Meditation for Changing Your Thought Patterns

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Our minds are constantly going — the chatting never seems to take a breath. Often, this continuous garble will say things to ourselves that we aren’t even consciously recognizing. A thought comes in, it gets stored, and we never have time to consider if that was something we truly meant or wanted to be thinking. This pattern of the subconscious mind leaves us high and dry in a moment of crisis because now our unwarranted thoughts have free range to say things like: “You’re not good enough.”, “You are not worthy.”, “You deserve what is happening to you.”, and so on. We all have this pattern due to a lack of mental hygiene. So for today, I offer you a way to sift through your mind and give it a little pre-spring cleaning.

If you’re anything like me, you may find when you come to sit in meditation, your mind immediately wants to speak louder. This is why many yogis practice asana first — to tire out the mind. So this meditation can be approach in a variety of ways: 1) perform an asana practice, the physical meditation I am about to describe, and then sit quietly for silent meditation, 2) skip the asana, dive straight into the physical meditation, and then go into quiet mediation, 3) dive right into quiet mediation, mentally going through the physical mediation.

PHYSICAL MEDITATION 

What you need:

  • A piece of paper
  • Colored pens or pencils (optional)
  • Scissors
  • Lighter

Begin by taking your piece of paper and writing down the negative thoughts you find yourself thinking when you come to sit an meditate or feel in your day to day life. Begin to cut them into long strips. Take a moment to sit with what you have written. Perhaps examine how truly and deeply you feel that way about yourself and a moment that made you feel that way.

Now, take those same strips and on the other end of the paper, write the inverse of your statement. An example would be that if you wrote, I am not good enough, change it to I am good enough. Beautiful. Take a moment for that to sink in. Ponder the possibly that this is very true and what is on the other side of the paper is false. Take a moment to think of times where you felt this way. Notice the shift in your brain and body. How do you feel?

The purpose of this meditation is to consciously sift through your thoughts. Now, look at these pieces of paper and actively choose which ones you want to be thinking, what you want to take as true. Cut the paper in half, dividing the two thoughts. Take the thoughts you choose to discard and place them in a container or outside where it is safe to burn. Symbolically, you are consciously making a choice of what you wish to think and what you choose to let go. LET GO. Take those negative thoughts and release them, with love and kindness, for they are teachers, too.

With the remaining strips, the ones you are CHOOSING to think, sit with them in a comfortable, cross-legged position. Close your eyes and hold these affirmations as truth. Begin to place these truths in your heart. Sit here for at least 5-10 minutes. And just feel what it is like to know you are these things, you are worth these things, and the only one who can choose to make you feel this way is you.

❤ Namaste

Please feel free to leave a comment bellow, leave feedback, and tell me what you think!

Happy Valentine’s Day

Thoughts on Meditation For Beginners

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Meditation can be incredibly intimidating for the ruminating or monkey-mind, as I call it. For me, I often find a lot of self-judgement around meditation: “Am I doing it right? When was the last time I had a thought? Am I still thinking? Om Namah Shivaya… why can’t I stop thinking?”

And that, right there, is the ultimate fallacy. The goal of meditation is not to “stop thinking”. It is about awareness. Taking time to truly notice the breath, to feel the weight of your clothes, and the sensation of them touching your skin. To become aware, but not attached, to the mind as it wanders through the vast hallways of your life.

This is easier said than done, but that is why we call it a practice. I can guarantee that every great yogi has had to work towards gaining peace in their mind, that the constant chattering did not merely stop because they decided to sit crosslegged, in silence, for an extended period of time. It stopped because they chose to make a habit of meditation.

What is truly phenomenal is that just the action of becoming still, of listening to the mind chatter, of noticing the emotions, as well as physical distresses of the body, actually has striking effects on your overall health and wellbeing.

In fact, the University of Wisconsin, among many others have proven that meditation alters gene expression. Changing the bodies response to fight or flight by giving an additional reaction: action. The Yoga Sutras discuss this. They say that eventually the dedicated yogi will reach a point where they no longer react to situations, but rather respond situations with clarity and diligence. With consistent practice, it also begins to turn off genes related to cancer, alzheimer, and obesity as it begins to turn on genes that promote mental clarity, longevity, and overall wellbeing.

So here are some tricks you can bring into your meditation practice to get the ball rolling. Remember, you are just noticing what is happening around you. Resist the need to judge or label the mind as it being to string thoughts along throughout your practice.

Breathing — Using Uijayi breathe (the breath of victory) begin to place your awareness solely on the breath. Listen to breath as it moves in and out of the body. As the mind wavers, take it back to it’s basic.

Chanting — Often finding a chant can be very helpful. Whether it is an intention, a prayer, spoken out loud, in silence, in your native tongue, or in sanskrit; it doesn’t matter. Having a chant can be very powerful because it allows the mind to focus on a simple phrase. This can help to bring about joy in the heart and turn the volume down on the monkey-mind.

Listening to a tape — Sometimes it can be helpful to listen to a meditation tape. This way you have something to listen to when the mind starts to wander. This will also help you focus on intention and can bring new elements into awareness.

Set a timer — Another huge fallacy around meditation is that is has to be for a long period of time. Even though meditation is most beneficial when practiced on average for 27 minutes a day, that’s not realistic for some people. So you do what you can. Sitting for even 5 or 10 minutes can make a world of a difference. So set a timer, let go of the need to look at a clock, and take a moment to be still.

Find ways to bring it into daily life — The truest and most evident benefit of meditation is finding ways to take in off the mat and into daily life. As you delve into your mediation practice, notice how your tolerance or patience begins to change. Or choose to actively incorporate the meditative mind into simple tasks such as getting cut off in traffic, waiting in a long line in a grocery store, or having that uncomfortable conversation. That state of being is what will serve you the most. It can be a compass in your life to point you in the direction of where you need to be and the path of least resistance to get there.

You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day, unless you’re too busy; then you should mediate for an hour.” ~ Old Zen Saying

Pose of the Week: Peaceful Warrior

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Peaceful Warrior

SHANTI VIRABHADRASANA

“There is no path to happiness. Happiness is the path. There is no path to love. Love is the path. There is no path to peace. Peace is the path.”

~Dan Millman

After the incredible amount of violence this week, it only seems fitting that the pose of the week would be peaceful warrior. I love that traditional yoga often centers around the warrior postures. It reminds us, we do not need vengeance to be strong. We do not need to inflict pain upon another to be triumphant. It reminds us that we do not count our victories as the number of wars have defeated on the battle field, but rather the amount of wars we have overcome within ourselves.

My heart goes out to those suffering right now at the hand of another. I feel so removed from that reality, I can only say this: The war stops externally, when the war stops internally. Peace is a choice. And it is possible. Do not lose faith. Do not lose your smile to grief. Draw inward and we will be triumphant. ❤

om shanti om shanti om shanti om.

Benefits of the Pose:

  • Strengthens the Legs
  • Stretches abdominal muscles and engages core
  • Stretches and supports the lungs
  • Opens Chest & Shoulder
  • Opens Heart

Asana Break Down:

Come into Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II), check your alignment with the front ankle. Make sure it is in alignment with the arch of the back foot. The back foot should be flat at a 45 degree angle. Bend deeply into the front knee. Make sure your front knee does not go past the front ankle. Draw the thighs together, squaring the hips, as if they were being pressed between two panes of glass. Arms should come out directly from the shoulder blades. Turn the hands towards the sky and bend backwards. Back and highly presses into the back leg. Most of the strength is being drawn from the core; the weight is not on the back knee. Open the chest and the heart lifts and spreads. Front arm comes over head, gaze comes towards the sky or the thumb.

 

Above, I have a chant you can say out loud or silently to yourself, either in this posture or sitting quietly. Om shanti translates into “om” the divine universe and “shanti” translates to peace, as a phrase it means may the divine creator, energy, and wisdom grant eternal peace to all things.

Yoga for PMS

Here’s one for the ladies! ❤ We’ve all been there. They are so so painful! here is a sequence to help relieve some of your period pains.

For more information on things you can do to get rid of/relieve menses pains, recipes, and more follow the link here

Pose of the Week: Triangle

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Triangle Pose

TRIKONASANA

Benefits:

  • Relieves stress & anxiety
  • Aids to back tension and pain
  • Strengthens thighs, ankles & knees
  • Stretches abdominal muscles that assist better digestion.
  • Good for sciatica, osteoporosis, & flat feet

Asana Break Down:

Begin in Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II), straighten front leg and extend forward, hinging your torso over your front thigh. Allow your front hand to find a block, shin or the floor. If your hands are placed on the floor, make sure your hand is firmly placed palm touching the ground or remain on your fingertips without compromising your thumb. Some people even like to allow their hand to free float by their shin or ankle, using their core muscles to maintain the integrity of this asana. Allow your other hand to reach towards the sky.

Next, we want to align the body by twisting deeper in the pose. To do this, imagine someone was pressing into your hand that is in the air and encouraging you to twist your lower ribcage forward. Head should align with the line of the spinal chord. Draw shoulder blades closer to one another and check your torso’s alignment over your front leg. Often, people will puff their chest forward and either collapse their ribcage or put their body dramatically off balance. Make sure the center of your torso aligns with the center of your front leg. Allow there to be a mirco-bend in the front leg so that you don’t hyper extend. Back hip muscle should descend down towards the ground. Allow the back body to lengthen. Take your gaze towards the sky.  ❤

Be Here Now

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Being is not knowing. I first heard these words from Harville Hendrix, PhD and it struck a chord in me. As a yoga teacher and someone who wishes to pursue a spiritual path I have found that spirituality has seasons. There are many days where I don’t want to practice yoga or I don’t want to sit and meditate. That’s just human. But knowing is not being. So knowing the Sanskrit of a pose and all of the minute mechanical movements of each asana, is not the same as showing up on the mat with an authentic, devotional heart. It’s not. I know because I have spent so much of my life living outside of the present that I have become so cerebral in my practice that I sometimes practice without heart. Knowing is not being. Yet, being is knowing. To show up in your life in each unfolding moment is a beautiful and challenging thing. Become what you seek. For what you seek is surely seeking you. It may not find you through the mind however, but through the heart instead. How do you become what it is you are seeking? I once asked this question through the lens of spirituality having seasons to a guru of mine. I said, “It seems to me like spirituality has seasons. Some seasons are abundant and I feel a deep connection to source and my practice. Other seasons feel depleted and I don’t want to practice at all. How do I continue to flourish when my practice is full and honor it when it is weak?” And he replied, “Spirituality is like a tree. It does not bare fruit in every season, but it needs to be watered every day.” Where can you water yourself more in this life? How can you become the most authentic version of yourself? 

Knowing is not being, but to be is to know. ❤

Yoga for Sleep

It seems to me that the busyness of our lives seems to take hold of us into the night. This can make it hard for us to fall asleep or have good sleep. As requested by a friend of mine, here are pm yoga techniques to help you fall asleep and stay asleep:

Yoga Sequence

Meditation

The best way I have found to relax the body is through meditation. After a long day, take time to sit in a comfortable position on the floor or in a chair. Put on a tape and listen to your favorite meditation (mine is Deepak Chopra, which you can buy on iTunes or listen to for free on spotify) or sit in silence. If you don’t have much time, set a timer. This goes for any point during the day when you need to schedule rest, even if it is for only 5 minutes, take time to sit with yourself. Allow the mind to become focused and calm. You do not have to worry about trying to make all the thoughts in your head stop. Just take a moment to take the back seat view of them, just observe them. Focus on your breathe and let that be the foundation of your awareness.

You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes everyday, unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.” ~Old Zen Saying

Candle Gaze

Light a candle by the side of your bed level with your third eye and look at it until you blink. Once you blink, blow it out. This will set an action of drawing the mind into the meditative state and set an intention that it is now time to sleep.

Reclined Breathwork

There are two things that can be done here.

  1. Lay on your right side. Take 7 deep, long breathes. Switch to the left side. Take 7 deep, long breathes. Return to the right side and take 7 deep, long breathes. Most people fall asleep before they finish this routine.
  2. Bellows Breath: Bellows breath, also known as Bhastrika, can best be described as a the bellow used to fan the flames of a fire. To begin this pranayama, lay in a comfortable position, sit up in your bed or on the floor. Begin by taking in a deep breath and then exhaling forcefully through the nose. Continue to breath this way 10-100 times before bed. Generally start with 10 of these breathes. Once you have done 10 breathes for a week you can move to 20. Once you have done 20 breathes for a week you can move to 30 and so on.

Yoga Nidra

When I am having a hard time falling asleep, one of my favorite things to do is listen to a Yoga Nidra meditation. The word Nidra means sleep and Yoga means union, so really this translates into Union with sleep. It is a systematic method to relax the body and calm the mind. Here’s a link to one of my favorite ones:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pfIikxpis9s

Light on Life

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Yoga is the practice of tolerating the consequences of being yourself.   ~Bhagavad Gita

The last year of my life has been a mixture of both great pain and great wonder. I started the year off in Nosara, Costa Rica where I was certified by Marianne Wells in Hatha yoga. When I came back home from this delightful experience, I was fully immersed in my practice. Every day, with great enthusiasm and devotion, I took to the mat. Intermingled with knowledge of Ayurveda, holy texts, meditation and chanting, I had a daily routine which would last up to two glorious hours. I was in love. Yoga consumed every part of my life with welcome arms and moments of ecstatic and spontaneous elation. 

As the summer blossomed I was working a series of three jobs, an internship, and I volunteered as yoga instructor. My practice was evident in my life, in my manner and in my speech, but my actual time on the mat began to diminish. It was not until the fall, once school had begun, that I lost touch with my practice. Papers began to take president over breath work and sitting in lecture halls replaced my practice of asana. As you can imagine my elated nature began to deflate and my energy began to dwindle. Five months passed like this until my well was dry and I was feeding off of what felt like my own soul. My absence of practice had left a void in my life that lead me into the depth of the shadow self. My kind and patient nature became one of depression, confusion, and unruly ego-feeding. Thus creating a life of discomfort.

The following summer began to bear the fruit of my shadow self: every aspect of my life could no longer be served by my absent practice and demanded modification. My life at work, my choice of career and how to pursue it, my relationships, and my living situation were all up for grabs by the hands of change. It seemed pain was within every encumbered decision and clarity was no where to be found. In Iyengar’s book Light on Life he writes a passage which explains the intricacies of suffering titled Pain: Finding Comfort Even in Discomfort. He begins this section saying, “Pain is there as a teacher, because life is filled with pain. In the struggle alone, there is knowledge. Only when there is pain do you see the light. Pain is your guru. As we experience pleasures happily we must also learn not to lose our happiness when pain comes” (Iyengar 47). It was with this knowledge that my perspective began to adjust. I remember one of the first ways this knowledge was re-introduced to me. I was invited to an Ashtanga yoga class that was taught by my soon-to-be mentor. I didn’t know it at the time, but this class was one of the first dominos to fall in the series of events that would lead me back to my spiritual practice. During this class, the instructor lead us into what seemed to be a version of Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide Legged Forward Fold), only in this variation we were instructed to heal-toe our feet as far away from one another as bearable and lower our forearms to the floor. The pain was real and mind consuming; the kind that stops your breath from flowing with ease and causes your body to shake. I look up to hear my teacher say, “This pose is just like life, right? It’s so painful and uncomfortable, but it’s all about how you approach it.”

In Light on Life and on the mat a new concept had been introduced to me: the idea that intense, heat building yoga was not solely meant to tone the abs or strengthen the legs, but also to create an uncomfortable sensation that teaches us to go beyond the visceral pain of they body and enter into the meditative mind. As yogis, we do this because “practice is not just about the pleasurable sensations. It is about awareness, and awareness leads us to understand both the pleasure and the pain” (Iyengar 48). Recently, I have been able to gain elements of this lucidity. I have begun a mental practice which reminds myself when I reflect on a trying moment that it has passed: it is no longer something the mind has to endure. Thus, I am able to take the role of the observer and can allow the rumination to dissipate and, consequentially, ease the tortured nature of the mind. Iyengar and the reintroduction of my practice has reminded me that “If you can adapt to and balance in a world that is always moving and unstable, you learn how to become tolerant to the permanence of change and difference” (Iyengar 48). Including those pieces of change that carry elements of hardship and mental or emotional suffering.

When I first came back to my practice, I would go to classes where the teacher would by chance say something to the effect of giving gratitude for your life or this breath and it would cause me to cry, for I knew I had spent the last several months forsaking my life. My mind was so wrapped in the webs my ego had spun, I could not even see past the illusion long enough to be grateful for one breath. Surely, it is no coincidence these experiences happened on the mat. Yoga seems to have a way of putting a bright mirror in front of ourselves, which can unveil shocking and painfully disagreeable qualities. However, “It is not just that yoga is causing all of this pain; pain is already there. It is hidden” (Iyengar 49). Even so, the presence of pain can be a welcome visitor. Iyengar moves to speak in this passage about the difference between good and bad pain. He describes good pain as something that is arduous and leads you towards greater growth, compassion and understanding, whereas bad pain can be misdirected, disheartening, and selfish (Iyengar 50-51). As Iyengar expands on his ideology of pain, I am reminded of my favorite poem by Rumi titled The Guest House. In one of his verses he muses: “Be grateful for whatever comes [A joy, a depressions, a meanness,/ some momentary awareness comes/ as an unexpected visitor]/ because each has been sent/ as a guide from the beyond.” It is for this reason these experiences of pain have become my most cherished moments of my life. I have begun to see new love for the parts of me that harbor pain and darkness because they are the reason I no longer have to be afraid of it. Iyengar says “There are only two ways to confront pain: to live with the pain forever or to work with the pain and see if you can eradicate it” (Iyengar 49). These bouts of circumstance that have elicited pain in my life have caused me to see that there is no way out, but through. Like the variation of Prasarita Padottanasana, the things that can elicit some of the greatest pains are not only temporary, but can also lead to the greatest of joy. And again I am reminded why I practice yoga, “not just for the enjoyment…[but] for ultimate emancipation” (Iyengar 52).

Citation:

Iyengar, B.K.S. “Light on Life: The Yoga Journey to Wholeness, Inner Peace, and Ultimate Freedom Paperback – September 19, 2006.