How to Take your Meditation Practice To The Next Level

Meditation is not the easiest habit to take on. I remember it was uncomfortable during the start. And after 6 months, it still requires discipline to stick to it.

There are hundreds of scientific studies on how meditation can improve our lives. But it took me multiple attempts to actually turn it into a habit. Why?

Even when I was disciplined enough to make it a habit to meditate every day, I could not see the dramatic results that other people speak of. Why?

After spending months struggling with it myself, I finally found the answer.

It’s because I had a false idea about what meditation is

I’ve often heard that meditation is about “clearing my mind” so I have no thoughts.

Due to this, I often felt it’s not for me. Because I can’t sit all day on a cushion, like a monk.

And then, I tossed it in the bucket labeled ‘woo-woo’

But I soon realized that the prevalent understanding of meditation needs to change.

Recently, I was meditating with my spiritual community at Ananda Sangha in New Delhi. A fellow student described his problem with having unstoppable thoughts during meditation.

He said, “Oh, I’m sure that if I sit long enough, my thoughts would stop at some point. They have to!” to which, our teacher replied, “Don’t be so sure!” 😉 (Our teachers have been meditating and practicing Kriya Yoga for more than 40 years).

So if you take only one thing from this post, take my word that meditation is not at all about clearing your mind.

This false idea will lead you to judge your meditation practices. In the long run, it’ll sabotage your enthusiasm and motivation.

When you’re starting out, you’ll not experience “pure bliss”. It will be difficult. For the first time, you’ll observe the millions of thoughts that you have.

It’s bound to make you uncomfortable.

But if you do it right, you’ll see positive changes in your life in the long-term.

Okay. So What Meditation Actually Is?

Before going into what meditation is, let’s understand the three states that make the totality of our consciousness:

  • The Conscious Mind: It‘s the state of consciousness with which we operate in our day-to-day lives

  • The Subconscious Mind: It’s the level of awareness below the conscious mind. It induces dreams/sleep. Its physical seat is in the medulla oblongata and the spine. It’s active throughout the day and takes everything that you do and think as its input. Even though you don’t feel it, it guides most of our activities.

  • The Superconscious Mind: It is far above the conscious and the subconscious mind. It is an elevated state of energy and peacefulness. It gives the greatest amount of relaxation to the body. Even greater than that experienced during sleep. Creativity and intuition blossom here. Much before your reason and emotions come into the picture.

As one of my teachers taught us,

Meditation is an intense state of awareness achieved by stilling and concentrating the thoughts

This intense state of awareness isn’t achieved only by trying to concentrate on the breath for hours. But that is what most people think.

Meditation is not passive.

You have to make a conscious effort to energize and relax as deeply as possible. You have to release all physical and mental tensions.

It requires a lot of energy! And the energy needs to be directed in the right way to move towards self-realization.

Concentrating on the breath directs your energy upwards but you have to increase the flow of energy in order to be in the superconscious state.

It is crucial to understand this to advance further.

You have to avoid the conscious or subconscious (sleeping) state. The goal is to be so relaxed that all attention is on the superconscious state.

To achieve this, you have to direct all your energy to the ajna-chakra. The energy, which is otherwise wasted through the human senses.

Thus, contrary to popular thought, meditation has three stages:

  • Relaxation of the body and mind. Even greater than that you experience during sleep (most ignore this),
  • Concentration on a single object like the breath
  • Expansion to experience unity and oneness

Unfortunately, the first stage is where most people falter, including me.

Because we spend the majority of our lives in the “fight or flight mode”.

This stress builds up in the background and hinders our performance. It affects your work as well as your meditations. It’s like background apps running on your OS that hamper other processes.

Think about the last time you were stressed, worried or had a cold. Were you able to focus on the task at hand? Probably not.

That’s because you were directing a part of your energy to that stress or to fight that cold. Once you are completely relaxed, all your energy is available for the task at hand.

This is what makes energization and relaxation important.

Now that you know its importance, let’s see specific exercises that can help you relax like never before!


1. Diaphragmatic Breathing

We’ve forgotten how to breathe. It seems silly to say this until you realize it’s true.

Due to constant stress, or to look slim, we do not inflate our stomach while breathing.

When you inflate your stomach, you give your diaphragm space to expand. The lungs can then fill themselves with the air that they need.

Remember, the air is a form of prana (energy) or chi like the Chinese call it. It is so powerful that many saints have been able to survive without food — relying on prana (or the life-force).

This makes it important for us to learn how to breathe before we even think about meditation.

To re-train yourself, lie down at first with your knees folded and start taking deep breaths. Inflate your stomach slowly and deflate it.

It helps to close your eyes and focus on your stomach.

After a few rounds, when you feel comfortable, you can sit upright and continue the practice. It can be difficult if you’re new to it, but it gets easier with time.

With conscious effort, you can re-train yourself to use this abundant form of energy.

2. Savasana

This one of the simplest but most effective Yoga asanas I’ve come across. To practice it, lie down on a flat surface, palms facing upwards.

Now, practice 2–3 rounds of tensing and relaxation. Breathe in, tense your whole body and then relax gently. Do not shock your system by rapid tensing and relaxing. Feel the energy flowing to all the parts of your body.

Once you’ve done this, be very still and take deep breaths. Notice the air through your nostrils and observe your belly moving in and out. Let the breath be natural, don’t restrict it.

Feel deeper relaxation with each exhalation.

Imagine the space entering your body through your feet. Moving towards your calves, knees, buttock, stomach, arms, chest, neck and the brain. Repeat this cycle and focus on each part as long as you like, leaving it completely relaxed.

Feel yourself one with space.

Keep breathing deeply.

Inhale positivity, exhale negativity. Inhale joy, exhale sadness. Inhale peace and calmness, exhale stress. Free your body of all negative emotions and thoughts. Be completely present at the moment.

If you feel the tension in a specific part of your body, try to relax it with even greater focus.

You can continue for as long as you want. This posture is ideal to practice before meditation and sleep. You can also practice it between various stretches/yoga postures.

3. Cobra Pose

Lie down facing the surface. Keep your palms turn downward beside your shoulders.

Raise your neck backward away from the ground while keeping your elbows tucked.

Now, with the help of your hands, push yourself backward and away from the surface. Feel the stretch in your spine as well as the back of your neck.

You can hold this posture as long as it is comfortable and return to the neutral position. Be careful to not strain the spine too much.

You can repeat this 3–5 times.

4. Child Pose

Sit on your calves with your knees folded. Keep the toe of your right foot on the toe of your left foot.

If you’re uncomfortable, you can use a cushion on or under your ankles. Once comfortable in the sitting posture, bend forward as far as you can without hurting yourself. Try to touch your forehead to the ground.

Keep your arms beside your legs and relax as deeply as possible

Remember, the aim of these postures is not to strain but to relax.

You can repeat this 3–5 times.

Note: It’s beneficial to neutralize the effect of the Cobra Pose (backward stretch) with the Child Pose (forward stretch)😃

Apart from the above exercises, you can learn the Energization Exercises taught by Parmahansa Yogananda

These exercises are one of the four main pillars of Kriya Yoga.

They’ve helped me reduce sleep time, improve sleep quality, reduce appetite, improve concentration and willpower, and increase energy levels throughout the day.

If you practice these exercises consistently, you’ll start to feel as if you’re drawing energy from a never-ending supply! It’s beautiful.

To conclude, I’ve found these simple practices can make meditation more enjoyable. This makes it easier for you to follow through.

You can also use them before entering a high-stress environment like a call, pitch, meeting, etc!

I hope these exercises make a difference in your practices and help you advance spiritually! Joy to You 😃


Written on March 4, 2020