You’re already a fan of short meditation sessions.
And now you’re interested in exploring extended sessions.
Maybe you’re wondering, “How do I meditate for longer hours?” or “What would it feel like to meditate for a full hour?” or “Who would I be if I meditated for at least 45 minutes daily?”
If this sounds like you, welcome.
You’ve landed in the right spot because below, we’re breaking down how to meditate for long periods of time and how doing so can affect the mind and body — for better and worse.
- Why You Should Sit for Longer Meditations
- The Pros and Cons of a Long Meditation
- How to Meditate Longer: 6 Steps to Build Your Practice Time
- Emotional Issues You Might Encounter During a Long Meditation
- Dealing with Physical Discomfort and Pain When Meditating for Hours
- What Happens When You Meditate for a Long Time?
Why You Should Sit for Longer Meditations
There’s a lot of information out there about meditating for short spurts. And for many people, a minute here and five minutes there works.
Moreover, legitimate studies also show that sitting in quiet contemplation for just a few minutes a day offers various benefits, including enhanced cognitive function, lower blood pressure, and improved emotional control.
But for millennia, yogis, monks, healers, and shamans have understood the mind to be both “the source of bondage and liberation” and resultantly consider meditation a pillar of existence.
Stories from meditatively-minded cultures venerate individuals with superhuman contemplative abilities, like the Hindu boy-saint Prahlada, who’s said to have sat for a thousand years.
Furthermore, historical luminaries from Eastern traditions have long touted the benefits of intense reflective practice. For example, Gandhi famously talked about meditating for an hour or two daily.
So what’s the practical deal? Is it better to meditate for short or long periods?
First, understand that one is not better than the other. Rather, they serve different purposes. Shorter sessions are super for developing a meditation practice and recentering yourself at specific points during the day.
Longer ones are for soul-searching, mind-changing work.
But if reaching a higher state of enlightenment is the goal, you’ll need to sit for longer sessions. A form of svadhyaya (self-study), extended meditation practice is the path to your higher self.
The Pros and Cons of a Long Meditation
Everything in life has its pros and cons, including long meditation sessions. Let’s take a look at how each side stacks up.
Pros of Long Meditation:
- Supports healthy behavioral values like patience, focus, and presence
- Calms the nervous system, leading to ideal hormonal balance and better emotional control
- Improves mental strength, cognitive ability, and concentration quotient
- Allows practitioners to reach a deeper level of self-awareness and contentment; many attest to divine experiences during longer sessions
Cons of Long Meditation:
- It can be physically and mentally painful
- It requires a time commitment that’s unmanageable for many people
Long meditation sittings aren’t for everyone, but they’re a fantastic tool for anyone interested in tapping into the subconscious sides of themselves or changing their brain for the better.
How to Meditate Longer: 6 Steps to Build Your Practice Time
Long-session meditations are an intimate conversation with oneself. But it takes practice. So let’s break down a few tips for lengthening your sitting periods.
1. Find Reasons To Sit Longer
As with any goal, the underlying reasons for pursuing the objective will significantly impact your success or lack thereof.
Meditating to please someone else decimates your chances of getting far. Success in this arena is rooted in genuine desire.
So before embarking down the path of intense meditation, do some emotional due diligence. Think carefully about why you’re choosing this path and what you hope to gain.
Prepare yourself for the possibility of not finding what you’re searching for when it’s all said and done. You may find the opposite of what you expected.
Whatever the case, the more passionate you are about your reasons for deep reflection, the better foundation you’ll have to keep going.
Self-Compassion Check: Figuring out what you want can take a long time. If it were easy, everyone would always be on the right path.
Life is much more complicated than that, so don’t badger yourself if it takes a while to pinpoint your reasons.
2. Yoga Prep
While yoga and meditation are different disciplines, they complement one another beautifully.
A quick yoga session before a long meditation session can help tremendously. In a way, sitting still is a workout, and stretching beforehand warms up your muscles.
Poses like seated staff, chair, and downward-facing boat help build the lower back strength needed for long meditation sessions.
Moreover, yoga opens your energy meridians, making you more receptive to meditation’s spiritual side. So if you’re goal is to plumb the deepest recesses of your psyche, pair yoga with meditation.
Self-Compassion Check: Don’t sweat it if you can’t bend into a pretzel. Start small and slowly. Do the “easy” version of each pose. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. The fact that you’re moving is what matters most.
3. Try Mala Beads
Have you ever heard of mala beads? If not, here’s a quick catch-up:
- Mala beads are a central meditation tool in some Hindu and Buddhist traditions
- Full garlands have 108 mantra beads and one guru bead
- Mala beads are like rosaries in that devotees use the beads to count prayers and mantras
- Ideally, mala beads should be made of natural materials, including wood, minerals, stones, gems, glass, or seeds.
Mala beads are timekeepers that jointly occupy the mind and hands, making concentrating easier.
The more body parts you have focused on a goal, the more mental energy must be poured into the process, leaving less time for thoughts to wander and pester.
Self-Compassion Check: If you reach the 56th mala bead and run out of gas, pat yourself on the back for getting over halfway through instead of beating yourself up for bailing early.
4. Work on Posture and Breathing
Posture and breathing are essential components of proper meditation, and people who strive for longer sessions must pay attention to both.
While lying down may not be the best option (although it is for some people with mobility issues), choose a comfortable meditation pose that encourages proper posture and allows for easy breathing.
Also, work on developing your adductors and quadriceps. When these muscles are strong, sitting for long periods is easier. Reclining leg cradles are great for both.
Self-Compassion Check: “Looking good” matters much less than sitting well, so don’t pick a pose that doesn’t jive with your body. And don’t be afraid to use a meditation bench.
5. Be Consistent
Consistency is another critical component of developing a long-session meditation practice. Sitting at least five times a week is essential to sticking with it in a meaningful way.
Otherwise, you’ll constantly be retreading ground. Most people who’ve made meditation a part of their lives engage daily.
Ideally, find a time you have free every day. Some people wake up an hour earlier than needed; others wait till the day’s end, right before bed.
The important thing is that whatever time you pick comfortably fits into your schedule. You don’t want to start seeing your meditation practice as a nuisance or burden.
Self-Compassion Check: Don’t beat yourself up if something comes up and you miss a day or two of scheduled meditation. Life happens. You also don’t need to stress about it if you’re on vacation.
6. Increase Sitting Time Gradually
If the longest meditation you’ve ever accomplished was three minutes long, don’t expect to dive into an hour-long session without issue.
In our digital age, instant gratification has become commonplace. Our attention spans have shriveled up like prunes, and “toiling,” in many ways, has become a quaint, outdated concept.
Some people carry this impatience into their meditation work but soon discover that it doesn’t gel.
No matter who you are, meditation takes work. Sure, people may sit quietly for a long time, but are they genuinely meditating?
Sustained, focused, mind-altering meditation work takes energy and practice. It’s not something you can tackle in days or even months. For most people, the process takes years.
And it usually starts with a short, five-minute meditation — a mindfulness baby step.
Because building meditation stamina takes time, and studies show that starting with bite-sized sessions and gradually adding a few minutes every month is the best method.
Folks who do are more likely to stick with the practice than those who start with 30-minute sittings.
Self-Compassion Check: There will be days when you cannot sit for as long as you’d like, and that’s okay. Part of the process is learning to trust what your mind and body are telling you.
Emotional Issues You Might Encounter During a Long Meditation
Meditation isn’t all mellifluous birdsong and brilliance. During some sessions, people experience deep emotional pain, as prolonged meditation has a habit of unearthing everything we’ve buried throughout the years.
During these moments, people are forced to recall:
- Times they were abused, bullied, or otherwise unfairly treated
- Instances when they were cruel or unkind to others
- Painful emotional sensations associated with existential dread
Overall, meditating for long periods can be overwhelming. But preparing for the possible emotional discomfort can render the experience more bearable.
It’ll also give you more motivation to push through the hard parts.
Dealing with Physical Discomfort and Pain When Meditating for Hours
Running a marathon is hard — and so is sitting in the same position for over 45 minutes. Heck, some people start to squirm after 10 minutes.
Here are a few tips for dealing with physical discomfort when meditating for hours:
- Build up the appropriate muscles through exercise and yoga
- Practice your posture when not meditating; head, neck, and trunk positions are key
- Stretch before sitting
- Pick a comfortable place, not one that looks the most “yogic”
Moreover, shifting your legs mid-meditation is fine to alleviate aches and pains. No rule says you can’t move an inch during meditation.
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What Happens When You Meditate for a Long Time?
Meditating for a long time can affect the body and mind in various ways, both good and challenging.
Let’s start with a few cautions. In addition to percolating emotional baggage (as discussed above), long meditation sessions come with their own set of potential side effects, including:
- Decreased desire to participate in the real world; some meditators risk becoming shut-ins
- Increased anxiety attacks
- Diminished motivation
Only some people committed to a serious meditation practice will suffer these symptoms.
But it’s wise to familiarize yourself with and prepare for the possibilities; that way, you know what to look for and have a better chance of addressing the issue before it morphs into a problem.
On the upside, prolonged meditation can:
- Support a path to true enlightenment
- Help you live a calmer, more peaceful, even-keel life
- Significantly improve your cognitive function, memory, and ability to focus
- Lower blood pressure and boost cardiovascular health
- Give you deep insight into your personal circumstances and the greater human condition
Extended meditation sessions are well worth the effort for people interested in delving deep into their psyches or developing a strong spiritual bond with their higher selves.
But the vital thing to remember is “effort” — because developing a long meditation practice takes a lot of it.
So no, the heavens won’t open up to you instantaneously. And yes, there will be rough sessions when wading through emotional muck will be the order of the day. But those who stick with it come out better for it.
It may not be what you expect, but it will undoubtedly change your life.