As the Active Mama’s yoga instructor, one of my jobs is to help people meditate. Usually I lead a short meditation at the end of the yoga class, after the muscles have worked and stretched. Under these circumstances, meditation is relatively easy; all you have to do is close your eyes and let your body melt into the floor. The body instinctively relaxes and allows the mind to do likewise.
As an every day practice, however, it’s a little more challenging. Most of us suffer from some form of “monkey mind,” where thoughts jump from place to place, unable to stay anywhere and therefore unable to produce any real, well, thought. This is one of the hallmarks of anxiety, and the faster the monkey jumps, the more anxious one feels. Meditation, or practicing mindfulness, teaches people to clear their minds of all thoughts and thus induce a state of relaxation. Release all thoughts, the theory goes, and you exist exclusively in the here and now.
Easier said than done.
There are many, many techniques to tame the monkey. The point of all of these techniques is to occupy the mind on something abstract and allow it to settle. No matter how I feel at the beginning of these exercises, I almost always feel calmer, more relaxed, and more in control by the end. Here is a sample:
- Take ten slow, deep breaths and count backwards with exhale. If you have a little more time, start at 30.
- Picture a shape or color with you “mind’s eye.” try to hold that image, or watch as it changes form.
- Think of a word or phrase (mantra) either silently or out loud. It can either have meaning to you or be non-word syllable. Repeat the word or phrase for the duration.
- Observe your thoughts as they occur to you, but try to withdraw any feeling or judgement from those thoughts.
Whichever technique you choose, start with 5 minutes in a quiet, dark place. Set a timer so you won’t have to interrupt yourself to check your clock. Just relax and give it a try. Don’t worry if you have trouble; it takes practice. After a few days, try 6 minutes, then slowly build up to 20 or 30. If you want something more organized, you can try the group meditation every Wednesday at 7pm at the Georgia Meditation Center on Tilly Mill Rd.
Now that you’re a pro at meditating, it’s time to introduce a new challenge: meditating with your kids. More on that another time.
For information about meditation’s history, cultural relevance, etc., see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meditation.
Judith is our Active Mama’s Munchie Maven and Yoga Maven. That means she teaches Active Mama’s Cooking Basics Chef classes, and is also our instructor for Active Mama’s Mommy Yoga with Judith.
Judith is refreshingly laid back, exceptional at what she does, and is the able mother of 3 beautiful children.
Judith comes well-accredited. She earned her Masters of Public Health and her passion is helping people find ways to make their lives healthier.
If you have questions for Judith she can be messaged through http://www.meetup.com/Active-Mamas