Stretching and meditation go hand in hand in that they both help to better attune our minds and bodies on the path to mindfulness. If you are wondering ‘Should I meditate or ‘which comes first, stretching or meditation, you’re not alone in this dilemma.
It would be best if you stretched before meditation. While there are technically no rules, stretching beforehand can help achieve a better, more focused meditation session. After all, yoga was used by yogis to prepare the body for meditation.
Stretching before meditation provides a couple of benefits. It loosens up the stiffness in our bodies and strengthens those muscles that help us to sit with good posture and keep the spine straight. It also prepares our minds for the process. Let’s explore more about the benefits of stretching before meditation.
Why You Should Stretch Before You Meditate
There are no hard and fast rules regarding stretching before meditation. Different things work for different people, so feel free to experiment and find what works for you. However, for most people, it does wonders for their meditation if they stretch first.
Long ago, in what would become India, it is believed that yoga began as a method to clear the mind and focus the physical and mental energies in the body. Yoga itself was a form of meditation, but more so, a way to prepare the body and mind for seated meditation practice.
By preparing your body for the seated position of meditation, you are giving yourself a head start on the process. If you make the sitting position more comfortable and easier to achieve with correct posture, there are fewer things to draw your attention away and interrupt your meditative focus.
The Benefits Of Combining Stretching And Meditation
While there isn’t necessarily a defined end goal for an individual meditation practice, a practitioner generally would like to experience the stillness of the mind through deep meditations. There are many ways that stretching can benefit your meditation practice:
- You’ll Be Less Likely To Fall Asleep: Some of us struggle with feeling sleepy as soon as we assume the meditation position and the struggle can be a long and frustrating one. This is especially true for those who like to meditate at the end of the working day (feeling tired). By stretching beforehand, you are not only swinging up your body, but you are waking up your mind (asking to be more alert). By priming the whole system, you can shake off the remnants of sleepiness so that you can better focus on meditation.
- You Can Sit For Longer: If you struggle to meditate for more extended periods of time, stretching before meditation can help with that as well. Meditation is just as much of an exercise for the mind as running or weightlifting for your body. By warming up the mind and body, you are giving yourself better stamina for the practice.
- Breathing Is More Effective: Breathing is an integral part of meditation. By performing some substantial stretches on the upper body and the core, you are allowing your respiratory system to work at a higher efficiency. Also, stretching gets your blood moving, which aids the circulation of oxygen in your blood.
- You’ll Sit More Comfortably: Better blood flow means that you are able to sit with better posture and avoid those discomforts that can make it difficult to concentrate on the matter at hand. Many of us struggle with pain in our ankles, knees, and lower backs. Maybe what you need to alleviate these pains is a good stretch beforehand.
- Stretching Makes You Mindful: A body scan is a useful technique that can help refocus the mind when it begins to wander during meditation. By stretching out the body before meditation, you perform a physical body scan. It allows you to find the problem zones and work them out. It can also help you focus inward on your body and the present moment instead of thinking about what you would like to eat later.
- Your Energy Levels Will Be Higher: This goes hand in hand with fighting off that sleepy feeling. Stretching commands the use of your muscles and your mind, helping to channel your intent. Just like a runner warms up so that they can run further and a powerlifter performs dynamic stretches before a deadlift, stretching before a meditation session gets not only your body ready, but focuses your energy on the task at hand.
- Improve Your Posture: You can meditate in a chair, on a sofa, or even lying down, but most of us practicing growth in meditation would like to improve our posture while sitting on the meditation pillow, legs crossed.
Most of us have problems focused around the hips and lower back. The muscles and connective tissues that make this difficult for us need to be stretched out and strengthened as they aren’t used much in our daily lives. If you’re looking to perform your meditation in a full (half) lotus, you may need some stretches beforehand. The more you work on your form and the longer you have good posture, the easier it will become.
- You Can Focus Better: Isn’t this what we are all trying to achieve in our meditation practice? To be able to get into that clear and uncluttered headspace more quickly and easily? Stretching can help us do that. This increase in focus gives us better access to the benefits of meditation as well. Anxiety, stress, depression, mood, productivity, and better cognitive clarity can all see improvement with stretching combined with meditation.
- The Benefits Go Beyond Meditation: Stretching your body will help your meditation, and the benefits derived from the process will carry into the rest of your day as well. Stretching every day can help with posture, blood circulation, and energy levels. It can also help with some chronic pain issues like back pain.
What Stretches Should You Do Prior To Meditation?
Any stretches that help to move the energy in your body will do the magic. Even though we know from the history of yoga that yoga was practiced to prepare the body for meditation, that doesn’t mean that you need to do yoga to get a good stretch before your meditation practice. See what works the best for you and maintain that habit. However, if you decide to integrate some yoga poses for that purpose, here are a few simple yoga asanas that every meditation practitioner can try. These are just a few simple and effective stretches that focus on opening up the hips and stretching the lower body’s long muscles.
Incorporate these simple yoga poses and stretches that are easy yet surprisingly effective:
- Butterfly (Baddha Konasana)
- Frog (Mandukasana)
- One-Legged King Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)
- Deep Lunges stretch
- Knee to Chest stretch
- Spinal Twist
This is all that you really need. Simple stretches that open up your hips and prepare your legs and spine for seated meditation.
Finding the Right Stretch or Flow for Meditation
You don’t need to join a yoga school or spend more than 10 – 15 minutes on stretching before meditating. You may find that you need even less of a stretch to start seeing the immense benefits of stretching before meditation.
All in all, stretching before meditation is indeed very beneficial not only for your meditation practice but can also improve your flexibility, posture, comfort, relaxation, and focus. Do you have your favorite stretches to do before meditation? Wonderful! Then stick to them. And if you don’t – integrate simple postures such as butterfly pose, knee to chest stretch that help move your energy, open up the hips and enjoy the comfort of your spiritual practice.