The Mindful Workout
Really transform yourself. Get that mind to do its workout!
In the spirit of the new year and implementing our health and fitness goals, we’ve collaborated with Cendrine a fellow Yoga Teacher, Massage Therapist and Healer, to bring you a blog on how to really transform yourself; with the power of the mind!
If you are reading this, you and I might already have something in common: we are yoga practitioners. It doesn’t matter who’s more experienced and who’s practicing more regularly, what matters is that we already have experienced the high that comes after a good conscious physical practice. The body is happy and so is the mind. We feel proud of our self for having done it. The mind is generally quieter because we have had to focus on the physical practice so the chit chat has slowed down.
Even though we feel better, most of time, we have just reached the level below the meditative state: concentration (Dharana in Sanskrit). It’s like seeing a beautiful light through a thick lamp shade. We know it’s there but we can’t quite see it yet.
If you go to your yoga class with a friend, it’s awesome because you get to hang out, exercise and have some precious ‘me time’ in your busy day. That’s fantastic, keep that good habit going! But while it makes us feel good to do that, we still don’t reap all the benefits from actually sitting in silence to slow the mind down through a proper meditation (Dhyana in Sanskrit).
Ideally, we should sit in silence for 10/15 minutes after our yoga class. I say – Ideally – right.
Right after the class is the best time to do it, because we already have achieved the stage of concentration that slows the mind down, we have worked the body to open it up through our Asana practice (our postures), we have worked the breath (pranayama), so sitting in meditation becomes easier. It’s like laying strong foundations to build a beautiful house.
If it’s not included as part of the class, you will have to create time at home. No biggie, it’s just a habit to create. We have created many good and bad habits, so we can totally create this one too. If you have a home practice, fantastic! Include a meditation at the end, you’ll be amazed at how much easier it is to do it then.
I often talk to people about the benefits of meditation because it’s wildly recognised now as the way to go to reduce stress, to sleep better and to feel happier, among many other benefits. Often, people say they gave it a go, but they haven’t really, and then come with the quick answer ‘I’ve tried, it’s not for me’. Then they might add: ‘I do yoga, it’s kind of the same’, or ‘I run, it’s my meditation. It’s just the same for me’. I totally understand the underlying message behind that. We are focused on the breath, on the movements, on the body. After the class, we feel relaxed and the mind’s restlessness is less intense. It’s totally what I feel too. We think that’s the deal but really, it’s only the preparation for real meditation.
It’s like giving someone raw cacao powder and having that person say ‘I so love this chocolate’ – No no no, it’s not the same! We can try hard to convince that person that chocolate is actually way better to eat than raw cacao powder, but if they never try, they will never know.
Trying to meditate a couple of times then giving up is very easy to do. What’s challenging is to keep practicing because results only come after a while. Try to get a six pack after a couple of gym sessions… Not gonna happen mate. We easily get that we need to exercise for a long period of time to see physical results but as soon as it comes to mind practice we give up.Where’s the real strength and will power there my friend? You can do better than that! We all can!
Practice is just practice, again and again, the results show when they show, that’s all! And you will be surprised that’s it actually faster than you think it is, trust me on this one!
Let’s set the bar at a realistic level. Suppressing the thoughts completely is already too high for me, and I have been meditating for a very long time now. Yes, at times, I do reach a state similar to ‘bliss’ where there is no more time and space, where I feel joy and light flowing through my whole being, but that happens infrequently, never on command. Most of the time, I feel that I am at war with my mind and that meditating is not working. I feel like standing up and going on with my day, because really, I’m losing my time here right? But my soul knows better than that and whispers in my mind that “no no, I am not losing my time”. I do persevere and after, I always – always – feel a lot calmer, more focused and pretty happy.
So why don’t you set yourself some realistic objectives about meditation? Start every day, for 5 minutes, for a week. Then increase the length of time by two minutes every couple of days. Try some longer meditations when you have a bit more time, you’d be surprised that once you get in the zone, it can actually feel pretty good to stay there.
When I go for a run, I sit under the trees and contemplate nature around me. After my home practice, I sit in silence on my mat. I allow my breath to slow down and then I close my eyes. I observe the stillness in my mind, and I rejoice that it is so much more peaceful than it was before my physical practice. By doing that, I allow myself to feel proud and happy, so I lay positive foundations for my mind practice. I observe thoughts coming and going without attaching to them. I might stay there 5 to 10 minutes. Then I take a couple of deep breaths, owning this special moment, fueling my cells with peace.
Feeling happy is the biggest reward.