Week 6 - Learning to Meditate
Since starting Yoga Teacher Training I have been trying a new morning routine. Each morning I drink a cup of hot lemon water, do a 1-minute plank, and meditate for 5 minutes. Now, 5 minutes might not seem like a long time, but it is amazing how carving out a tiny bit of time to be still and focused can be so effective.
I am definitely a “go go go” type of person. We’ve covered several different qualities and personality tendencies in multiple areas of yoga theology throughout training, and it was always easy to pick out mine. Within the three Gunas, I definitely lean toward rajas (energy, action, change of movement), and in Ayruvedic medicine I lean toward the Vata and Pitta (which translate to movement and fire). In fact, we did an exercise with emotion, and we had to pick an emotion we loved, one we hated, and one we were indifferent to. My indifferent emotion was “relaxed.” We went on to describe what that emotion felt like in the body. I came up with “lack of movement” – hence my indifference to that state of being.
It is very hard for me to slow down or stop – and I often feel like I am not being productive if I am resting or relaxing. In fact, the majority of my life I have been in movement (from gymnastics, swimming, and diving to dancing and yoga). So I find it very hard to be still, but I am discovering more and more how important it really is.
For the last couple of years, almost without fail, as soon as I have time off or go on vacation, I get sick. And I get down-and-out sick – usually the flu or strep throat. It’s sweet that my body waits until I have that time off to let me know I need a break, but instead of a gentle nudging, I get a full-blown smack in the face.
I am trying to become more aware of this and find ways in which I can build in more balance in my daily routine. Where can I find this peace and restoration on a regular basis so I can keep up with the activity I love without burning out.
Meditation has become an important tool for this. I still find it hard sometimes, even to meditate for just 5 minutes. I think, “Ugh, I could be doing something with those 5 minutes.” I somehow have it coded in my head that stillness is laziness or unproductiveness – and that couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s funny because you actually learn a lot about this in dance too. We have a tendency to want to avoid stillness, but we are often reminded how powerful stillness can be in a performance. It’s the same in life – stillness is part of the equation for a well-rounded, balanced routine.
I am slowly getting better and more patient with my mediation, and every day is a different experience. One of the biggest things is to sit down without expectation or an agenda. Naturally my mind immediately thinks, “Oh great we are being still, let’s see what is on our to-do list.” But mediation is not about that. What I have found most helpful is to really focus on my Pranayama (breath). Not only does this make me physically feel better, but this direction of focus allows me to tap deeper into the body and my stillness. Thus, my to-do list seems to melt away.
Even a 5-minute meditation helps me feel refreshed. It almost feels like I am flushing out my mind. It’s a small reset button for the day that helps me start fresh. Whether I am feeling great, sad, horrible, stiff, or at peace, giving myself the opportunity to reset lets me take each day as it is. I find that this facilitates being present in the moment, something we so often lose by clouding it with the emotions and thoughts of what came before or what is to happen next.
If you’re interested in adding meditation into your daily practice or deepening your meditation, I recommend the “Insight Timer” app. This is a great tool which allows you to set a timer for your meditation or use a guided meditation, of which there are a zillion and of all different lengths and styles. This will also help any of you that share personality traits with me because keeping track of my meditation practice somehow helps me feel “accomplished” about being still ;). (Yes, I’m that girl with 200 active minutes on my Fitbit, but I am still obsessed with tracking it!)
So I leave you today with a little encouragement to carve out some time be still, and to quiet your mind, even if it’s only for 5 minutes. You might be amazed by what 5 minutes can do!