Is there a best time to meditate?
Different parts of the day that have diverse advantages. However, if you’re in for a quick answer: the best time to meditate is any time as long as you do it regularly. Meditation has a multitude of scientifically proven health benefits. It reduces perceived stress and anxiety while boosting your immune system, memory, and focus.
Finding that best time to meditate will largely depend on your lifestyle and goals. When can you get a moment of peace? Would you like to be more productive during the day or improve the quality of your sleep? Read on to find out what time would suit you best.
What are some good times to meditate?
- According to Ayurvedic and yogic texts, the Brahma Muhurta (Ambrosial Hours) begin 96 minutes before sunrise. At this time there is the highest concentration of prana (vital energy). It is believed that the atmosphere of this early hour aids in gaining awareness of the true self. Brahma Muhurta means “the time of the creator”. The name points to a possibility to create the day the way you want it and also re-create yourself.
- Meditation on an empty stomach is easier as your energy is not driven to your digestive tract. If you meditate as a follow-up to your yoga asana practice, it is best to have your stomach and your bowels empty. The natural cleansing of the body is essential in Ayurvedic medicine as the health of the colon is considered key for overall health.
- Scientific studies point to the so-called “decision fatigue” meaning people have a limited store of mental energy for self-control. Researches looked at judges treating similar crimes with different severity depending on what time of the day the ruling was. Another study done on professional chess players demonstrated that even “night-owls” tend to make more thought-out moves in the morning and more reckless moves at night. Based on these findings, it is best to schedule what is important to you early in the day because exerting self-control becomes increasingly difficult as time passes. Meditating first thing in the morning prevents you from experiencing “decision fatigue” when your brain opts for the laziest solution.
- Mornings usually are quiet, especially if you wake up early. This means there are fewer distractions, which is incredibly important for people new to meditation.
- You wake up well-rested and with a clear mind. As a result, focusing is easier and you don’t need to deal with one of the biggest obstacles to meditation – falling asleep.
- Starting the day on a good note will have an impact on all of your activities, helping you manage stress, make better decisions, and be more present.
- The effect of morning meditation might wear off as the day goes. Meditating half-way can help you stay focused throughout the whole day. If you have done a morning session, a lunch break meditation of 3-5 minutes can be enough to restore your focus.
- If you usually take power naps, you can try yoga nidra (yogic sleep) which is a state of deep relaxation while remaining alert. Some claim that 10 minutes of yoga nidra can make you feel as rested as a few hours of sleep.
- If you cannot sit or lie with your eyes closed for a few minutes at work, you can practice mindfulness. The act of being present, focusing on exactly what you are doing at this moment can be applied to any activity. It is an excellent calming practice to turn to while walking or eating during lunch break.
What is more, in yoga this type of concentration (Dhāraṇā) is considered fundamental for achieving the state of meditation (Dhyāna). Novices who find meditation challenging can greatly benefit from giving their full attention to simple tasks such as washing the dishes or having a meal. In time, this practice of focusing the mind naturally leads to meditation as the span between two thoughts becomes longer.
- Winding down after a stressful workday helps set a boundary between your professional and personal life. Meditation at this time of the day will be most useful to people who tend to carry their work problems at home, influencing negatively their personal relationships..
- Calm evenings provide the right setting for meditation, especially for people who have kids and struggle to find some “me time”.
- Night owls might find it easier to concentrate at this time rather than in the morning.
- Evening meditation can soothe the mind before sleep. Beware that meditation and falling asleep are very diverse as the former requires your undivided attention. With this said, meditating right before bed might lead you to doze off. It’s best to have a meditative practice at least an hour before bedtime to have your body and mind make a clear separation between the two.
- For people who struggle with falling asleep, contradiction to what you just read, meditation in bed can be a life-saver. Here is an easy technique that does wonders to relax the mind before sleep:
- Lie on your back (Shavasana, corpse pose in yoga).
- In your mind go through everything you did during the day, starting with the moment you woke up until you went to bed. You don’t need to go into great detail, just briefly list one action after another. “I woke up, I got ready for work, I drove to the office” etc.
- Imagine your body is a network of light bulbs (I like to visualize this the way street lights can be seen from an airplane). Starting from your toes, mentally go up through each part of your body until you reach the brain, gradually switching off all lights.
On-demand when you feel overwhelmed or stressed out
You can tap into stress-management techniques whenever you feel overwhelmed and that you need a break. Relaxing in such situations can be as simple as closing your eyes and staying with your breath for a few minutes. Just observe it without trying to regulate it.
If your heartbeat has accelerated, you feel heaviness in your chest or a particular pain – acknowledge it without relating to it. You can say in your mind “there is a rapid heartbeat” or “there is chest pain”, instead of “I have” or “I feel”. Distancing yourself from the physical effects of stress allows you to put them under control. Conversely, “claiming them yours” makes them more powerful and you get more worried.
Another technique that can help you relieve anxiety is the Bee Breath Pranayama. It is extremely efficient in helping you reduce the chatter in the mind and can be used as a starting point for any meditation. You can read more about the Bee Breath on Julie Christy’s blog Tree of Life Yoga and Wellness where she describes how to perform it and all the benefits it has.
While meditative techniques can relax you in just a couple of minutes, I would like you to consider that meditation’s potential is far greater than this. Incorporating meditation in your daily life may help you in managing stressful situations and boosting your “immunity” to some stressors.
How many times a day should I meditate?
Definitely at least once. You can start with 10-minute meditations and gradually increase the duration. To aid the effect of longer-form meditations, you might want to have one-two quick sessions during the day. Be it because you felt overwhelmed or you just had the time to do so. I suggest you experiment with several variations (at least for a few days each) and see what feels best.
Some are firm believers that there is a best time to meditate. I think whatever time you choose is better than not doing it at all. The same goes for the duration of your meditation. The accumulated effect of 5 minutes a day already equals 2.5 hours in a month. Taking a small step in the right direction every day will surely lead to results.