Starting a meditation practice can be a challenge if you have never allowed yourself to sit still for any length of period and do nothing. As your mind settles, you can become overwhelmed with thoughts, emotions, and physical discomfort, without the usual external stimulations to distract you. Following are some possible obstacles to meditation that may arise, and some tips and suggestions for managing them. These are normal and should not be a reason to give up. In most cases they can be easily remedied.

1. Feeling restless or having difficulty relaxing:

  • Try a guided relaxation or yoga nidra meditation.
  • Go for a walk or do some yoga or dancing prior to meditation to release some energy.
  • Clench and relax each muscle group working your way from your face to your toes.

2. Drowsiness or falling asleep:

  • Sleepiness is fine if you are doing a meditation at night with the goal of having a restful sleep.
  • At any other time try meditating in a location other than your bedroom (your brain associates this room with sleep).
  • Try a sitting posture rather than laying down.
  • Do some stretches or go for a walk before meditating.
  • Avoid eating and drinking before meditating.
  • Ensure you are getting enough sleep at night.

3. Emotional responses, e.g. giggling, crying:

  • It is normal for emotions and thoughts to arise when sitting for long periods without the distractions of keeping busy.
  • Crying, laughing, and farting are all signs of releasing tension and will usually clear as you continue.
  • Be gentle and kind to yourself until it does and if it becomes too intense you may wish to stop and continue later when you have processed or released the emotion.
  • If persistent thoughts or emotions are affecting your ability to enjoy every day life or function properly then please seek professional counselling services.

4. Disengagement aka drifting off during meditation:

  • Mindfulness meditation is a means to embrace and accept life rather than trying to escape reality.
  • It is normal to feel sensations of “drifting off” sometimes but important to remain aware.
  • If you are feeling dizzy, lightheaded, or disorientated then try to keep your focus on your breathing and where you can feel the breath in your body, e.g. nostrils, chest, belly.

5. Hyperventilation or hypoventilation during meditation:

  • Changes in your breathing pattern can result in decreased or increased levels of Co2 which can cause dizziness and anxiety.
  • Breathe in and out through your nostrils at your own natural pace and rhythm.
  • Do not try to hold your breath, slow it down or breathe too deeply.
  • Symptoms should pass but if not try physical activity like walking and seek medical advice if they persist.

6. Negative associations with meditation, e.g. feeling guilty or impatient:

  • Guilt at taking this time out for yourself or being perceived to be spending time doing nothing can hinder your progress.
  • Remind yourself that self-care is important for physical and mental wellbeing and conducive to harmonious relationships.
  • If you do not look after yourself, you will not be able to look after other people or perform at your peak.
  • Meditation can help you be more productive as it brings greater focus and clarity.
  • Just like physical exercise, the key to maximising the benefits of meditation is consistency and the longer you meditate, the greater the benefits will be felt.

7. Physical discomfort during meditation:

  • A little bit of discomfort is okay to keep you awake and aware but being in too much discomfort will distract you from your meditation practice and its benefits.
  • Try focussing on your breathing until any minor discomforts like cramps, itching or mild pain go away.
  • Massage or rub the area or if need be.
  • Stretch and mindfully move your body into a more comfortable position.


Sometimes meditation is like going to the gym – you may not enjoy it, but you know it is doing you good regardless!

Obstacles to meditation