Weekend warrior

Laura holding Warrior II at Mosquito Creek

After teaching a Friday evening yin yoga class, I was lucky enough to escape the city for a weekend away with friends. The time away (even though we didn’t go far) was fabulous. Nothing like a bit of time away from the usual routine to refuel and reconnect.

Great food, great company, great weather… and the Superbowl on Sunday. Amidst all the eating and relaxing I managed to do my sat kriya meditations on Saturday and Sunday (despite the smell of smoking meat for the Superbowl feast threatening my concentration!) and do a lovely hatha sequence – complete with Warrior II.

My contribution to the amazing food came in the form of homemade cinnamon buns. The recipe is a holdover from my eight months or so eating vegan, but you’d never miss the eggs and dairy. If you’re not concerned about keeping animal products out of the cinnamon buns, I’m sure butter would work in place of the vegan margarine.

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The final quarter

Laura from the back in sat kriyaToday was my 31st consecutive day doing the sat kriya meditation… into the final stretch of the first 40 Day Meditation Challenge of 2012 at Bound Lotus Meditation & Yoga Centre! Yay!

Sat kriya is a pretty intense meditation and it feels good to have gotten this far in the challenge. At first, the prospect of holding my arms above my head for 11 minutes was very daunting; now the 11 minutes passes amazingly quickly. Figuring out how to use props to keep my knees happy and prevent my feet from falling asleep has certainly helped, but I think I’ve also developed a stronger sense of willpower and settled into the meditation.

Perhaps I’ve tapped into the power of the first (or root) chakra and I’m feeling the abundance and unlimited energy that’s associated with that energy centre.

One of the unexpected benefits I’ve noticed is how quickly I’m able to sink into deep relaxation during the savasana (or rest period) after sat kriya. It’s also much easier to quiet my mind and fully relax my body in savasana following a yoga practice. It used to take me several minutes to let go, by which time the teacher was often bringing us out of savasana and finishing the class, but now it’s just a few breaths before that sense of calm and peace comes over me.

Kundalini Yoga Boot Camp has great information All about the practice of sat kriya if you’re looking for more info.

I’ll be attempting solo meditation this weekend as we’re going out of town. I’m hoping to ride the meditation-momentum of more than 30 days at Bound Lotus to carry me through the 11 minutes alone… and then keep that momentum going until day 4o on February 11!

Tapped out? Or tapping in?

Laura flexing for the camerThe mid-point of the 40-Day Meditation Challenge (and my corresponding ‘dry’ spell) was Sunday and with it I felt a dip in my commitment. Not to completing the remaining days of sat kryia or going without alcohol, but to exercising willpower in other areas of my life.

I’d chewed my fingernails down to nubs, lost focus in my personal yoga practice, given up any pretense of resisting low-quality chocolate, and settled into a couch potato groove. My rationale was that my willpower was wrung out after letting the wine glasses stay on the shelves night after night and holding my arms above my head for 11 minutes each day.

But is willpower finite?

Psychology Today has a blog devoted entirely to the science of willpower, which explores all kinds of theories and research about self-control. An article on The Great Willpower Debate sums up the question like this:

Is willpower like a muscle that can only do so many biceps curls before it wears out or is it a powerful mental idea that can give you almost unlimited energy ?

I’ve elected to believe in limitless willpower and throw out the excuse that my self-control is exhausted. The Great Willpower Debate concludes with the idea that meaningfulness is an important part of motivation. If we can answer why we want to exercise willpower and make a change in a compelling way, we’re more likely to be able to tap into our self-control.

Being healthy (e.g. practicing yoga and not eating crap!) is important to me, so I’ll file the remaining rough edges of my fingernails, get onto my yoga mat, eat food I really enjoy (rather than whatever’s around), turn off the TV more often… and do 16 more days of sat kryia. And on February 12 I’ll see if I’ve revised my opinion on whether willpower can be exhausted!

The strength of stillness

Laura relaxing at Prana

At the end of this morning’s meditation, one of my favourite teachers at Bound Lotus encouraged us to find the power in the relaxation that comes after 11 minutes of Sat Kryia.

That struck a cord with me. So much of my life (and I suspect yours, too!) is filled with rushing and running around that it’s easy to miss the profound satisfaction of being still. Not being vegetative or twitchy, but being consciously relaxed and tuning into the body.

Sitting or lying still for any longer than a couple of minutes (and not falling asleep!) is a challenge for me. My mind wanders… thoughts stray to what needs to be done and where I need to go. My body suddenly discovers itches and small discomforts that weren’t there moments ago… I invent reasons for moving.

But when I get past that first bit of twitching and let my brain clear, I start to feel the strength of stillness. Not doing or worrying or wanting… just being. The stillness brings calmness, relaxation, and a sense of rejuvenation.

Come join me at Bound Lotus for yin yoga and a bit of stillness on Mondays from 1-2:15pm and Fridays from 6:30-745pm.

Exercises in willpower & futility

Laura with hands in prayer poseWhile doing the first 40-Day Meditation Challenge of 2012 at Bound Lotus Meditation & Yoga Centre, I’ve also committed to 40 days without alcohol. I’ve temporarily given up liquor not so much to cleanse, but as an exercise in willpower and to allow the meditation to have as much impact as possible.

It’s a good thing I’m not hoping to detox my liver for the rest of the year by taking 40 days off from alcohol as British Liver Trust and other health professionals state that “detoxing for just a month in January is medically futile.” The Globe & Mail’s article on The right way to detox your liver recommends staying away from alcohol for two or three days straight every week to allow your liver to recover.

So after the 40-Day Meditation Challenge is done on February 11, my more important challenge will be exercising my willpower and taking a couple of days in a row off from my nightly glass of wine…

And maybe committing to the next 40-Day Meditation Challenge when it starts on February 20!