The darkest day of the year is almost here and it certainly feels like the depths of winter in Berlin. The sun sets early and whatever rays are able to peek through the clouds are weak. It feels like time to hibernate.
Gloria Latham (founder of Semperviva Yoga in Vancouver) posted recently that It’s Dark for a Reason and I’m inclined to agree. In addition to the long nights encouraging long sleep-ins, cuddles with loved ones, and carbohydrate consumption, the darkness is also conducive to reflection, reading and writing, and generally taking stock.
Winter prods us to look inwards as we spend time indoors. And with any luck, that introspection leads to inspiration for the year to come!
Let us love winter, for it is the spring of genius.
~ Pietro Aretino
Italian author, playwright, poet, and satirist
The second 40-Day Meditation Challenge of 2012 at Bound Lotus started earlier this week and Sofie and I joined the meditation this morning. The first 40-Day Meditation focused on the first chakra (or energy centre); the second one fittingly concentrates on the second chakra.
The mantra (or meditative phrase) we’re using for this Meditation Challenge is the Kundalini seed mantra: Har hare haree; Wahe guru (pronounced: Har haray haree; Wha-hay guroo – with kind of a silent “d” after the har). We’re repeating the mantra for 11 minutes – chanting along to the version by Gurudass from Longing to Belong. This meditation also involves holding guyan mudra (the hand gesture for wisdom – shown in the photo at right) and moving our arms. It’s a trifecta of techniques for meditative concentration; chanting the mantra, holding the mudra, and repeating the arm movements.
I find manta meditations very effective at clearing my brain and finding internal silence. Chanting the same sounds over and over again pretty much bores my brain to death and stops me from thinking. The Sanskrit syllables don’t connect with any meaning like English words might and my mind starts to let go of everything but the mantra.
Adding in holding a mudra and repeating arm movements, further drives out any thoughts and helps bring my mind to stillness.
I’ve compiled a list of other musical mantras I like for meditation, which are great to chant along with or have playing during meditation. I also like having mantras playing while I do other tasks like food prep or dishes; I often find myself chanting along and finding a bit of stillness as I cook!
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.
Intense physical activity, such as running or training for endurance sports like triathlons, can be very hard on your body. Yoga can help you recover. Read other posts about recovering.
Taking a meditative approach to yoga and flowing through postures, rather than quickly jumping from pose to pose, helps shift your nervous system from fight or flight reactions (sympathetic state) to a restorative, healing modality (parasympathetic state). You’re capable of making better decisions when your nervous system is more relaxed and you’ll generally feel happier!
The controlled movements of a yoga practice encourage circulation in your endocrine and lymphatic systems. Gently stretching your muscles re-distributes lactic acid and reduces oxidative stress generated by free radicals.
Perhaps most importantly, the relaxation portion of a yoga class helps your body recover from activity. Taking time out of your busy schedule to focus on your body helps you connect with your physical being and pay attention to what it’s telling you.
Yoga can also help undo the damage of a late night and flush out toxins. Backward and forward bends squeeze and release your internal organs, which brings fresh blood into your liver and kidneys and encourages toxins to clear more quickly. Specific yoga poses can also help relieve headaches and soothe sore muscles. Additionally, a long version of guided relaxation called yoga nidra slows your brainwaves, which can help heal your body more quickly and may feel more restful than napping for four times as long.