Flexibility For Meditation: Body And Mind

how to get flexible for meditation

Flexibility is key to sitting comfortably during meditation. Yoga is a great way to improve flexibility and prepare the body for meditation, with poses designed to open up the hips and strengthen the back and core. However, it's important to note that not everyone has the same level of flexibility, and certain poses may be uncomfortable or unachievable. It's crucial to listen to your body and make adjustments as needed.

Stretching is an obvious way to increase flexibility, and there are specific stretches that can help with meditation poses. These include the lotus position, the full lotus, and cross-legged positions like Sukhasana and Padmasana. Additionally, exercises that focus on the neck, back, hamstrings, shoulders, and hips can improve flexibility for meditation.

Remember, flexibility is not just physical but also mental. Meditation itself can help cultivate a flexible mindset, making individuals more adaptable and resilient.

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Yoga is a great way to prepare your body for meditation

Yoga poses are designed to open up the hips and strengthen the back and core, while also creating flexibility and stamina. This makes sitting for long hours more comfortable. For example, in the Yin yoga sequence, you can release tension from the body by bringing your awareness from the head into the heart and observing whatever arises in the field of your awareness, without judgement.

  • Start in Sukhasana (Easy Pose) and place your hands in a comfortable position. Take three deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth.
  • Place your right hand on your left knee and twist to the left. Take five deep breaths, then come back to the centre and switch sides.
  • You can either stay in Easy Pose or sit up on your shins. Interlace your fingers and reach your arms overhead, feeling the length in your side body. Stay for five breaths.
  • Release your fingers and sweep your arms in front of you, bringing your right arm under your left. Bend at the elbows and wrap your forearms until your right fingers press into your left palm. Take five deep breaths, then release and do the other side.
  • Come to your hands and knees and warm up your spine. Inhale as you tilt your hips forward, reach your chest forward and look up. Exhale as you tilt your hips back and round your spine. Do this 10 times at a pace that feels good for you.
  • From there, tuck your toes and lift your hips into Downward-Facing Dog. Adjust your stance as needed and focus on getting length in the spine or warming up the legs. Stay for 5-10 breaths.
  • Bring your right foot forward and come into a low lunge. Press into the front foot and tuck your tailbone to feel a stretch along the front of the left thigh.
  • As you feel steady, clasp your hands behind you and lift your chest. Stay for three breaths, then switch sides, coming to Downward-Facing Dog in between.
  • From Downward-Facing Dog, sit down and bring your legs wide. Take a deep breath or two, gaining length in your spine. As you're ready, fold over your right leg and breathe, releasing any expectation. Come back to the centre and switch sides.
  • Lie on your back and cross your right knee over your left. Place your hands on your ankles and be mindful not to stress your knees. Stay for five deep breaths, then switch sides.

When you've finished the sequence, you can roll to your right side and sit up, ready to meditate.

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You can do simple stretches to increase flexibility

Flexibility is an important aspect of fitness and overall health. It can be improved by doing simple stretches, which can also help prevent injuries and decrease pain associated with muscle tightness.

Downward Facing Dog

This classic yoga pose stretches your chest, hamstrings, and back. Start on all fours, with your hands stacked under your shoulders and knees under your hips. Lift your tailbone and press your hips up and back, drawing them towards the ceiling. Straighten your legs and press your heels gently towards the floor. Relax your head between your arms, facing your knees, and ensure your back is flat. Hold this pose for 60 seconds.

Cat-Cow

This stretch is great for strengthening your spine and increasing its flexibility. It also stretches your chest and strengthens your shoulders, while toning your shoulders, abdomen, and buttocks. Start on all fours, with your shoulders over your wrists and hips over your knees. Inhale slowly, then exhale and round your spine, dropping your head towards the floor. Inhale again and lift your head, chest, and tailbone towards the ceiling as you arch your back. Repeat this movement for 30 seconds.

Butterfly Stretch

This stretch targets your hips, glutes, back, and thighs. Sit tall on the floor with the soles of your feet together, knees bent out to the sides. Hold onto your ankles or feet, engage your abs, and slowly lower your body towards your feet, pressing your knees towards the floor. If you're too tight to bend over, simply press your knees down or sit on a block. You can use your elbows to press down for a deeper stretch. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds to 2 minutes.

Standing Quad Stretch

This stretch improves flexibility in the quadriceps and hip flexors, and helps release tension in the lower back and hips. It also soothes spine and leg stiffness, improves posture, and tones the abdominal muscles. Stand with your feet together. Bend one knee and use the same-side hand to pull that foot towards your buttocks, keeping your knees together. You can put one hand on a wall for balance if needed. Squeeze your glutes to increase the stretch. Hold for 30 seconds to 2 minutes, then repeat on the other leg.

Lunging Hip-Flexor Stretch

The hip flexor muscles allow you to bend at the waist and lift your knees. Stretching them keeps your hips and lower back strong, flexible, and well-aligned. Kneel on one knee and place the opposite foot flat in front of you, with the front thigh parallel to the floor and ankle underneath the knee. Hold this position, or lean forward to stretch your hip towards the floor, being careful not to extend your knee over your ankle. Squeeze your buttocks to increase the stretch. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds, then switch sides and repeat.

These stretches can be easily incorporated into your daily routine to help improve your flexibility and range of motion. Remember to honour your body's limits and make any necessary modifications to these stretches.

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Try to stretch your neck, shoulders, hips and legs

To stretch your neck, shoulders, hips and legs, you can try a variety of exercises. For your neck and shoulders, try some gentle yoga poses to release tension and relax.

For your hips, try the half-kneeling hip flexor stretch: begin by kneeling on the floor and bringing one leg forward, so the thigh is parallel to the floor, with the knee bent. Keep the other knee on the floor, with your shin pointing straight back. Put your hands on your hips and shift your weight forward until you feel a stretch in the front of your thigh and groin. Repeat on the other side.

You can also try the supine hip flexor stretch: lie on your back with both legs extended. Bend one knee, keeping your back flat, and let the other leg fall off the side of the bed or surface you are on. Bend the knee of the leg that is hanging off the side back as far as you can, keeping your back flat. Repeat on the other side.

For your legs, try a hamstring/calf stretch. Place one foot in front of you and lean your torso forward, bending your supporting knee. Flex your ankle so your toes are pulled up toward your body. Hold, then repeat on the other side.

You can also try a simple quad stretch: stand with your side to a wall, placing one hand on the wall for balance. Hold your outside foot with your outside hand and lift it up toward your rear end, keeping your thighs and knees together. You should feel a stretch in the front of your thigh. Hold, then repeat on the other side.

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Focus on your breath to relax your muscles

Flexibility is important for meditation, and yoga is a great way to prepare the body for sitting in meditation with more ease. However, it is not the only way to get flexible for meditation. Focusing on your breath is a powerful tool to ease stress and make you feel less anxious.

Breath focus is a common feature of several techniques that evoke the relaxation response. The first step is to learn to breathe deeply. Deep breathing, also known as diaphragmatic breathing, abdominal breathing, or belly breathing, is when the air coming in through your nose fully fills your lungs, and your lower belly rises.

  • Find a comfortable, quiet place to sit or lie down.
  • Take a normal breath.
  • Now try a deep, slow breath. The air coming in through your nose should move downward into your lower belly.
  • Let your abdomen expand fully.
  • Now, breathe out through your mouth or nose if that feels more natural.
  • Alternate normal and deep breaths several times.

Pay attention to how you feel when you inhale and exhale normally and when you breathe deeply. Shallow breathing often feels tense and constricted, while deep breathing produces relaxation.

Once you have mastered the art of deep breathing, you can move on to regular practice of controlled breathing. As you sit comfortably with your eyes closed, blend deep breathing with helpful imagery and perhaps a focus word or phrase that helps you relax.

  • Get comfortable. You can lie on your back in bed or on the floor with a pillow under your head and knees. Or you can sit in a chair with your shoulders, head, and neck supported against the back of the chair.
  • Breathe in through your nose and let your belly fill with air.
  • Breathe out through your nose.
  • Place one hand on your belly and the other hand on your chest.
  • As you breathe in, feel your belly rise. As you breathe out, feel your belly lower. The hand on your belly should move more than the one on your chest.
  • Take three more full, deep breaths. Breathe fully into your belly as it rises and falls with your breath.
  • While you do deep breathing, use a picture in your mind and a word or phrase to help you feel more relaxed.
  • Close your eyes if they are open.
  • Take a few big, deep breaths.
  • Breathe in and imagine that the air is filled with a sense of peace and calm. Try to feel it throughout your body.
  • Breathe out and imagine that the air leaves with your stress and tension.
  • Now use a word or phrase with your breath. As you breathe in, say in your mind, "I breathe in peace and calm."
  • As you breathe out, say in your mind, "I breathe out stress and tension."
  • Continue for 10 to 20 minutes.

Breath focus helps you concentrate on slow, deep breathing and aids you in disengaging from distracting thoughts and sensations. It is a powerful tool to relax your muscles and prepare your body for meditation.

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Practice poses like Sukhasana, Vajrasana, and Virasana

Sukhasana, or Easy Pose, is a sitting posture that has been practised by yogis for centuries as a preferred posture for meditation. The name comes from the Sanskrit "sukh", which means happy or joyful. Sukhasana can be challenging for those who are used to sitting in chairs, as it requires more rotation and flexibility in the joints than we are typically used to. To get into Sukhasana, sit on your mat with your legs out in front of you in Staff Pose. Then, bend and widen your knees, crossing your shins and slipping each foot beneath the opposite knee. Bring your shins towards your torso, relaxing your feet so that their outer edges rest on the floor and their inner arches settle just below the opposite shin. There should be a comfortable gap between your feet and your pelvis. Keep your pelvis in a neutral position and lengthen your tailbone towards the floor. Firm your shoulder blades against your back and lengthen your upper torso, being careful not to overarch your lower back. Either stack your hands in your lap, palms facing up, or place them on your knees, palms down. You can stay in this pose for as long as you like, but be sure to alternate the cross of your legs so that each side gets equal time on top. If you find this pose uncomfortable, you can try sitting on a folded blanket to elevate your hips and give your hips more space to open up.

Vajrasana, or Thunderbolt Pose, is another simple sitting pose that is often used for breathing and meditative exercises. The name comes from the Sanskrit word "vajra", meaning thunderbolt or diamond. This pose is said to help make your body as strong as a diamond. To get into Vajrasana, start by kneeling on the floor with your knees, ankles, and feet together, your toes pointing straight back, and the bottoms of your feet facing upward. Exhale as you sit back on your legs, so that your buttocks rest on your heels and your thighs rest on your calves. Put your hands on your thighs and adjust your pelvis slightly backward and forward until you find a comfortable position. Breathe in and out slowly as you straighten your spine and position yourself to sit up straight. Use your head to pull your body upward and press your tailbone toward the floor. Finally, straighten your head and gaze forward with your chin parallel to the floor. Place your hands palms down on your thighs with your arms relaxed. If you experience any discomfort in your ankles, knees, or sitting bones, try placing a folded blanket or towel under the affected area to ease the pain.

Virasana, or Hero Pose, is a great pose for tired legs and can also be used for seated meditation. To get into Virasana, kneel on the floor and touch your inner knees together. If you need to, place a folded blanket or bolster between your calves and thighs. Slide your feet apart, slightly wider than your hips, with the tops of the feet flat on the floor. Angle your big toes slightly inward and press the tops of the feet evenly on the floor. Exhale and lean your torso slightly forward, then sit back halfway between your feet. If your buttocks don't rest comfortably on the floor, raise them on a block or thick book placed between your feet. Make sure both sitting bones are evenly supported and allow a small space between the inner heels and the outer hips. Turn your thighs inward and press the heads of the thigh bones into the floor with the bases of your palms. Then, lay your hands in your lap, palms facing up, or place them on your thighs, palms down. Firm your shoulder blades against your back ribs and lift the top of your sternum. Widen your collarbones and release your shoulder blades away from your ears. Lengthen your tailbone into the floor to anchor the back torso. Stay in this pose for 30 seconds to one minute, gradually extending your stay up to five minutes. To come out of the pose, press your hands against the floor and lift your buttocks up, crossing your ankles underneath and sitting back over your feet before stretching your legs out in front of you.

Frequently asked questions

Yoga is a great way to improve flexibility and prepare the body for meditation. Some poses that can help include the Sukhasana, Padmasana, Vajrasana, Virasana, and Gomukhasana.

Developing flexibility is a gradual process and it may take several weeks or even months to see results. It is important to be patient and consistent with your practice.

Yes, it is important to be careful when attempting to increase flexibility. Pushing yourself too far or too fast can lead to muscle strain or injury. It is important to listen to your body and not force anything.

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