Though I am a big fan of people coming to things in their own time, being challenged can have a potent effect. Eight years ago I started to practice pranayama because of a dare from a teacher while on retreat. He told our group that there would be no contraindications with pranayama practice (see below for the scoop about safety in pranayama) because we wouldn’t do it with regularity. That was enough to get me practicing breath awareness 10 minutes a day as soon as I returned, which changed my nervous system, and my life.
Last month our Managing Director Ashley made a commitment take a yoga class every day for 30 days. It began after the Haramara Yoga Retreat with Melina. She felt so good after doing yoga and eating amazing food every day that she first scheduled several yoga classes per week into her work schedule. The process had a ripple effect on her life – the 30-day commitment was a natural next step (and now is on day 40!).
This gave me the idea to challenge our community – teachers, students, and staff – to practice meditation every day in May. That could mean 5 minutes of sitting and listening to sound, 10 minutes of watching your thoughts like waves rolling on and off the shore, 15 minutes of mantra, or 20 minutes of silence. Whatever gets you to the mat…just do it!
Meditation has had such a profound effect on my own life that I now crave it. My brain wants it, needs it, loves it. I call it “mental floss.” I started by using guided meditations by my teacher Rod Stryker. Every morning I’d put on the headphones and twenty minutes later it was like a new day had dawned.
We’ll call this challenge “M(ay) is for Meditation”, and see how it goes. If you start late, no worries. Miss a day? Just get back on track the next. We are posting free open meditation hours at all four studios. Check your individual studio or our blog for those days and times. Since May starts in two days, we’re giving you this heads up to get ready, get set…
Never meditated? Start with a simple 5-minute Ujjayi Meditation from Rod Stryker:
1. Take a comfortable seat (on blanket or bolster) with spine tall.
2. Begin with smooth ujjayi breathing.
3. Count to 5 as you inhale and 5 as you exhale, in other words, match your breath in to your breath out.
4. After doing this for at least one minute, without strain, begin to pause AFTER exhale for 5 counts. If this is too much, count faster or use a count of 4
5. Continue for a few minutes, then release the pause
6. Release the extended breath and bow your head to conclude the practice.
Another simple practice is to sit and listen to sound. Don’t follow or allow thoughts to gather around the sound, just practicing the art of listening. This is easier to do in the morning or after an asana practice, but it’s also OK if it’s hard! Just try it.
Like having someone tell you what/how to do it? Find a guided meditation. As I mentioned, Rod has guided meditations you can listen to. Ujjayi Meditation is one of the three practices on “Meditations for Inner and Outer Peace” and “Three Meditations to Live By” is just that, for me. It includes a Heart Empowering practice that is simple and wonderful. Check these and others out at the 8 Limbs Boutique.
Need some scientific evidence? Check out my June 10, 2009 blogpost on The Science of Yoga.
Take a leap and commit to this month of practice by writing a comment here or sharing it with a close friend. Keep checking this Blog (or subscribe) to hear from other teachers about their experiences with meditation. At the end of the month, send me an email about your experience and we’ll post selections to inspire others (just let usknow how much anonymity you want, initials, first name, full name, etc.).
Happy M(ay) is for Meditation!
Posted by: Anne Phyfe Palmer
P.S. To avoid problems in pranayama:
1. listen to the sound of your breath and create a long, subtle, smooth flow
2. don’t make your inhale longer than your exhale
3. don’t hold your breath after inhale longer than your exhale