Meditation enhances our inner peace, our ability to concentrate, our sleep, and our enjoyment of life. It helps us deal with physical and emotional pain gracefully and has even been shown to potentially lengthen our lives. People often think of meditation as a seated practice where they must completely clear the mind. Sometimes this can be intimidating. Our minds are often racing and sometimes it can be difficult to get comfortable in a seated position for a long period. Here are a few ideas for meditations that can help take your mind off your racing thoughts for a while. They are done in communion with our environment or other people and can lead to a powerful transformation – the ability to live life as meditation, to live each moment mindfully.
Find a quiet forest where you will be unbothered for a while. Bring your attention to your breath and slowly walk among the trees. Find a tree that seems to call your attention and go to it. Touch the tree, acknowledge its presence, hug the tree – do whatever you choose to connect with it. Now find a comfortable spot to sit with your back up against the tree – if you prefer to stand you can also stand with the back of your body up against the tree. Close your eyes. Relaxing the breath, bring to mind your ancestors. Ask a question. Imagine the wisdom of your grandmother coming through the tree. Your grandfather. Your parents. Your teachers. See what answer arises. Sit quietly with the tree for 30 minutes – or however long you have – and see what visions arise. Connect deeply with nature and express your gratitude.
Smile Walk Meditation
Smiles are powerful. Just one brief glance at a smile can brighten someone’s day and improve both the recipient and the giver’s moods. I once read about a “lovingkindness” meditation by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. In this meditation, you encounter people on the street or wherever in your daily life and genuinely wish them happiness. You cultivate this wish by realizing your similarity with these people, whether strangers or friends. Realize we all deserve and want happiness as a basic human right. Then silently offer this genuine wish with a smile. Bringing this meditation into your daily life can vastly increase your compassion and peace.
How often do we actually take the time to appreciate our partners, friends, and family completely? To really be present with someone is a profound gift, and that’s the idea of this meditation. In a love meditation, take an entire day if possible or at least a half hour to truly be present with your partner. This can be a lover or a close family member or friend. Be silent together for a period of time but interact with gestures, eyes, and expressions. Do something you both love to do together – maybe an art or culinary project, perhaps a walk on the beach. Enjoy a warm, long, heartfelt hug. Gaze into each other’s eyes without looking away. Touch the other person mindfully, thinking of how it would feel if this were being done to you. Be present for the other person while truly appreciating their presence with you.
I hope you enjoy these meditations and look forward to hearing about your experiences or other ways you bring meditation into your daily life. Thank you for stopping by! Sending love to you all.
Good morning! I thought I’d share a yoga class I taught recently, appropriate for all levels. For those of you looking for a nice, easy daily practice, part or all of this sequence may work well. I’ll go into more detail on what I feel needs more explaining, but for other poses/sequences listed, you can easily find more information online and on other posts on this blog. If you want more explanation, feel free to ask!
Consistency is much more important than practicing for long periods of time. Ten minutes a day vastly outweighs one 90-minute practice a week. So if you only have time for some sun salutations, take a few minutes to go through the sequence. You’ll be working your entire body while calming your mind, and everyone can find an extra ten minutes! It’s very simple. I’ve heard a lot of people say they’d love to do yoga at home but cannot seem to find the time. Even if you’re only doing one pose or a quick breathing exercise, it’s very valuable. With practice, it’s easy to find ways to fit yoga into your day.
1-Hour Beginner Yoga Class
Movements of Prana Meditation
Begin in Tadasana, Mountain pose. Close your eyes, search throughout the body for tension and consciously release the tension with your breath. Deepen the breath, breathing only through your nostrils if possible. Feel the breath filling you up from the belly to the chest and lungs all the way up to the top of your head. Exhale and imagine the breath traveling back down, emptying from the head to the tailbone. Circulating life-giving oxygen to every cell of the body. Become immersed in your breath. Connect with your body and your state of mind.
Try a simple movement meditation – embodying the movements of Prana. Bend your elbows, palms open to the sky and on an inhale, lift the arms up slowly with the breath. At the top of the inhale turn the palms to face down and exhale the hands slowly down, feeling the grounding force of gravity, bending your knees slightly to accentuate the downward movement. Continue this practice for several breaths, closing your eyes, immersed in breath. Next, on an inhale, bring the hands to the heart and feel the inward, contracting forces of nature/Prana. Pull the belly in. Feel your core strength. On an exhale, expand the hands out to your sides, radiating energy in all directions. Imagine (if it’s easy for you to visualize) beams of light shining from your fingers. Or just feel that you are sending energy out. Breathe deeply, feeling the opposite forces – the inward moving, contracting, coiling in energy and then the outward, expansive, radiating energy. Imagining the energy this way helps you get in touch with your body and the space around you. Coordinate the breath with the movement – beginning, middle, end of the breath is the beginning, middle, end of the movement. Take your time! About five minutes of this meditation can create a shift of consciousness; tranquility will envelop you.
From Tadasana, dive forward into Uttanasana (standing forward bend), hinging at your hips (not your waist). Come into a “flat back,” palms to shins lengthening the spine tailbone and crown reaching in opposite directions. Come back into Uttanasana and then up to a flat back three times. Take it slow.
Step back into plank, high push up pose, strong core, radiating energy back through your heels, forward through your heart, shoulders wide, hold for a few breaths bringing the knees down if you must.
Bend the knees (or with straight legs), come down into low pushup (chatturanga), bending the elbows and keeping them close to the ribs, hands beneath shoulders, strong core
Inhale up into cobra pose (bhujangasana), lifting the hands for a moment, make sure you’re lifting from your back and stomach muscles, not just pushing yourself up with your hands. Lengthen the spine looking down to the floor ahead of you – long neck.
Exhale back into downward dog (ahdo mukha svanasana), bend the knees deep and lift the tailbone high, pull the belly in, shoulders wide – maintaining these actions, slowly reach the heels toward the floor by straightening the legs
From downward dog, inhale and lift the right leg high, then, slowly, with control, bring the knee toward the naval, then the right foot forward into lunge. Feel the four movements of lunge: You’re not noticeably moving, but you’re energetically/isometrically working the muscles. This is very subtle. The front knee is pulling forward, the front thigh grounded down. The back thigh is lifted and strong, and the back heel is pressing back. Pull the belly in, lengthen the spine and enjoy some breaths in this strengthening pose. Come back into downward dog and then lift the left leg and lunge on that side. Take the time to feel those four movements.
Sun salutation x3 on each side
Vinyasa (Downward Dog – Plank – Chatturanga – Cobra or Upward Dog – Downward Dog)
Lunge on the right, back knee down, bring the hands to the inside of the right foot and either stay there or come down to your forearms. You can straighten the leg to increase the challenge. You can also come onto the side of your front foot to increase the stretch. Do what feels good!
Next lengthen the front leg out in front of you and flex the foot. Stretch the arms long and bring the hands to the sides of your lengthened leg. Inhale, stretching the spine long. Fold forward over the extended leg for a nice hamstring stretch, a counter pose for the lunge.
Come back into lunge and try grabbing a hold of the inside of your back foot with the opposite hand (if this is too much, just stay with the basic lunge or any variation that feels right). Ground down by pressing the opposite palm flat on the floor. Press the foot into the hand and look over your shoulder of the outstretched arm if that’s comfortable.
Vinyasa ~ then repeat from lunge on the left side
Pigeon pose on your back – lie down and bend both knees – bring the right foot/ankle over the left knee. To deepen the stretch grab a hold of your left shin with both hands and hug it in toward you. For an even deeper stretch, cradle the lower leg – foot in one elbow and knee in the other. Deeper yet, grab the right foot and slowly guide that bent leg toward your heart. Repeat with the left leg.
Wheel pose (or another Bridge with the option of leg lifts)
You can end however you like; sometimes a short meditation is nice or some Pranayama (breath work).
I hope you try the practice and enjoy it! And any feedback is welcome – I think some people benefit a lot from reading about yoga and these descriptions of sequences, but for some people seeing pictures or hearing someone speak the words is easier. I want to do whatever I can to help people maintain a daily yoga practice! So please feel free to let me know what works or not. Have a wonderful day.
Good morning! All of us are trying to improve ourselves, right? For many people, this is the whole purpose of life. The purpose of practicing yoga is to evolve into someone better. There are many other options besides yoga available to us as well, and a lot of support when it comes to pursuing our goals. The Spartan Race is an event (a series of events, actually) designed to do just that. I hope you check it out and are inspired by its message. Maybe you’ll even try an upcoming event! In fact, if you are first to message me or comment, I’ll give you a free race code!* Or 10% off any race if you comment at all. :)
The Spartan Race, an obstacle race created for athletes and the average person alike, is something to check out if you want to push yourself and grow! Taking part in the race allows people to experience adventure, camaraderie and fun, while at the same time evolving as human beings. There are events for kids, a team-based game, and full support and training along the way.
Joe DeSena, founder of Spartan Race, Inc., has spoken with successful people all over the world trying to uncover what makes them winners. His efforts have culminated in a free podcast, which you can download on iTunes. I hope you enjoy it!
* for any open heat (non-confirmed start time) in any Spartan Race in the continental US
Satya means “to speak the truth,” yet it is not always desirable to speak the truth come what may, for it could harm someone unnecessarily. We have to consider what we say, how we say it, and in what way it could affect others. If speaking the truth has negative consequences for another, then it is better to say nothing. Satya should never come into conflict with our efforts to behave with ahimsa. The Mahabharata, the great Indian epic, says: “Speak the truth which is pleasant. Do not speak unpleasant truths. Do not lie, even if the lies are pleasing to the ear. That is the eternal law, the dharma.”
From: Desikachar, T.K.V. 1995. “The Heart of Yoga: Developing a Personal Practice.” Inner Traditions International: Rochester, VT. 244p., p. 98-99.
I am repeating myself when I say that yoga is so much more than a physical exercise. The whole point of yoga is to evolve as a human being, to become a better person. Asanas (yoga poses) are an important part of this — by keeping the body healthy, it is easier to maintain a healthy mind. Being our best selves certainly includes being in our best physical health. That’s only a small part of the whole picture, though.
The Yamas and Niyamas are another essential part of yoga. Yamas are guidelines for how we interact with other people and the world around us. Niyamas involve how we behave toward ourselves. Satya, the yama described above, or “truthfulness” is one I sometimes struggle with and am focusing on now. I think satya and compassion are directly related, as Desikachar’s quote illustrates. Truthfulness is important, but one must consider the consequences of truthfulness before speaking.
I’ve been studying yoga for quite a while now and I’m still continually reminded that I have a lot of growing to do. At 37 years old, sometimes I’m amazed at how little I still know. Despite my desire to be the best person I can be, despite the fact that I strive to only spread love, I sometimes become selfish and do not act or speak with compassion.
The above quote struck me as an integral lesson I need to learn if I want my life to be peaceful and if I want to maintain healthy relationships with myself and others. I have always been a rather sensitive person. I tend to take things personally and I tend to overreact at times. I have been known to speak out of turn. I sometimes let my emotions take over and say things that I should not say, even if they are my true feelings in that moment. It can be easy to get emotional and express a thought or feeling in a way that hurts another person. Too easy. And once said, words cannot be taken back. Others are hurt and I subsequently struggle not to wallow in guilt, shame, and depression. Obviously not the way I want to live!
I’ve learned this the hard way too many times in my life (and maybe haven’t fully learned since I am still working on it)! I hope that by sharing this quote I can help someone else to think before speaking.
We all depend on each other and compassion is necessary. It’s great to read about it, meditate on it, and think about it, but practicing compassion is a whole other thing. I am humbled to acknowledge this publicly, but for me it can be difficult at times to show compassion toward the most important people in my life. When I feel attacked and under stress, I tend to lash out and say hurtful things. Once said, there is no way to take these things back and I’ve only hurt others and myself. I am working with satya and compassion. Sometimes silence is best. Stillness and patience are key. I intend to practice compassion in my speech, thoughts, and actions. I’d welcome any suggestions for working with this! Thank you for reading, and I’d love to hear your thoughts. Have a peaceful Sunday!
A yoga teacher friend once warned me about using “tented fingers” in yoga. She said the likelihood of injury when this position is repeated is very high. Apparently, she learned at a conference that a common yoga injury is in the hands due to “tenting.” I had never really thought about injuring my hands this way in yoga. Tenting my fingers was sort of an afterthought, just a small and not even necessary part of certain asanas (i.e., I could do something else with my hands if I wanted to and not affect the pose). I’ve always focused more on injuries we are frequently warned of in yoga class: neck injuries, shoulder strain, lower back tension, knee tears, hamstring pulls, overextension of hips… After my friend made a big deal out of it, though, I began to notice. I started noticing that I do this a lot with my hands when practicing yoga, repeated throughout my sun salutations as one example. When I come into lunge, I always tent my fingers, and having not been conscious of it before, I often probably pressed down into the mat with too much force (you can see the strain in the picture). In my sun salutations now, at times I feel the pressure between my thumb and index finger causing a little pain when I tent my fingers without awareness. I can see now that if I continue to do this, over the months and years I could easily hurt myself. I’ve managed to soften the tent, with my fingertips lightly touching the ground but not pushing into it. Or at times, I just flatten my hands on the floor or place them another safe way that makes sense in the pose. I’m grateful to my friend for sharing this information with me, and I want to pass it along in case you haven’t thought about it. Small things like this really do make a difference, and part of yoga is noticing these things – and altering them if necessary, refining them, to their best end. The ultimate goal is to become very attentive, through yoga, in daily life. Beginning with not carelessly injuring yourself is a good start! Are there any small refinements you’ve made in your behavior (whether yoga practice or somewhere else) that have enhanced your life?
Yoga has enabled me to truly love myself. Daily morning meditation is a necessity for me. Here’s a mudra I learned from one of my great teachers, Shiva Rea. This is an excerpt from her book, “Tending the Heart Fire.” Wonderful for both heart and mind.
Daily rituals help us maintain an inner peace, which seems imperative to happiness in our constantly fluctuating worlds. In our personal lives and in the world, change – whether expected, intended, or surprise, and whether perceived as positive or negative – is inevitable. In the midst of confusion and difficulty, we can remain stable and steady in our inner most selves. And in happier times we can realize deeper states of joy and gratitude, simply because we are truly present. Practicing daily rituals hones this ability to be present. They can be anything from a daily outdoor walk to keeping a daily journal; a morning and/or evening meditation; reminding ourselves of things we have gratitude for and dwelling in that feeling. Yoga (and through yoga, Ayurveda) has taught me to keep daily rituals that have resulted in the best health and happiness I’ve experienced yet. I’ll share mine with you. What are yours?
* waking up around the same time every day without an alarm clock
* tongue scraping
* oil pulling with coconut oil
* 20-minute meditation
* warm lemon water
* plant-based diet and taking time to appreciate each meal
* cooking with whole foods, lots of fresh seasonal vegetables from my garden and local farms
* preparing and drinking herbal teas (sometimes from a tea bag but it’s fun to experiment with mixing herbs & spices – see the picture above!)
* taking care of my plants, in the garden and indoors
* walking outdoors
* asana practice based on my energy level – sometimes very restorative/lunar, sometimes more solar flow and challenging
* listening, loving, and appreciating my partner and whoever I’m with (animal or person!) fully – paying attention
* being attentive to natural beauty and small pleasures
* doing art or playing music (always listening to music)
* going to bed around the same time each night
So much healing happens when we share our tools and stories. I hope to hear from some of you! What are some practices that have brought you peace? Thank you for reading. Love to you all!
Good morning! Hope you are living in peace and ease during this transition into fall (if you’re located in an area where that applies right now). It’s the hardest transition for me and I’m determined this year to really take it easy, live in tune with what my body and mind are telling me, and support my health with yoga, meditation, celebratory time with friends and family, and nourishing foods, herbs, and teas. More to come on those things! For now, the other day in the herbal medicine class I’m taking we did an awesome activity that I’d like to share. We chose partners, and then shared with each other what is going on for us in that moment and in our lives in general. Then based on the themes/feelings we were working with, we created herbal teas to help fortify us and give us what we needed in that moment. Afterwards, we shared our process with the larger group, discussed our teas and why we chose the specific herbs we did, and passed around the mugs for all to try. I’d like to translate this practice into a partner yoga exercise – though you could do just the mirroring part alone and receive a lot of benefit!
So, choose one or two partners and find a nice, comfortable place to relax and talk. Outdoors is great – we did our mirroring on the farm by the lavender and tulsi – but anywhere you can be unbothered is fine. Next, take turns sharing for 3 minutes. Have someone set a timer (you don’t want to be watching the clock). Now while one person is sharing, the other is to listen completely and intently to the words and feelings without judgment. Really be present with that person, allowing them space to be open and honest. Afterwards, you will repeat (mirror) back to that person, almost verbatim if possible, what he/she has said. Try not to let you own interpretations or experience get in the way. Just listen. For the person sharing, it can take some courage. There may be things you feel slightly uncomfortable sharing, but getting them out may be exactly what is needed. Go with your heart and just let the words arise. After each person has talked about what’s going on for them, sit in silence for a few moments. Let the feelings sink in. Notice any energetic shifts that have occurred. After the silence, mirror back to the person what you heard. Then allow more silence. Once everyone has shared (again, it’s really best to do this in groups of two or three at the most), decide what will support you as a team in terms of yoga asana, meditation, mantra japa, pranayama, and then practice together, offering hands-on assists if you know them.
In order to come up with a yoga practice, you need some familiarity with different asana groups (standing poses, backbends, forward bends, for example), pranayama (ujjayi, nadi shodana, breath of fire), chanting, and meditations. If you are just starting out, there are so many references it can be overwhelming. A good place to start may be the Yoga Journal website, where they have listed many yoga poses and their anatomical benefits and therapeutic applications. There are detailed step-by-step instructions on all the poses, as well as articles on pranayama, meditation, and other aspects of yoga and a healthy lifestyle. You Tube obviously has tons of information as well – you can find videos on almost anything! Use your discretion – I’m sure there’s a lot of bad information out there as well. Feel free to ask me for other references or check out the “resources” link on this blog. There are way too many excellent books and videos out there to list here.
So if you’ve been feeling depleted and run-down, a gentle, restorative practice is best. You might just sit in a heart-centered meditation; you might use lots of props like bolsters and blankets to relax into supported forward bends and take a long shavasana. On the other hand, if you feel tired but it’s not because you’re necessarily run-down or have been ill – you just feel stagnant maybe, you can do a more active practice with sun salutations, standing poses (warrior I, II, II; triangle; standing splits) and backbends (bridge; wheel; reclining hero pose). If you feel constricted with too much contraction physically or emotionally, you might try some heart-opening poses and meditations (like the Inner Smile Meditation). Hopefully you get the picture.
As I mentioned, even just doing the mirroring part of this exercise is extremely beneficial. How often do we get the chance to honestly speak our minds and be thoroughly 100% seen and heard? How often do we listen completely to someone who is speaking with us? How often are we truly present, not thinking about our own interpretations or what we will say in response? Sharing is powerful; being validated and heard is healing. Sometimes just speaking about something aloud allows it to transform and make more sense. Being on both sides of the process is very therapeutic – and this exercise allows intense PRESENCE to arise, which is the doorway to lasting peace and one of the main goals of yoga.
I’d love to hear your feelings on this practice if you try it! Enjoy!
Thursday is traditionally associated with the color yellow and the planet Jupiter. Ayurvedic teachers recommend various practices involving these aspects on the days they’re associated with as it’s said to attune our microcosmic selves to the macrocosm of the universe*
* Rea, Shiva. 2013. Tending the Heart Fire. Sounds True Inc.: Boulder, CO. p.179