension in that muscle group.
  5. Take 10-20 seconds to relax.
  6. Continue on to the next muscle group, working your way up your body. 
  7. When releasing the tension, focus on how the specific muscle feels.  Imagine stress flowing out of your body through from each muscle group.
  8. Work your way up your body contracting and relaxing each muscle group.

There are 7 main Chakra centers. 

1. Sit comfortably.

2. Breathe evenly and steadily.

3. Close your eyes and concentrate on each chakra one by one. Envision the color, the specific mantra, and energy center.  Chant the sound 22 times or for 2 minutes while envisioning each chakra color and energy center.

4. Picture energy flowing. Continue until you have a clear picture of the specific chakra energy flowing.

5. Work your way up through each chakra. 

1. Root Chakra (Muladhara) base of the spine / feelings of being grounded. Color red. Sound: Lam.

2. Sacral Chakra (Swadhisthana) lower abdomen (below the naval) / relate to emotions, creativity, and sexual energy. Color orange. Sound: Vam.

3. Solar Plexus Chakra (Manipura) upper abdomen (stomach area) / self-confidence, self-esteem and ability to control and express true self. Color yellow. Sound: Ram.

4. Heart Chakra (Anahata) bridge between the lower chakras (associated with materiality) and the upper chakras (associated with spirituality) / ability to give & receive love. Color green. Sound: Yam.

5. Throat Chakra (Vishuddha) gives voice to the heart chakra / communication, self-expression, and truth. Color light blue/turquoise. Sound: Ham. 

6. Third-Eye Chakra (Ajna) forehead (between the eyes) / intuition, imagination, and wisdom. Color dark blue/purple. Sound: Aum/Om

7. Crown Chakra (Sahasrara) crown of the head / represents our ability to be fully connected spiritually - higher consciousness. Color violet/white. Sound: silence, just listen.

 

6. Spend time learning about each chakra and eventually you will recognize when an individual chakra is blocked and can focus on that specific energy center.

undefinedRepeat a mantra such as “May I be happy. May I be well. May I be safe. May I be peaceful and at ease. May ** be happy…”

The Prayer of Light is popular.

1. Sit comfortably.

2. Close your eyes.

3. Direct thoughts and feelings of complete well-being and unconditional love to yourself.

 

undefined  4. After you’ve directed loving-kindness to yourself during enough sessions to begin feeling joy, choose a close friend or relative and direct loving-kindness to them.

 5. Direct loving-kindness to a neutral acquaintance.

 6. Direct loving-kindness to someone you don’t like.

 7. Move outward until you’re sending loving-kindness to the universe.

 

Tantra is often misunderstood and is usually associated with sex, intimate, weird, etc. but is an ancient practice of a powerful combination of asana, mantra, mudra, bandha (energy lock) and chakra (energy center) work that can be used to build strength, clarity, and happiness in everyday life. It embodies the 5 forces of Shakti,  the female deity that represents creativity and change.

 1. Sit comfortably with a tall spine. Pay attention to body and start breathing deeply.  

2. Focus on your right foot and imagine it is golden light. Think: “My foot is golden light.”

3. Work your way through each body part with the same thought - your left foot, your ankles, your calves, thighs, pelvis, hips, buttocks, genitals, lower abdomen, lower spine, stomach, solar plexus, so on and so forth until you’ve reached your brain and the crown of your head. Breathe golden light into each part of your body.

4. As you go, repeat the assertion that each part of body is golden light. At the end, think: “My whole body is light. I am light.” Breathe in golden light and breathe out golden light to the universe.

 

1. Begin by sitting, standing, or lying down and closing your eyes.  

2. Whatever surface you’re touching, note the feeling of it. If you are sitting, notice the chair beneath you the ground where you feet are touch, etc. 

3. Take several deep breaths through your nose, noting your relaxation as you exhale.

4. Pay attention to the sensations present in each part of your body. Note whatever comes to mind starting with your feet up through your spine to your crown. 

5. If any part of your body is tense, focus on it with your breath.  Breathe into the area and let the tension go with your exhale.

6. Notice your entire body. When you’re ready, open your eyes.

Yoga nidra (sometimes called yogic sleep) is a guided meditation between waking and sleeping.  It cause the feeling you get when you are going-to-sleep.  Research shows that yoga nidra helps relieve stress.  The intent is to induce total physical, mental, and emotional relaxation.

Benefits include:

  • Ease insomnia
  • Decrease anxiety
  • Alleviate stress
  • Reduce PTSD, chronic pain, and chemical dependency
  • Heighten awareness and focus
  • Transform negative habits, behaviors and ways of thinking
  • Foster feelings of peace, calm, and clarity

Search YouTube for a number of different guided yoga nidra practices.