When it comes to meditation, it is common to wonder if you are actually achieving a meditative state. While simply starting a meditation routine and committing to consistency is a huge accomplishment in itself, there are ways to go deeper in your meditative state if you are ready to explore it in your practice. The following techniques are simple enough to be used by beginners, but also allow intermediate and advanced meditators to go deeper into their practice.
3 Ways to Deepen Your Meditative State
Try these techniques to better prepare yourself for your practice and enhance your experience while meditating.
Often referred to as “yogic sleep,” yoga nidra is a form of yogic meditation that guides students to a state of consciousness between waking and sleeping. Practitioners experience the deepest possible state of relaxation while still being fully conscious. As students move through the practice, they experience a shift in brain waves that can provide a deeper experience than other forms of meditation.
Yoga nidra is typically structured around eight stages:
- Internalization: getting comfortable, scanning the body for any areas of tension and releasing them
- Sankalpa: setting an intention for the practice
- Rotation of consciousness: moving awareness through the parts of the body
- Breath awareness: moving attention to the breath
- Manifestation of opposites: experiencing opposite feelings or sensations, such as heat and cold, heaviness and lightness
- Creative visualization: visualizing either random, unconnected images or connected scenes
- Sankalpa: revisiting the original intention from the beginning of the practice
- Externalization: moving awareness through the physical body, the breath, and outside sounds to come back to the external world
Alo Moves‘ and Sri Dharma Mittra’s Psychic Sleep plan is a great guided introduction through this meditative practice. Apps such as Insight Timer and Yoga Nidra also offer various sessions that you can try.
Pranayama, or breath control, is a core practice of yoga, and a key step in preparing the mind for meditation. In the most basic form of meditation, a focus on simply observing the breath is a starting point for any beginner. As you are ready to go further and deeper into meditation, changing the style of breathing you practice can have new effects on the mind and body.
These popular pranayama techniques can help put you in the best possible state before entering your practice.
- Alternate nostril breathing (nadi shodhana) is a good technique when you are having trouble concentrating. It calms and centers the mind by balancing the right and left hemispheres. To practice alternate nostril breathing, gently close the right nostril with the right thumb. Inhale through the left nostril then close it with the ring and little finger of your right hand. Open and exhale through the right nostril. With the left nostril still closed, inhale on the right. Close the right, then open and exhale on the left. Repeat 3-5 times.
- Skull shining breath (kapalabhati) can help energize the mind, detoxify the body, and clear energy channels. This type of breathing alternates short, explosive exhales, and longer, gentle inhales. Inhale naturally through the nostrils, feeling your belly expand. In a short burst, force the air out of the lungs through your nostrils while pulling the navel towards your spine. Complete 25-30 cycles as a starting point.
- Ocean breath (ujjayi) is beneficial in improving focus and stability as it soothes and settles the mind. To perform ujjayi breathing, inhale through the nose. Exhale slowly through your nose while constricting the muscles in the back of your throat — similar to the feeling of trying to fog up a mirror. The resulting sound of the breath should mimic ocean waves.
While breathing may seem like a simple practice, it is always best to learn proper technique with the guidance of a trained teacher. Alo Moves‘ and Dylan Werner’s Power of Breath plan can help you explore some of these practices as you expand your breathwork.
While our hands may not be the first thing we think of when it comes to meditation, they can play an important role in the experience. Mudras are hand gestures used during yoga and meditation that are believed to affect the energy flow in the body and unblock chakras.
Each mudra is thought to have a specific effect on the body and mind. Experimenting with various mudras in your practice may help deepen your meditative state; for example, it is thought that if our hands are held in a position that promotes calm, such as the kalesvara mudra, our minds mirror the same quality. Some common mudras include:
- Consciousness seal (chin mudra): This is perhaps the most popular and well-known mudra. It is created by touching the tip of the index finger to the tip of the thumb. The remaining three fingers are held straight. This mudra helps connect us to our higher self and creates a more receptive state.
- Meditation seal (dhyana mudra): This mudra encourages a sense of tranquility, inner peace, and concentration. To create this mudra, the palms face upward, and the right hand rests gently on top of the left to create a bowl shape. The tips of the thumbs can be brought together to form a triangle shape above the bowl. The mudra is placed at navel level or in the lap.
- Life force seal (prana mudra): This mudra taps into the vitality of our life force and awakens dormant energy in the body. To form the prana mudra, touch the ring and pinky finger to the tip of the thumb. Keep the other two fingers straight.
Experimentation and reflection are an important piece of any meditation practice. As you try out these techniques to go deeper into a meditative state, be sure to notice how your body and mind respond. The insight you gain will help you design your best practice. For more ideas on expanding your meditation practice, check out these unusual forms of meditation.