How to Meditate When You Feel Restless

Do you want to meditate, but have trouble focusing and sitting still?

For many people, the most difficult part of meditation is finding a comfortable position; plus it can be really hard to meditate when your mind keeps wandering back to your ‘to do’ list and all you want to do is get on with your daily activities.

Maybe your legs start to ache, your shoulders feel tight, or you shift around frequently. Either way, it’s difficult to still your mind when it feels like your body is refusing to cooperate.

Luckily, you can enjoy the mental and physical health benefits of meditation even if you’re restless, fidgety and stiff. Start with these proven strategies that will help you feel more at ease, whether you’re sitting or laying down.

How to Meditate When You’re Restless

Studies show that being fidgety has its advantages, including burning more calories and living longer, but of course excessive movements while you’re meditating can be very distracting. Some people have a tendency to wiggle their toes, twitch their muscles or suddenly get an annoying itch on their face!

Try these techniques to calm your mind and muscles:

  1. Prepare yourself. Switching gears quickly from rushing around to sitting still can be a struggle. Smooth out the transition. Depending on your reason for meditating, spend some time before your session saying preparatory prayers, or doing any quiet activity that you find soothing and uplifting.
  2. Remember your purpose. Fidgeting can be an indication of boredom or lack of engagement. Remind yourself why meditation is important to you.
  3. Fold your hands. Just pressing your hands together can encourage you to be still. Experiment with different hand positions.
  4. Hold something. Similarly, holding something with your hands makes it less likely you’ll engage in other gestures. You can use traditional prayer beads or any small object like a book or piece of cloth.
  5. Touch a border. Fidgeting can also be associated with nervousness, which is especially troublesome if meditation sometimes brings up disturbing emotions for you. Sitting with your back resting lightly against a wall or your feet touching a pillow may provide a sense of security and reassurance.
  6. Set the scene. Your mediation space (we like to call it a ‘zen den’) should be a quiet, comforting place where you feel completely at ease. This could be a corner of your bedroom where you have a meditation cushion, or a quiet room in your home. Play some soft music (no lyrics), light some candles and wear something comfortable.
  7. Keep practicing. Fidgeting is like any habit. Each time you manage to overcome your jitters, you’re training yourself to make positive changes and awareness is the first step.
  8. Stop trying so hard. When we tell ourselves that we must focus on keeping our mind clear, inevitably our minds wander and we become frustrated. The best thing to do is to tell yourself it’s OK for your mind to wander, and when it does, simply acknowledge it and gently bring yourself back to your meditation practice. Some people like to count their breaths, or focus on the air being inhaled and exhaled in their body.
  9. Choose your meditation. The Kirtan Kriya meditation is particularly good if you have a wandering mind, as you focus on a mantra (repeating ‘Sa-Ta-Na-Ma as spoken, then whispered and then in your head) and mudra (symbolic hand gesture), so your brain tends to focus on these, rather than your daily tasks.
  10. Respect your limits. You’re bound to squirm if you suddenly an start hour-long meditation session as a beginner. Start off with brief sessions and gradually increase your time.

How to Meditate When You’re Stiff

Very few adults can sit in a full lotus position during their first attempt at meditation. Learn how to work with the needs of your body.

Loosen up with these strategies:

  1. Stretch regularly. Flexibility training will open up your hips and shoulders. Perform static stretches while watching TV, and dynamic stretches when you’re warming up before a workout.
  2. Do yoga. While any kind of exercise can limber up your body, yoga is one of the most effective methods. Take a class or watch videos online. Practice at a studio or at home. Target the areas where you feel discomfort.
  3. Say your name. We hold a lot of tension in our jaw area. Using the heel of your hands, gently sweep along your jaw from your chin to your ears, and repeat 10 times. Another great way to relax your jaw is by saying your name out loud with your tongue out – you may feel a bit silly, but it works!
  4. Warm up. Heat can make your body instantly feel nimbler. Take a warm shower before you meditate or rub your hands over your legs and arms to stimulate your circulation. Drape a light blanket over your lap or shoulders. You may also find that you are more flexible in the evenings, as your muscles have been working all day.
  5. Sit up straight. Proper alignment relieves aches and pains too. Check that you’re sitting with your weight on the center of your sit bones. Relax your shoulders and lift your chest.
  6. Use props. Buy special accessories or use objects you have at home to pamper your trouble spots. Put cushions or blocks under your knees, behind your back, or anywhere you feel stress.
  7. Listen to your body. Any modification can be beneficial if it helps you to focus. Sit on a chair or on a cushion. Stand up or move around when you need to.

With a few simple adjustments, you can meditate comfortably even if you tend to be restless or have trouble touching your toes.

Bring greater happiness and peace into your life by developing a regular meditation practice.

Do you meditate regularly? We’d love to know if you have any tips to quieten a busy mind and restless body, comment below.

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