Yoga in Preparation For Meditation

www.hushyoga.com Through continued yoga practice our bodies become healthier, stronger and lighter vehicles for our souls. Our minds quieten as we tune to our breath. We become present as we combine breath and movement. These are all tools to prepare us for Meditation, the essence of yoga.  While I mainly teach Asana yoga, I always begin and end the class with mediation to encourage yoga students to be aware of meditation.  Try to sit and be still even for a few moments a day. Tune into your breath and allow whatever happens to happen. Little by little we quieten the “Chitta Vriti” (the chatter of the mind).  Little by little we strengthening the stillness of the mind.  In time one will find inner peace, contentment and tranquility.

“In practicing meditation, we’re not trying to live up to some kind of ideal – quite the opposite.  We’re just being with our experience, whatever it is.”
– Pema Chodron.

I came across this New York Times article.  Scientists now have evidence that meditation can improve memory, sense of self, empathy, stress and more. Enjoy the read:

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/01/28/how-meditation-may-change-the-brain/?src=me&ref=homepage

Peace,

Sinead.

Autumn Yoga

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” ~Albert Camus

Autumn, my favourite time of year, is here again.  Well, I love spring too; probably because nature is so noticeably changing at these times.  We are blessed in our beautiful country with the variety of vibrant colours  in Autumn. The colour of the sky changes to a subtle glow while the leaves are intensely rich in beauty.  It’s really a striking time.

Autumn is a preparation, a fall towards winter.  With the force of mother nature letting go of all she has grown and nurtured throughout the year, we, too, can let go of all we don’t need at this time of year.   As animals gather in preparation for their winter sleep, we, too, begin to gather and naturally begin to draw energy inward in prepartion for our short, cold days and long dark nights.

With regard to your yoga practice, hip openers are great postures to benefit the process of letting go, and focusing on the exhale can deepen the effect.  You may remember my previous blog, “Open your hips, release your emotions” where I wrote in more length about the hip opening practice.

According to both Ayurvedic and Chineese medicine, Autumn is a time that the mind can be noticeably active with fresh inspiration.  It is, therefore, vital to clear any unnecessary emotion; to release any stored tension around the upper back and neck.  For this reason, adding upper back and shoulder releasing work to our practice is often necessary.  It will keep energy flowing from your body to mind, and vice verse.

This will help to open the pathway to allow your creativity to flow naturally.  It makes sense to me that Autumn is the time to allow new ideas to surface, with Winter being a time to ponder, allowing what has appeared to sit within, before the coming of Spring allows you to plant the seeds of creativity that have passed the test of hibernation.

However, because the mind can be so active at this time of year, it is time for the “A-type” personality, often characterized by a highly stressed or anxious state, to pay particular care.  To help counterbalance the dangerous effects of these feelings, it is important to do plenty of grounding yoga postures, such as forward bends and, once again, hip openers.  If you can manage a headstand safely, include it on days when you feel it is possible.  This will bring your mind as close to the earth as it can possibly be!

Sitting in mediation for at least 20 minutes a day is highly recommended, but any length of time is better than none!  Sit and observe the natural flow of breath.  Don’t make demands from the mind. Let it think, let it do what it needs to do.  On noticing your mind has wondered to your thoughts, simply observe.  Then gently bring your mind back to your breath, without any judgment.  Be aware of the breath, and focus fully on how it enters and exits the body.

My last advice for the moment is for all us “urban dwellers” to get out of the city from time to time.  Walk in nature, being mindful of the stunning change of season.  Allow the vibrant colours to be absorbed by your body and mind.  Feel the fresh, country air, and try to be fully present in this glory.  Then nature will support you in return, as you will have supported her by simply noticing her beauty.

Om Peace, Peace, Peace.

Sinead

Serving for the Silent on Vipassana

Serving for the Silent on Vipassana

I sat my first Vipassana meditation retreat last winter and got so much out of it that I decided I wanted to give something back. So two weeks ago I took time off to serve on Vipassana retreat centre in the southwest of Ireland.   The organisation is often looking for servers. And once you have sat at least one 10 day retreat you can be taken on to work as a server.

Working on Vipassana naturally was entirely different to the silent retreat.  For one you don’t have to take the silent vow, it would be impossible to work and not speak as communication is absolutely necessary when working in a group.

When serving one still gets to sit up to 5 hours of meditation a day, 3 of which are compulsory.  Because of the nature of working and doing meditation I found this experience to be really valuable as it is more comparable to my daily life than being silent and expected to meditate up to 12 hours a day as one does when “sitting”.  “Sitting” is the term used on vipassana when taking the silent vow.

The experience working in the kitchen was so fantastic.  I can tell you it was a far cry from “hells kitchen”.  Everyone was super chilled out, easy going and all working with the determination to serve all on the retreat as best we could.  As all servers had sat at least one 10 day retreat, (most people working in the kitchen had sat three full retreats), we were fully aware of how important meal times are.  It is the one and only thing that you have to look forward to when on the silent retreat.   (Well bar Goenka’s chant when one hears it play in the meditation hall, notifying the hour sit of serious practice had come to an end!!)

The dynamic in the kitchen was a lot more fun and interesting than I had expected.  The energy altered between having a bit of a laugh to philosophical chat.  Everyone sharing their experience on Vipassana with me at one stage or another.  I was relieved to know that everyone found the 10 day retreat as difficult as I did yet everyone got as much as I did, if not more out of the practice.  The general consensus is that you can literally feel layers of old samskaras (past pain, sufferings, cravings) have fallen away after doing this practice, you notice habit patterns of the mind subtly change and you become more fulfilled with life.

With regard to the meditation, sitting was definitely not as challenging as it can be on the full retreat.  The 10 day retreat is intense on the body and the mind, thankfully when meditating for only a few hours a day I found it physically & mentally less intense. I loved being in silence for 10 days, being left with only me and my thoughts so I could really observe what is going on within my mind and emotions.  Yet I found serving and meditating equally as powerful in a very different way.  I came back absolutely buzzing with energy.  The day after I arrived home I felt I had six cups of coffee when I hadn’t even had one.  A week later I still have lots of energy while feeling clear and calm.  I notice my senses are much sharper.  I am really aware of this while on the yoga mat.  My body feels so good while moving from pose to pose, being fully present in each moment, each poise, and each movement.

I’m practicing vipassana every morning and some evenings.  This practice has being incredibly beneficial to me.  I highly recommend it.  Until you experience it for yourself you will not know what you are missing out on.  Yes it is a challenge, a commitment and you have to work at it but the rewards are invaluable. So please, bear it in mind.  Maybe someday you will be ready for the very rewarding challenge.

Coming up soon a list of benefits from practicing Vipassana.

Om Peace, Om Love,

Sinead.