Yoga & Meditation-and why you NEED to do it
Yoga & meditation. Kind of a trend happening right now, but rightfully so. Just like veganism. These things are becoming 'cool'. Not sure if it's actually because of the benefits or just because they seem cool & worth trying. Either way...YOU NEED TO TRY. Whether you are a busy working adult, parent, teenager, or retired adult, yoga & meditation will benefit you.
Yoga was developed over 5,000 years ago in Northern India. There are multiple 'eras' of yoga & you can learn more about them here. The 'Modern Era' started in the late 1800s when yoga masters traveled overseas to the west. With them they brought the beliefs, techniques, & practices. The first yoga studio opened in Hollywood in 1947 by yogi Indra Devi. Since then, many more studios & schools have continued to open & expand. Yoga has gained a large popularity in the last 10 years, & it continues to grow.
"The purpose of yoga is to create strength, awareness, and harmony in both the mind and body." -Natalie Nevins (certified Kundalini Yoga Instructor in Hollywood, CA)
Aside from finding mental peace & practicing self-healing, yoga has many physical benefits:
Flexibility & strengthening are two benefits that I have noticed in myself. I continue to become more toned & strong in my whole body. Since you are using your body exclusively to get yourself into poses, you end up using muscles you have never engaged before. You are working your legs, arms, core, wrists, toes, ankles...EVERYTHING. Your whole body is engaged during practice. I see definition in my arms and shoulders I've never seen before. My core has definitely gotten stronger & I can feel it during my everyday activities. I feel lighter when I walk, & I hold myself up with more purpose.
Improved respiration, energy, and vitality is something that takes time. While you practice, you must focus on your breathing. In through your nose & out through your nose. It's an active meditation. When a pose becomes hard or you 'don't like it', you need to learn to BREATHE through it. Just like in the rest of your life, when something becomes hard or challenging, you need to learn to push through it and BREATHE. As you practice however, you will find that you take deeper breaths, fill up your lungs, & feel the energy within you. You will have more energy & feel the power within you.
Positivity & a clear mind is something I have after I practice. Whether I go to a 90 minute power yoga class, or practice on my own for 15 minutes, I feel better. I feel like I can focus & see everything in a new light. I'm happier & more awake than I was when I started. As you practice you forget about all the challenges and struggles you have off your mat. You focus on your breath and what you are doing in that moment. Something I think all of us should work on off of our mats as well, stepping back.
As you go through your yoga sequences something shifts. You may not realize when it happens but you feel it by the end of your practice. You feel lighter and energized. More awake. Alive. It's a great feeling that us as humans, were meant to feel.
Here is a little story that I was told in a yoga class during shavasana. It is a very simple concept, but it has a very profound and important meaning;
A psychologist walked around a room while teaching stress management to an audience. As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they'd be asked the "half empty or half full" question. Instead, with a smile on her face, she inquired: "How heavy is this glass of water?" Answers called out ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz. She replied, "The absolute weight doesn't matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it's not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I'll have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, my arm will feel numb and paralyzed. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn't change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes." She continued, "The stresses and worries in life are like that glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and they begin to hurt. And if you think about them all day long, you will feel paralyzed – incapable of doing anything." It’s important to remember to let go of your stresses. As early in the evening as you can, put all your burdens down. Don't carry them through the evening and into the night. Remember to put the glass down!"
Think about this story every time you have a burden hanging over you. Whether you are replaying a situation, or a conversation, or thinking about something stressful, try to let it go and relieve yourself of that burden. Your life should not be controlled by stress, so let it go. You don't need it. Just remind yourself to put the glass down.
Meditation may seem difficult at first but it gets easier as you practice. It helps to start with a guided meditation like this video version or this Spotify Guided Meditation playlist. Once you have learned how to stay in your breath & stay present, you can move on to just music or silence. My mind still wanders A LOT when I meditate. It's normal. No one can just meditate easily with no struggles. Just make sure you acknowledge that you came out of your breath and get back into it. As you breathe in through your nose, say in your mind "let" and as you breathe out of your nose, say "go". Let go of all the stress, baggage, struggles, & conflict that comes along with normal everyday life. You can also try the counting method which I prefer. I like to count to either 3 or 4. Breathe in (that's one), breathe out (that's two), breathe in (that's 3), breathe out (that's four), and then start over with one on your inhale.
I suggest sitting on a yoga block or a meditation cushion. Sometimes when you are just starting out, it's hard to position your feet right, they can get a little tingly if you just cross them on the floor. But by all means, try sitting on the floor on your knees, laying on your back, or with your legs criss-crossed. Place your hands with your thumb and pointer finger touching with your palms facing up. This will give your sense of spaciousness & uplifting effect. You can also try just resting your hands on your knees with your hands open & palms facing up. This will help with feeling open & awakened. There are many other hand positions you can try.
I highly recommend purchasing a NamaSeat to use. They are very versatile and work wonders for a meditation guru. I keep mine in my room & sit it it all the time! I don't just use it for meditation purposes. I like to read, work, & study in the seat. The cover is machine washable which is great if you have little ones or want to enjoy some vegan food in it :) They have so many cute colors to chose from and are worth every penny! They are also great for yoga & pilates studios! Purchase below!
I find that listening to music that fuels me & helps me get into a rhythm, assists me in my practice. I bounce my hips more, sink lower into my knees, and breathe deeper. These songs are also perfect shavasana & meditation as well. Gives you all the feels & allows you to feel the effects of your practice.
Here are a few of the products that I use on a daily basis to make my practice even more powerful & meaningful.