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A Guide on What to Expect at Your First Meditation Class

Teresa Mason
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It was Tuesday, the worst day of the week in my opinion, and it was one of those days. We’ve all had them. My train ran late, I hit every red light between my apartment and the yoga studio, it was extra hot, etc. By the time I crashed into the studio like a sweaty, panting Hulk, everyone was already set up on the floor with their mats, bolsters, and waters ready to go. This is how my first meditation class began, with not an ounce of zen to be found.
 
For those of us with anxiety or who are frequently stressed out, meditation has been proven to work wonders. A study led by Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital found that as little as eight weeks of meditation not only helped people experience decreased anxiety and greater feelings of calm; it also produced growth in the areas of the brain associated with memory, stress regulation, sense of self, and empathy.
 
I’ve practiced mindfulness and meditation on my own before. I’ve read some articles and imagined a white light expanding from my solar plexus throughout my body. I can even manage a decent Ujjayi breath on occasion. But I had never been to a meditation class, or practiced for more than 20 minutes, so I didn’t know what to expect.
 
Sometimes, the unknown is enough to intimidate people out of trying meditation or going to their first meditation class. That’s why knowing what to expect can help you work through a lot of that anxiety, so you can get the most out of your first experience.
 

Here’s what to expect in your first meditation class:

Please note: This is my personal experience of a mindfulness and meditation class – I’m sure they’re all a little different.
 
You will need time to calm down. The teacher talked calmly about the importance of breath and waited for us to breathe in our own rhythm. She talked about leaving all the stresses of the day behind us and told us to let out a little negativity with every exhale. Since my day was horrible, it took me a little longer than it normally does to feel this relaxation.
 
You will need to practice. Know that it will take a little while to get the hang of it. Like learning how to do anything else, quieting the mind and controlling your breath takes practice that you probably won’t get from only one or two classes. Be patient and don’t judge yourself if your brain won’t stop chattering on some days. Just as we notice our yoga practice changes from day to day, take a moment to acknowledge what’s going on within each day and accept it.
 
Be prepared to try new things. After breathing for a little while, we moved on to Alternate Nostril Breathing, or Nadi Shodhana, which is something I’ve only tried a few times in my yoga classes. In this meditation class, we did the exercise for much longer than I’d previously experienced. It’s always fun to try new things – it’s just good to be prepared for it and open to it!
 
You will love it. I don’t know how long we were sitting there, breathing together. My mind was wandering like crazy, but somehow I was able to bring it back again and again to my breath. I didn’t even realize I had been holding so much tension in my face, but through the breath and mental focus, I was able to relax and let that go.
 

Since meditating more regularly and becoming more mindful, I have noticed that I have more time. I’ve noticed myself driving without the radio just to enjoy the drive. I’ve noticed I’ve been thinking more deeply. I’ve simply become more aware.

 
When the teacher rang the bell and told us to bring our palms to heart center, I was surprised so much time had passed. Even more surprising – I had absolutely loved it.
 
Since meditating more regularly and becoming more mindful, I have noticed that I have more time. I’ve noticed myself driving without the radio just to enjoy the drive. I’ve noticed I’ve been thinking more deeply. I’ve simply become more aware.
 

One last thing:

There is more than one way to meditate. I have known many skeptics. Some people think meditation is all “Om-ing” and monks in robes. Although chanting is one way to meditate, it isn’t the only way. Have you ever gone for a walk or a drive to calm down and reflect? That’s a form of meditation. Mindfulness practices are a great way to begin your meditation journey.
 
Meditation is “to engage in contemplation and reflection.” So, if sitting in a class full of people meditating together isn’t right for you, find your own way to become mindful! Either way, you won’t know until you try.
 

 

To end, Deepak Chopra summarized it best when he said:

“Imagine throwing a little stone into a still pond and watching it ripple. Then, after a while, when the ripples settle down, perhaps you throw another little stone. That’s exactly what you do when you go into the field of pure silence and introduce your intention. In this silence, even the faintest intention will ripple across the underlying ground of universal consciousness, which connects everything with everything else.”
 
If you are brand new to meditation, we hope this information helps you begin your practice. If you have a meditation practice and would like to leave some suggestions or encouragement for others, please do! We would love to hear how meditation has changed your life.
 

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Teresa Mason

Teresa is a Hunter College graduate and writer who is riding the ebb and flow of a creative writing career. Cat-mom, vegetarian, and yogi, Teresa hopes to inspire others to live consciously through self-love and a healthy lifestyle.

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