One of the most common questions people ask when they first begin practicing meditation is: "Am I doing it wrong?"
There are no wrong approaches to meditation. (Well, unless you're trying to meditate while driving on the freeway, texting friends, or watching a horror movie). Many newcomers to meditation wonder in particular about whether certain positions are better than others, and if there's a recommended time of day.
There are good reasons to experiment with different types of meditation positions and times. Here's some examples:
- sitting on the ground in lotus position at dawn
- Upright in a comfortable chair during a break at work
- Walking outside in the evening after a stressful day
- And yes, lying in bed just before going to sleep.
That last option, meditating while lying in bed at night, is ideal for those seeking a better night's sleep. It may seem obvious that if we take time spent relaxing quietly before bedtime, we'll get more rest.
But experts in Buddhism and meditation agree that meditating while lying down can provide benefits beyond a few extra Zz's. In fact, Son Buddhists in particular attest that meditating while lying down not only gives our minds and bodies permission to sleep more deeply, but prepares us to wake up the next morning with a greater sense of peace, and energy, and focus.
How To Lie Down And Meditate
Don't confuse meditation in a horizontal position with actual napping. According to experts, the best position for meditating while lying down is the corpse position (savasana). Similar to the pose in yoga, this means lying on your back, with a straight spine, feet about hip-length apart.
Rest your arms comfortably at your sides, palms upward. Despite the fact that the position itself is relatively neutral, it's normal to feel slightly uncomfortable at first. After all, we rarely sleep in this position. And yes, there's something disconcerting about a position called "corpse."
To help evoke the feeling of inhabiting your body fully in this position, do some gentle stretches without pushing it or feeling uncomfortable: arch your back slightly, letting your buttocks and shoulders sink deeper beneath you, with just an inch of space between your lower back and the mattress.
Hold the position as long as it's comfortable, and then relax. Try flexing and stretching your other muscles by lifting your legs just off the mattress before lowering them again. Do the same with your arms. Identify the feeling as your rest those muscles again, and feel the blood moving steadily through them.
(Note: sometimes this position can put unnecessary stress on the lower back. If needed, place a pillow beneath you for support.)
After that, focus on your breathing. As your body relaxes, let your breathing match by inhaling slowly, feeling air fill not just your chest, but your diaphragm and belly. Then, after holding that breath for a couple of seconds, exhale slowly.
(More of a morning person? Check out these free morning meditations)
Placing Your Focus
Whether your eyes are closed or open without resting on anything in particular, let your mind find stillness by first recognizing the thoughts and feelings that are lingering, even after the day is over. Anxiety? Frustration? Worry?
These are the emotions that keep us up at night in the first place. To release them, first give them permission to be present. Nothing fuels insomnia itself more than our self-punishing tendency to tell ourselves "I have to go to sleep! Right now! My brain MUST stop spinning!"
Give yourself permission to identify the events or moments in your day that caused those negative feelings in the first place. Then (and only then) will you be able to let those feelings go. Or, at the very least, let those feelings retreat to their waiting room on the other side of dawn, after you wake up.
What Are The Benefits Of Meditating In Bed?
A good night's sleep is an obvious benefit to meditating in bed. But beyond a few hours of healthy slumber, lying-down meditation can be a great remedy for the emotions that rob us of that rest in the first place.
Anger and fear manifest most frequently at night, after the busy and distracting hustle of our day is over and we're left with a quiet and still space. We often fill that space with whatever we didn't have time to worry about during the day and those inner voices keep us awake. What better time for healthy meditation?
For those experienced in this form of meditation, this practice can help with overeating, alcohol, over-the-counter medications, and even the late night Netflix watching we think we need to help us sleep. Before you turn out the lights tonight, try spending a few minutes in the savasana position, and enjoy the restfulness that follows.