You’ve heard that meditation is “good for you,” but the benefits are far beyond just feeling better. Meditation is the practical method for taking control of your day, your thoughts, and your anxiety — and is scientifically proven to do just that. There have been thousands of studies conducted on the benefits of taking a time out to meditate each day, which include improved learning and memory, increased gray-matter development in the brain for higher-functioning minds, increased focus, reduced stress, regulated moods, better decision making, higher pain tolerances, and helps manage heart and respiratory rates.
And for all its benefits, meditation just takes a little bit of time, and some dedication. Some studies have concluded that mediating for 20 minutes per day for 11 days is enough to start experiencing the benefits.
“When you start, I recommend that people take 10 minutes to themselves to meditate,” Lodro Rinzler, founder of MNDFL Studio in New York City and author of 'The Buddha Walks Into a Bar,' says. “It’s the same approach as a beginner’s workout regimen — some people meditate once and don’t feel completely peaceful and think that it doesn’t work for them. But if you went to the gym once and didn’t lose 10 pounds, you wouldn’t say, ‘The gym doesn’t work for me.’ In the fine print of these things is: you have to do it regularly.”
If you start out with 10 minutes a day for 11 days total, that comes out to a little less than two hours — which isn’t a lot of time required for something so impactful. But sometimes it’s difficult to know where to begin. Rinzler recommends taking an introduction class at a local studio (MNDFL's classes come with your own meditation cushion to sit on and access to water, tea, and light bites) or carving 10 minutes into a daily morning break or bedtime routine to sit quietly and learn to meditate in a way that works best for you. “My daily routine is this: get up, shower, make my coffee, meditate, get ready for the day. Set a timer on your phone for 10 minutes and plan it into your morning.”
But no matter if you take a class or begin from home, the first step in learning to meditate effectively is learning how to breathe correctly. “The nice things about meditating on the breath is that you’re already doing it — it’s not something you have to think about doing,” Rinzler says. “By focusing on your breath, you learn to focus on the here and now, because your breath is in the present moment, and by controlling it, you are more able to focus and control your mind.”
Here's what Rinzler recommends for a 10-minute beginner's session emphasizing breath work:
- Get comfortable by sitting comfortably crossed-legged on a cushion, the floor, or in a chair with your feet planted on the ground.
- Let your hands rest on your knees.
- Sit tall, allow your spine to lengthen out, keep your shoulders relaxed, and let your chin fall slightly forward.
- Either close your eyes or allow your gaze to rest a few feet in front of you on the ground.
- Allow yourself to breathe normally.
- As you breathe in, allow yourself to think about your breath moving from your nostrils, down into your lungs, and into your belly.
- When you breathe out, track your breath moving back out of your body.
- If you catch yourself thinking about plans later in the day, things that already happened, or your inbox, gently remind yourself about your breath.
It’s a simple routine, and it may be hard to feel refreshed or controlled at first, but just like with any training, it gets easier with practice. Don't beat yourself up if your mind drifts off or no zen emotions arise. “In fact, [that's] the perfect opportunity to train our minds and teach ourselves to focus. There’s something quite refreshing about when you get to that place in your meditation where you don’t have to do anything or fix anything."