To retreat is to disconnect from the everyday routine.Read More
By Jacquie Stephens, E-RYT200
Beginning a Meditation practice can be daunting, which is a commentary on our society … that slowing down and being in the present moment is something that we crave yet it makes us nervous to try!
The basic principles of meditation are relaxation and breathing. If you can find a few minutes each morning and evening to practice, you will begin to feel the benefits of meditation very quickly; a few minutes a day can make a difference. Personally, it took me 15ish years of practicing yoga to achieve a consistent meditation practice. Meditation has lowered my reactiveness, helps me deal with chronic pain, even can help me dissolve a headache or stomachache. When I meditate I find that I am healthier, calmer and happier.
Benefits of Meditation: The benefits of meditation are well documented. Some of the earliest records of meditation date back 1500 years BCE and many religions, including Buddhism and Judaism, have records of meditation practice going back nearly as far. For instance – and I’m oversimplifying - in the Torah, Isaac (the patriarch) is described as going “lasuach” in the field. “Lasuach” is a term understood as a meditative practice (Book of Genesis 24:63). Ancient texts teach us that there has always been a central meditative tradition in Judaism.
Other forms of meditation evolved as non-religious variations of yoga traditions, such as the system of Transcendental Meditation, which became popular in the 1960’s. Instead of focusing on spiritual growth, secular meditation emphasizes stress reduction, relaxation and self-improvement.
The effects of breathing your way into meditation are grounding. Learning to use your breath to naturally calm yourself centers you for meditation and relieves many symptoms of stress.
Stress reduction, better focus, better sleep, anxiety relief, enhanced self-awareness, assistance with age-related memory loss, promoting feelings of kindness, assistance with addiction recovery, pain control, blood pressure regulation are just some of the benefits of meditation.
Let’s briefly talk about some of the benefits and why meditation helps:
Stress reduction: Mental and physical stress can cause increased levels of cortisol, which is a stress hormone. Cortisol will cause many of the harmful effects of stress, including the release the inflammation-promoting chemicals called cytokines, causing disruption of sleep, depression and anxiety, raising blood pressure and causing your thinking to become slow and sludgy. Meditation may also improve symptoms of stress-related conditions such as irritable bowel and fibromyalgia.
Anxiety Reduction: Less stress often means less anxiety. A regular meditation practice will help maintain lower anxiety over the long term. Meditation can also positively affect job-related anxiety. Since social anxiety, phobias and OCD can be symptoms of stress and general anxiety, meditation may help relieve those symptoms too.
Increased Focus and Memory: Meditation is training for your attention span, increasing the strength and endurance of your attention, much as physical exercise does for your body. Meditation may help you stay focused longer and remember details better. It is even suggested that meditation may reverse patterns in the brain that contribute to monkey-mind, worrying and poor attention. Improvements in attention and clarity of thinking may help keep your mind young, as mantra meditation has been shown to improve memory, attention and mental fitness in older meditators.
Improves Sleep: Will it surprise you to know that nearly half of American adults struggle with insomnia at some time? Meditation helps you control or redirect monkey-mind that can lead to trouble falling asleep. Additionally, meditation can relax the body, release tension and place you in a peaceful state where you are more apt to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Pain Control: A consistent meditation practice is found to decrease complaints of chronic or intermittent pain. Your perception of pain is effected by your state of mind. The quieter your mind the more likely you are to be able to “control” your pain.
There are many reasons to try meditation. Slowing down and being present brings many benefits. Here are tips when starting or freshening up a meditation practice:
Keep track of your practice: when you meditate, how long, guided or on your own, whatever details are helpful. You can use an app or keep a journal.
Meditation Apps: My personal favorite is Insight Timer, and there are many others. The apps have timers and keep track of your practice, they have guided meditations of many varieties and lengths with different teachers. Some of the apps also have talks and classes.
Try to Meditate at about the same time every day. You can meditate pretty much anywhere you can sit still, so try different places from time to time.
Try to do breathing exercises before Meditation
Be comfortable, but not so comfortable you get sleepy. You can lie down, sit or be in a restorative pose.
There is so much information available about Meditation, it is easy to become overwhelmed. We are blessed at Simply Yoga to have teachers with remarkable meditation training and backgrounds. Mindy’s path to yoga came through Transcendental Meditation. Prema recently spent four months at an intensive Yoga, Meditation and Mysticism Training in Guatemala. Julie recently completed her 200-hour training in Yoga Nidra in India. Many of us share an interest in meditation and a passion for sharing it with the community. Simply Yoga has so many offerings that help you find or keep to your meditative path:
On a weekly basis, Julie Murphy teaches Stretch, Breathe, Yoga Nidra on Thursday afternoons from 4-5:15
Monthly, Julie Murphy offers a Yoga Nidra Guided Meditation
Prema teaches Yin & Meditation on Mondays at 9 a.m. and Tuesdays at 6 p.m. Prema is a frequent workshop presenter and collaborator, please check our schedule to stay updated.
Jerry Leeman teaches Meditation & Restorative Yoga on Wednesdays at 6 p.m. as well as Movement, Music & Meditation on Monday at 7:30 p.m.
Many of our classes include a meditative component, including our Yin, Restorative for Deep Peace and Restorative offerings.
Anya Castellano is offering her Crystal Singing Bowls & Meditation class the last Sunday of each month from 6 to 7:15 p.m.
I am presenting a workshop on Menopause & Yoga on December 1, 2018 from 1-4 p.m. Meditation is a very important tool for peri-menopause and post-menopause and will be included.
Julie and Prema are co-teaching Yoga Nidra, Crystals & Kirtan on December 2, 2018 from 3 to 5 p.m.
All classes and workshops are at Simply Yoga and you can pre-register at our website http://www.simplyyogadelray.com/workshops-events. Some workshops and special classes offer a discount for pre-registration.
Given our hectic lifestyles and the amount of stress many of us feel daily, a mediation practice only makes sense to keep your mind and body healthy. With so many offerings, Simply Yoga makes it easy to meditate.
Remember, the quieter you become, the more you will hear.
By Jacquie Stephens, E-RYT200
Sometimes we need to look to those we love and admire in order to realize what we value about life. We can take time to note what we like about others, and then turn the mirror to reflect the Light of those same words and feelings toward ourselves. It can be quite a revelation to see ourselves in this nourishing Light. When we can put the energy that we’ve been devoting to a phantom sense of achievement into the truly satisfying aspects of our lives, we can restore the balance between our inner and outer worlds and experience true joyful Peace.
We would Love for you to share your thoughts with us!
"The use of Positive Affirmations takes time, as you are creating new neural pathways in your brain. Come to this practice with gentle and loving energy."
At Simply Yoga we use Affirmations, Meditation & Practice to guide us each and everyday towards Peace, Lovingkindness & Compassion !
"1. I am a Channel of Peace and Well-being – my need for Peace is abundantly met.
2. I accept, appreciate and love myself. Unconditionally.
3. I feel Grateful for all of the Abundance that flows into my Life.
4. I experience a sense of Peace and Love with every Breath I take.
5. I radiate Peace and Love to others, helping them to be in a state of Peace and Love..
6. I am an Island of Calm, in a Sea of Uncertainty.
7. All is well. Right here. Right now.
8. I can release my past and live with Calm and Serenity.
9. I am aware of all the Beauty that is around Me.
10. I let go of Fear and Embrace Love.
11. I connect with the comforting Silence of my Soul."
I always enjoy whatever class I take at Simply Yoga, and I am grateful for that. But every so often there is a teacher and class that not only make my body happy, but my spirit and soul, as well. After a very stressful and challenging week-end, I came to Christina’s Tuesday 8/23/16 Yin Class to find a sweet and quiet spot for me.
The music was wonderful…a soundtrack to accompany my busy mind until it was busy no longer. A quiet, candle-lit room to soothe my eyes that had seen Hospital glare and a few tears over the past 3 days. A beautiful, caring voice that “allowed the inhalation to find you”…what a poetic and compassionate way to coach one’s breath!
I felt wonderful connection with teacher and fellow students, and by the end of the stretching, easing, holding and breathing, I was renewed and enriched.
I don’t know how you attract these inspired and wonderful teachers, Mindy, but I thank the gods and energy that brings them to Simply Yoga.
Once again my heart overflows and my gratitude exceeds all bounds.
Thank you for your friendship and the beautiful sacred space that is Simply Yoga.
Now that I've had several months to reflect on my experience of the Teacher Training program at the Simply Yoga School of Hatha Yoga, I feel better able to put into words the effect that this experience has had on me, both as a practitioner of yoga, and as a person. First, the personal aspect of the training program: I believe that, for me, the overall top quality that I took away from the 6-month program was a sense of quiet confidence in my knowledge and ability to learn and grow as a yoga teacher. I had recently retired from a successful 35-year career as a managing litigation attorney in a state Attorney General's office, and I did not lack confidence in my abilities to speak in front of an audience, to learn new and complex concepts, or to interact with students and peers. (I had also taught as an adjunct professor for 6 years at 2 law schools). But those work-honed skills were from another life, and I found myself with an immense dearth of confidence in my ability to learn and more importantly, to retain and to eventually teach, the asanas, the sequencing, and the principles of yogic history and philosophy which are at the heart of the science and art of yoga, and are so thoroughly covered in the TT program at SY.
Much of the material that was introduced in the first couple of months was vaguely familiar to me from my 9-year practice of various styles of yoga, but, and it's a big BUT, the depth of knowledge of the two lead instructors was awe-inspiring, and more than a little scary to me.
Let me emphasize that the emotional turmoil I felt at this time was in no way due to any interaction with any of the teachers, or with anything that happened at the school - it was entirely on me, from that little negative voice in my head that just got louder and louder.
"How am I ever going to live up to their level of knowledge and grace? What am I doing here anyway? What made me think that I could be a yoga teacher?" These and similar questions dogged me for the first two months, sapping my energy and confidence.
I was overwhelmed. I decided to drop out. Then, due to the persistence of Mindy and the two lead teachers, I was guided back, gently and slowly. I didn't have to take the program for credit, they said, just come and listen and watch. I didn't have to participate. I could be there, like taking an audit in a college class. What a gift!
The little negative voice in my head shut down, because there was nothing for it to criticize. I came back gradually, and the teachers could not have been more helpful, discreet, and accommodating. It took me longer to finish the program, but finish it, I did, and proudly.
On a purely personal note, my friends and family have noticed that I am so calm and relaxed, or 'serene' as my sister said. I have found that I am really ready to share some of the wonderful spirit and the gifts of practice that I have learned in the TT program. The confidence instilled in me is reinforced each time I "take" a yoga class at the local gym, the YMCA, and even at private studios here in Maryland where I live in the summer. Nothing and no one can prepare you better to be a teacher, in my opinion, than the program at SY.
On the topic of improvement/growth in my personal practice, both have been tremendously improved by the TT program. I took advantage of the included studio classes at SY, and tried different styles of yoga and new teachers at every opportunity. Even though I came to the program with a solid 9-year background of practice in styles including Kundalini, vinyasa, restorative, yin, and hatha, I was astounded to have my eyes opened so wide to the unique gifts offered by each individual teacher at SY, only because I was able to watch, listen, participate, and learn in the studio classes. I think that this 'bonus' feature of the SY program is arguably its most important. You can learn so very much by having that 'teacher training eye' in class, and you are learning by example every single day. If you are a teacher trainee student, or considering becoming one, I urge you to take as many classes as you can stuff into your schedule during the training time. I found that these classes were an invaluable part of the learning that I experienced during the program.
Maybe I will have the pleasure of meeting you one day at Simply Yoga. I hope so, and I hope that you will be pleased with your growth at the end of the TT program. It is an experience like no other, and so very worth every bit of effort you put into it!
"Authentic success is having time enough to pursue personal pursuits that bring you pleasure, time enough to make the loving gestures for your family you long to do, time enough to care for your home, tend your garden, nurture your soul. Authentic success is never having to tell yourself, or those you love, “maybe next year.” Authentic success is knowing that if today were your last day on earth, you could leave without regret. Authentic success is feeling focused and serene when you work, not fragmented. It’s knowing that you’ve done the best you possibly can, no matter what the circumstances you faced; it’s knowing in your soul that the best you can do is all you can do, and that the best you can do is always enough.
Authentic success is knowing how simply abundant your life is exactly as it is today. Authentic success is being grateful for the many blessings bestowed on you and yours that you can share your portion with others. Authentic success is living each day with a heart overflowing. Authentic success is feeling good about who you are, appreciating where you’ve been, celebrating your achievements , and honoring the distance you’ve already come.
Authentic success is reaching the point where being is as important as doing. It’s the steady pursuit of a dream. It’s realizing that no matter how much time it takes for a dream to come true in the physical world, no day is ever wasted. It’s valuing inner, as well as outer, labor- both your own and others’. It’s elevating labor to a craft and craft to an art by bestowing Love on every task you undertake." SW
It is when you are willing to listen to yourself and be fearless that figuring out your next step becomes easy. Beneath the fear and hesitation and uncertainty lies your inner knowing that always knows which step you need to take next. If you can allow the taking of your next step to be as easy as putting one foot in front of the next, youll notice that your next step is always the one that is right in front of you. All you have to do is put one foot forward and on the ground. SW
Where will your next step lead you?
Every so often I take a class at SY that resonates or grabs me…and often for different reasons. Today, 10/24, I had the opportunity to take a Hatha class with Kat teaching. She was “subbing” for another wonderful teacher, Jill, and I knew with either of these accomplished guides, my journey would be lovely.
Both of these instructors have vocal power on their side; each has a very distinctive and commanding voice that bridges the direction-giving and soothing, encouraging aspects of a successful Yoga teacher.
Kat uses words in a way that conjures up spiritual and ethereal sensibilities. When she speaks of “Taking Grace” during a Sun Salutation, I feel exactly what that means, and where it comes from. The language of Savasana, the releasing, and yet finding that goes along with this sacred asana was enhanced by her expression of “Sanctuary” and “coming home”. Sanctuary is a safe place, and a holy place. In both a religious and social way, it is a refuge, and often considered “holy”. Whether a Bird Sanctuary, or a SafeHouse for children, it IS a place where one is free from harm…the Ahimsa, of Sanskrit.
I enjoy so many of the offerings one finds at SY, and to continue to discover new points of awareness and appreciation just makes me happier that this is a Yoga Home that is also a Sanctuary. Sheri W.
The deep, rich philosophy behind our Yoga practice holds at its heart center Sanskrit, the powerful, energetic, vibrational language by which that philosophy lives, breathes, and flows. Pronouncing Sanskrit correctly can be quite challenging, but it is of utmost importance. Sanskrit, which means “refined,” is purely phonetic, and thus sound is its most significant element. The Sanskrit alphabet consists of fifty letters and the addition of vowels and consonants with diacritical marks or symbols placed over them to distinguish their rich, diverse sounds. Equally important is that most Sanskrit “words” are not words in the true sense of the English language. In fact, much of the Sanskrit we use in our Yoga practice translates to multi-word terms or meaningful phrases for which there is no equivalent in English. This post will focus on one of the most widely used and meaningful phrases in our Yoga practice, Namastē. Namastē or namaskāra is a common greeting in India. Upon meeting, the hands come together in prayer-like devotion at the heart’s center, a gesture known as anjali mudra, and the sound namastē is exchanged and accompanied by a slight bow. Similar to the English “hello,” namastē is used when acknowledging a person whom you wish to engage in conversation, either in person or when answering the telephone. Namastē is not a word in the English sense of the term, but rather a meaningful phrase with deep, spiritual roots. In Yoga, when namastē is uttered at the end of practice, it is taken to mean “the light in me honors the light in you,” or “the life force, the self, the divinity, or the God in me is the same in all, we are all one.” In Sanskrit, namastē derives from namaskāra which originates from namaha, meaning “paying obeisance.” The belief that within each human being there resides a divine spirit or supreme God pervades the philosophy of Yoga. It is the belief in soul (ātmā) that forms the foundation on which is built the long-standing meaning of namastē, which holds that when two souls meet, each soul is compelled to acknowledge or pay obeisance to the other. The significance of namastē is not lost on its companion namaskāra, and in fact gives greater meaning to Surya Namaskara, the sequence of poses (asanas) most commonly referred to as Sun Salutation. When the true meaning of namaskāra is applied to the sequence, one no longer merely “salutes” or “greets” the Sun, but rather humbly and honorably acknowledges the soul that brings forth the light of the Sun, as in “the light in me honors the light in you, Sun, for we are one light, the same.” Namastē
From Sheri Weiner:
In order to feel more at home in the present moment, it is important to try to stay aware, open, and receptive. Being in the present moment requires our full attention so that we are fully awake to experience it. When we are fully present, our minds do not wander. We are focused on what is going on right now, rather than thinking about what just happened or worrying about what is going to happen next. Being present lets us experience each moment in our lives in a way that cannot be fully lived through memory or fantasy.
How do you experience The Present Moment?
by Yoga Bodhi Bliss
Leading a yoga class Monday night, I had the students performing standing side-moon pose (parsva chandrasana). I invited, “On your next inhalation elevate your arms slightly higher, and on your exhalation lengthen from your waist and release into a deeper side bend.” One student in particular held my gaze. He took a breath and raised his arms strong and deliberate, and as he exhaled he extended through his torso and relaxed deeply into the pose with purpose, his face radiating triumph. I was touched by his proud, pleased expression and smiling eyes. It was the look of achievement. While it was apparent to me that he could have accomplished this all along, on his own and without my instruction, I was immediately struck by the realization that a teacher wields enormous power over her/his willing students. Teachers have the power to lead willing students toward accomplishments they would otherwise not undertake by their own volition. A teacher’s power is natural and great.
I love the notion that everyone is our teacher and that we learn when our hearts and minds are open to receive the knowledge being presented (gifted) to us. Why is everyone our teacher? Because we are perpetual students by nature, driven by curiosity and an innate need to understand the world and our place in it. We are students and we are also teachers, driven by our need to create, collaborate and contribute.
In my role as his yoga teacher Monday night he, my student, followed my direction and, without hesitation, took a breath and moved mindfully in the direction I asked him to, accomplishing something new to him, something he would not have done on his own. I was part of his success, both as his teacher and as his student. In that brief, fleeting moment he didn’t question me or himself, and neither did I.
What if we realized that we were our own best teacher? What if during each and every moment of the day we lead ourselves, our practice, in a deeper, more thoughtful and faithful direction? What if I taught myself, as my student, that I could accomplish anything and everything I wanted to do? And what if I listened?
From Sheri Weiner:
As we practice our asanas, we often find the natural or default position of our faces reflect effort, concentration or meditative relaxed countenances.The beauty of the SMILE is that it, too, can become the “default” expression, especially during longer meditations. At times we are encouraged to smile, and by willing it, we make it so, naturally.
Even off the mat we can have more influence on the face we put out to the world. We already know that beauty truly comes from within; but interestingly, by thinking about a smile during our mindfulness, we can express and even create the very happiness a smile represents.
A 19th century Frenchman, G.B.Duchenne de Boulogne worked with and theorized about facial expressions as part of his in-depth research. He was the first to observe that a spontaneously joyful smile cannot be faked. Most people can lift the corners of the mouth, but AUTHENTIC JOY lives in the eyes! Only the “sweet emotions of the soul” can cause the lower eyelids to move the skin around the eyes inward, thereby allowing the eyes to seem to sparkle.
Just another amazing benefit we receive from a Yoga practice dedicated to making our lives, and of those around us ever better, happier and more at peace.
If you find this to be true, please share your thoughts & comments!
"Often, during the day, our eyes become unfocused and our vision blurs. This can happen when we're "checked out" or when our eyes are tired from staring at a computer screen all day long. We may also keep our vision soft in order to avoid invading the personal space of others.
"In yoga, however, we learn to focus our eyes with precision. Instead of allowing the eyes to be soft, we direct our gaze purposefully. Our gaze (called drishti in Sanskrit) can help us direct the energy of a pose, helping us stay mentally clear. The gaze also has other benefits. In twists, using your gaze can help you turn further. In balances, setting your gaze can keep you upright.
The next time you're in class, notice how you use your eyes. Are you sharp and precise in your focus, or do your eyes seem to wander? See if focusing your eyes more carefully can also focus your mind." YJ