Create the time for meditation

While we may have heard a daily meditation practice brings with it many benefits to our overall happiness and wellbeing, there’s often resistance to committing to it. Common resistances include thinking ‘I don’t have time’, ‘It’s boring to just sit still’, or ‘I am not good at it, my mind just runs the whole time’. These last two examples are similar to expecting an untrained puppy to sit still the first time it is asked. Whereas the first, simply requires you to have an honest conversation with yourself about what your priorities are, and perhaps shift the expectation of exactly how much time you need to dedicate towards mediating.

Just like your asana, meditation is a practice, not a performance. So a good place to begin is removing any outcome you perceive you need to achieve, which may be ‘successfully meditating’. I know this is one I’ve had in the past. Benefits and blessings will come to you over time, but for now, all you need to do is sit down, try to be still, and practice the meditation technique shown to you. If you don’t have one already, don’t worry, there is one included at the end of this blog.

Initially, sitting still for a period of time can be challenging, especially because we’re so use to ‘moving’ and ‘doing’ constantly. In our modern world, it seems even sleeping is becoming something we ‘do’, rather than being really enjoyed. So to begin, simply designate a specific time window, duration, and place to practice on a regular basis. Begin with five minutes, and set a timer so looking at the clock won’t distract you. Commit to practicing meditation before you have your breakfast in the morning, in a quiet corner or room in your home. Another option is to close the door at your office, and practice your meditation at your desk. Otherwise, you may choose to commit five minutes at the end of your yoga class, when you’re in savasana. Regardless of where and when, we can all create 5 minutes of space in our day. Over time, you can gradually lengthen your practice.

For most people the normal state of the mind is a constant chatter. Don’t be put off by this; Rather, use the stillness, use the quiet, to bring awareness and observation to how much your mind chatters. With repetition of practice, you can use this awareness to soften the chatter, and delve deeper into your consciousness. The associated benefits to this such as a calm mind, eased stress, anxiousness, and depression, healthier sleeping patterns, increased creativity, improved relationships, and self-appreciation and respect, make the practice even more enticing, and even easier to commit to.

Again, just like your asana practice, meditation will bring with it a new experience each day; some will seem ‘easier’ than others. If you a miss a day, feel distracted throughout, or finish early, just start again. Have faith your mind will come to settle down and feel at ease with regular practice and eventually longer periods of sitting. Be as gentle with yourself as you would a puppy you love, and allow your mind to learn to release in the same way it has learned to hold on.

Meditation Technique:

Sit or lie comfortably, with your spine straight. Set a timer on your phone or meditation application (we recommend 1 Giant Mind, or, Insight Timer) so as not to be distracted by looking at the clock. Close your eyes and take a few slow breaths in and out of your nose to calm your body down and prepare for meditation.

Next, place extra attention on your breath. Stilling breathing by your nose, bring your inhale and exhale to the same steady length, and then continue to observe your breath. Feel your chest rise on the inhale, and then the chest fall on the exhale. Feel the coolness of the air on the inhale, and warmth of the air on the exhale. Maintain your focus and observation on your breath. If at any point, you notice your mind wandering, gently come back to the awareness of the breath. For some extra support, you may choose to silently say in your mind ‘inhale’ as you breathe in, and ‘exhale’ as you breathe out.

At the end of your practice, give a statement of gratitude. For example, ‘I am thankful for making the time to do this meditation’, ‘I am thankful for my breath’, ‘I am thankful for how relaxed I feel’, or, anything that naturally arises in to give thanks for.

Some general recommendations to support your meditation practice include, not eating or consuming caffeine/ any other stimulants just prior to meditating, finding a private and quiet space where you won’t be interrupted, and keeping a journal to track your insights and progress.

Let us know how you’re going with your meditation practice. Leave us a comment on this post, share in our facebook group, or talk to any one of us at the studio! We look forward to hearing of how meditation is supporting and enriching you in your life.


Yin Yoga: Love it or hate it?

I see two types of people in the studio – those who love Yin and those who hate it. Here’s the top reasons people dislike Yin and why they need to give it another go:

  •     I hate being still
  •     It’s boring
  •     I can’t stop thinking
  •     It’s not a workout

1. I hate being still

For busy, active people, Yin yoga can seem a waste of time. “I can’t sit still, I have too much to do”. Think of a car. We turn the car off when we’re not using it otherwise we’ll run out of petrol and it will overheat. Think of your phone, it stops working when your battery is flat and needs to be recharged. Have you ever thought that constantly being on the go or ‘on’ will leave your inner energy reserves depleted? What if you were always on standby, waiting for the next thing – what does this do to your devices? Being always busy or ‘on’ drains our energy and also over-stimulates our nervous system leading to chronic stress.

How many times have you experienced after a busy, stressful day that your body is exhausted yet your mind is over-active or wired? How many times have you found yourself unable to switch off mentally? This is what happens when we are always ‘on’. This constant state of ‘on’ leads to anxiety. Being still is our chance to switch off, power down and recharge. It can be difficult and uncomfortable but being ‘on’ is a habit that can be broken. You and your body need to switch off and learning to be still is the first step. You will get the urge to fidget, to shuffle around, to scratch or adjust your clothing – these are all tricks of the mind trying to keep you from powering down and switching off.

2. It’s boring

Boredom is a sign of a busy mind. The inherent nature of the mind is movement, so left unwatched, the mind jumps from one thing to another. When we ask it to be still, such as in a Yin Yoga class, it rebels like a naughty child that doesn’t want to be told what to do. If we learn to practice mindfulness and become engrossed in the fullness of what we are doing there is no boredom.

Boredom exists when we are not paying attention or concentrating on the present moment. Boredom is a distraction of a busy mind.  We have become so accustomed to multi-tasking that some people watch TV while playing on the computer and phone (3 screens!). We multi-task so often that we’ve forgotten how to single-task. Ever been out with friends or family to find them regularly reaching for their phone to check emails/Facebook? Maybe this is you?

We really struggle to give our full attention to anything these days and the result of our shortened attention span is boredom.We find everything boring and nothing satisfying. We are always seeking something better, something more interesting. Yet this is just a vicious cycle, leading to more boredom and less satisfaction. The antidote, as boring as it seems, is concentration. Coming back to focusing on one thing at a time and in our Yin Yoga practice this means our body and our breath. If we are truly present we will not be bored.

3. I can’t stop thinking

This is something I hear all the time. Guess what? You’re not the only one. The Yoga Sutras written approximatley 2500 years ago define yoga as ‘the stilling of the movements of the mind’. So a busy/active mind is not a new phenomenon, as it was recognised by the ancient sages as the barrier to inner peace.

So what to do? Most people ignore it and don’t realise it’s a problem until you ask them to be still for 5 minutes and focus on their breath. “But I can’t stop thinking!” Welcome to the club! Acknowledging the issue is the first step to transformation. “But I like thinking”, sure you like thinking when you want to, but isn’t it annoying when you want to stop and you can’t? It is this constant, incessant thinking that can lead to anxiety and even depression.

The only way to slow down the mind is to turn it upon itself. Ask your mind to watch and become aware of what it is doing. Don’t try to control the mind (for that is a losing battle), rather try to create space for your thoughts and watch what your mind does. Bringing awareness to our mind and its’ activities will help it to gradually slow down. The same principle applies when we observe our breath – it starts to slow down without effort. Most people give up as it can be confronting and uncomfortable to pay attention to your thoughts. But what’s the alternative? Do you prefer to be a slave to your mind?

We begin to cultivate mind/body awareness in our Yin yoga practice and this is why so many people feel lighter and refreshed after practice – they’ve stopped being a slave to their thinking and have found some mental space.

4. It’s not a workout

There are many people who come to yoga for a workout. I get that. However, the true essence of yoga is a ‘work in’. We do inner work. The whole intent behind the physical poses is to prepare the body and mind for meditation. It’s not the latest exercise fad. People often think that if they’re not working up a sweat or burning calories then they’re not doing anything and there’s no point.

So let me tell you the point of Yin yoga. Yin doesn’t use muscle activation, it is a release of the myofascial tissue that surrounds the muscles, ligaments and joints. It is in this tissue that tension and stress is stored. Yin is designed to work on releasing this tissue and the energetic meridians contained in the tissue that support our major organs. It promotes relaxation, improved vitality and brings balance back to the body.

Yin is passive and is about softening, releasing and surrendering. There’s no effort or struggle (this is something people often fail to grasp), we let go of any holding, clenching and tensing. One of the key benefits of our Yin yoga practice is that is soothes our over-stimulated nervous system helping to restore the body and mind to equilibrium. For those of you looking to lose weight, you won’t be able to if your nervous system is over-stimulated and your body is filled with stress hormones. Cortisol, the body’s hormonal response to stress increases our appetite, increases our cravings for sugary food, leads to fat storage and is often responsible for us not being able to lose weight. So if you’ve been trying to shift those kilos with a strict diet and heavy exercise then maybe you need to chill out and calm down with a Yin class.

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