Meditation Facilitators are practices done just before meditation, that make it easier. Just sitting and trying to meditate is really difficult, so having a few strategies to make it more accessible is useful.
Mind and breath are linked, so choosing pre-meditation exercises that slow the breath is always a good idea. Here are some other suggestions.
1/ Arm exercises
This can be static or moving. Studies have shown that holding the arms overhead increases our uptake of oxygen. It also forces us to use the diaphragm, which triggers the Vagus nerve and the Parasympathetic Nervous System.
In terms of the subtle body, we stimulate meridians in the arms including heart, lungs, and the Triple Burner. Working with both arms, stimulates and balances the Ida and Pingala.
Holding the arms overhead, brings us present by placing us firmly in the body, with full awareness of the sensations.
Fast breaths like Tummo, Bhastrika, Kapalbhati, and, to some extent, Breath of Fire dump carbon dioxide quickly. This means that the impulse to inhale is reduced. Kumbhaka can thus be held much longer, and the mind is still.
Fast arm exercises coordinated with breath work well as meditation facilitators for this reason.
3/ Forward Folds
Stretching the back of the body triggers the relaxation response and quiets the breath. It also allows the head to fall forward, so blood / Prana can be directed to the third eye point. When using a forward fold as a meditation facilitator, direct attention to the third eye point, and encourage your students to breathe lightly and slowly into the chakra.
4/ Nostril Breathing
In the Hatha tradition, meditation is achieved when Ida and Pingala are balanced, and Prana moves to the Sushumna. Alternate nostril breathing, with kumbhaka, especially after the exhale, is thus a great pre-meditation practice.
Some traditions also encourage right nostril breathing prior to meditation as a way to create focus – this is useful as a way to avoid sleepiness and encourage concentration.
5/ Stimulating the upper chakras
Moving the head gently from side to side with the breath is a technique used by many different spiritual traditions. Dropping the chin to the neck also works. Both stimulate the thyroid gland, and block Ida and Pingala, creating balance, and directing Prana to the Sushumna.
Holding the arms horizontally to the side is used to stimulate the thyroid, and pituitary glands.
The hypothalamus – pituitary – thyroid axis is activated during meditation, so it makes sense to start that process in the run up to meditation.
Focusing on the Crown Chakra and the space just above the head draws Prana upwards.