Ask the Cowgirl Yogini: How can I start meditating?

It seems fitting to follow up a post on Montana Malas with my answer to the question, How can I start meditating? AND, to report in that it’s only March and I am moving right along with one of my New Year’s Resolutions: Meditate More.

Many people are intimidated by meditation and are more drawn to the physical yoga practice. Let’s face it, we don’t value sitting still in our culture. But you don’t have to sit still for long periods of time in a perfect lotus pose in order to meditate. I teach a meditation practice that emphasizes the cumulative benefits of being able to change how you react to a stressful situation.

Instead of the “fight-or-flight” response, you can trigger a deepening of your breath, and a stepping back from the situation in order to gain perspective. Do that by closing your eyes, bringing your awareness to your breath, and focusing on nothing else but how you breathe for a few minutes. Or even just one.

There are many elaborate mantras for meditation, but I believe that one of the most effective is also the simplest: two words, inhale and exhale. As you breathe in, think inhale. As you breathe out, think exhale. Close your eyes and do that for one minute. These minutes will add up.

Also, I’m intrigued by the meditative benefits of mala beads. Mala means “garland” in Sanskrit. Mala beads traditionally have 108 beads or stones and are strung together and finished with a tassel or a charm. They are used for keeping count as the user chants, or mentally repeats a mantra during meditation. You can repeat your breath mantra while rubbing the beads between your thumb and middle finger. This adds a small movement to the meditation that helps direct ungrounded energy; Some cultures use the term “worry beads” for this reason. You can wear them around your neck or wrist to have them with you anytime you need them. I’m sold!

If you feel like you need more help getting started, there are lots of great apps that offer led meditations. One of my favorites is calm, that has 2, 5, 10 and 15 minute options (9-year old and I are trying to make this part of our evening ritual). Or try out the online options at, which offers a 2-week free trial.


Photography by Larry Stanley.