I’ve been practicing yoga regularly for two and a half years. The physical benefits alone are worth the time and effort: it helps me be flexible, balanced, and strong. The Wii Fit says my age is four years younger than my real age, mostly because my balance and center of gravity are so good. That makes me all the more able to do the things I love, like bike, hike, and dance.
But it’s the other benefits, the ones that don’t have a lot to do with my physical body, that have changed my life.
- I can breathe through any kind of pain: emotional, spiritual, or physical. Ujjayi breathing is a controlled way to take air in and let it out that allows the practitioner to keep life force moving through the body instead of escaping from it during difficult yoga poses. I can’t count the number of times I’ve used ujjayi breath to move through tough confrontations and emotional distress.
- I am capable of doing things I never before would have imagined. Every time I experience a new pose, or refine one based on an instructor’s suggestion and feel my body as if it’s completely new to me, I am filled with wonder and awe. How did I do that? I trusted that I could. I stopped being afraid and moved into the world of possibility.
- It is possible to stop time. I ceased buying into the concept of linear time more than a year ago, when I realized that each moment is its own infinity. Yoga practice encourages me to be fully present in every moment, letting go of all past and future moments. It’s a freedom like no other.
These life lessons have let me feel contentedness, joy, love, and compassion to an extent I never have before. And I know that I’ll keep learning, keep growing, keep discovering. Yoga has become a way of life, and I am grateful for its lessons.
It can be tough to start or maintain a meditation practice. Maybe it’s difficult to find a quiet space or more than a few minutes where you can sit or lie down to focus. It’s possible that the discomfort of looking at your thoughts or your inability to let them go without judging yourself harshly gets in the way. There are myriad reasons why meditation doesn’t make it to the top of the to-do list.
Even with lots of practice and a deep understanding of the benefits of meditation, I laugh at myself when I find I’m not doing it every day. But when I reflect on it a bit more, I know that in fact, I’m practicing a series of mini-meditations as I move throughout my day. Going through even one of these exercises a week will help you access the benefits of meditation: calm mind, calm body, calm heart, and feelings of serenity, joy, and gratitude.
- When I wake in the morning, I take two to ten minutes before I get up and simply lie in bed. During that time, I don’t go through my to-do list in my mind or think about anything other than how sweet life is. Call it a practice of gratitude, or counting blessings.
- To create calm mind and calm heart, I notice my breathing. Intentionally taking long breaths in for a count of four, holding them for a count of two, and exhaling long breaths out for a count of four helps to slow the heart rate and brings with it a peaceful feeling.
- If I’m feeling emotionally highjacked by someone or something, I stop, close my eyes, and gather all of the energy that’s residing in my space that belongs to someone else. I let it effortlessly go into a rose or other symbol that’s outside my aura layers, then explode that symbol so the energy can go back to its rightful owners.
- If I’m feeling floaty or like I’m not being in my physical body, I connect my root chakra energy (at the base of the spine) to an energetic grounding cord that goes deep into the center of the earth. Sometimes that cord looks like a tree trunk, sometimes a column of white light, sometimes a green vine. That instantly brings me back to my body and allows me to reconnect with the present moment.
- If I’m feeling unsafe or I just want to protect something, such as a car I’m in or the bike I’m riding, I put a big energetic bubble around me and the object. Then I attach it to a grounding cord (see above).
There are many more mini-meditations and energy exercises I do throughout the day as circumstances call for it. Add yours in the comments below–I would love to hear them!