By Ashley McGuirk
It’s common for many of us to take a yoga class with the intent to stretch, focus and sweat. However, I find often it’s easy to lose sight of the other important components of the traditional yogic practice. You see, in many traditional yoga classes it is essential for the instructor to begin class with a brief breathing exercise and meditation. The reason being, it calms the mind, clears out thoughts and prepares your body to surrender. By strengthening each of these components of yoga you are essentially bringing yourself closer to eternal bliss.
Therefore, the physical yoga practice (asana), breathing (pranayama) and meditation are like a package deal to reaching your final destination of bliss. You can’t have one without the other and all together, they make up something truly magnificent!
Breathing and meditation are just as important to reaching eternal bliss as the physical practice. For many, the physical practice is the easiest part, so it’s convenient to leave the breathing and meditation on the side for another day.
If you were anything like me, the first year of practicing meditation I struggled BIG time. With a busy mind and a busy schedule, meditation almost felt impossible to me. It honestly made me feel like I was trying to participate in something that was totally opposite of who I was. During my first year of meditation, I realized I was the type of person who enjoyed keeping my mind busy instead of keeping it quiet. I wanted to stay busy and productive 24/7. I thrived on long distance runs, loads of caffeine and thought sleep was a waste of time. Needless to say, I was in a constant state of anxiety and ambition. It was almost like whatever I accomplished was never enough. So, I would find another tasks or activity to keep myself busy until I successfully completed it. I would feel successful for all of a few hours and as soon as the high of being (what I thought was) successful crashed, I would immediately scurry to find some other task to make myself feel worthy once more. It was like I was striving to keep my mind busy instead of learning how to listen, relax and repair. What’s sad is that I knew I needed this practice, but I just didn’t want to take the time and effort to actually do it. (I know ridiculous!! – But seriously, how many of you did/do the same thing?)
Fast forward to fall of 2017. It was the first weekend of my Hatha Raja Teacher Training at Razz Yoga. I was so excited to expand my knowledge in the yoga practice and share it with others. To my horror, (I know, I’m embarrassed how dramatic I was) Yogini Kali Om explained to our group that our homework for every month would consist of a daily breathing technique and meditation practice. This was the biggest challenge I had ever received in the world of yoga. I couldn’t even imagine myself siting in silence and breathing let alone actually doing it. I sort of panicked because this meant I would actually have to participate in the portion of yoga I had been avoiding all of these years. It meant I would actually have to sit still and clear my mind. However, one day while completing my daily breathing and meditation homework, I felt extremely light afterwards. It was so enlightening that I took the time to write about it in my journal. I couldn’t believe the effects this short breathing and meditation practice had on my mindset. At that point, I started using the same technique when I felt myself growing anxious or just longing for a place of peace. That’s when my breathing and meditation practice really began to strengthen and overall, improve my wellbeing.
As you can see, at first, I was resistant to the breathing and meditation practice. Which now, makes me chuckle to myself because my breathing and meditation practice has helped me transform and grow in so many wonderful, healing ways. Below I have listed a few tips and tricks on how to incorporate meditation into your yoga practice like I did mine. Most of these suggestions are what I used to strengthen my practice and I am forever grateful for them. Remember to take your time and commit to your yoga practice mentally, physically and spiritually. Each one is as important as the other.
Because I found meditation overwhelming at first, I asked around and found ways to start out simple. To my surprise, I received a lot of helpful feedback. Here are a few of the suggestions I found most helpful:
- • Try a meditation App (i.e. Headspace, Calm, Insight Timer, Yoga Glo etc.)
- • Try meditating with a group
- • Try meditating right before going to bed
- • Try meditating as soon as you wake up in the morning
- • Try meditating for only 5 minutes
- • Try meditating in your car before heading into work (Obviously parked in a parking lot)
- • Try a brief guided meditation on youtube.com
If you have any questions about this post or other yoga practices, feel free to contact me at Ashley@staysweetwellness.com or our lead yoga teacher, Beth MacMullen at firstname.lastname@example.org. Until next time, Namaste.