Sunday, November 1, 2009

Why Meditation?

I have been practicing and teaching yoga for over 10 years, but my meditation practice is still in its infancy. Nevertheless, I curl my legs under me, lengthen my spine and close my eyes each week to explore the meditation process. (I hesitate to use the verb, because "to meditate" doesn't seem like an action to me - I set the stage for meditation to occur and then sit back and watch... sometimes it occurs, sometimes not.) Why is meditation so important? It's an elusive practice, so why strive after something so challenging? Some people practice to achieve enlightenment, some to connect with their higher power. These are very noble reasons to practice, but they are not mine... at least, not at this stage in my meditation practice. My intentions are much more self-involved.

For me, meditation is therapy. It's work, it's confrontational, and it introduces you to yourself on whole new levels. The mind is reflective, and we are often so clouded by our surroundings that we do not "see" what is real, only the distorted reflection. Through meditation, we can recognize those illusions as well as the truth. Meditation improves focus, memory and creativity. A regular practice lowers stress levels, blood pressure, cholesterol and decreases substance abuse. It also improves relations, productivity, and self-concept. The challenge is that you need to keep at it, and you need to want to improve. If you are interested, one of my favorite teachers, Erich Schiffmann, gives meditation a whole section on his website: Try it... and then try it again.

Meditation Seats
There are many different meditation positions, but the most important thing to remember is to be comfortable and alert. If you are too uncomfortable, you'll be distracted by it; if you are too relaxed, you'll fall asleep. Here are some different seated positions for meditation:

Chair: sit forward on the seat of a chair so that your back does not rest against anything, knees over your ankles, feet flat to the floor.
Seiza: come to all fours, place a block or cushion between your heels, then sit back on it. elevate your hips as high as you need to be comfortable.
Sidhasana: a cross-legged position where the heels are aligned in front of the groins; click here for a picture and instructions; elevating the hips on a folded blanket or cushion can help tight hips.
Half Lotus/Lotus: the classical meditation position, this pose requires some openness of the hips and a deep bend in the knees; click here for a picture and instructions (half lotus instructions are under Modifications); again, elevating the hips on a folded blanket or cushion can help tight hips.

Once you have your preferred seat, rest your weight into your seat, making your feet, shins, thighs, hips and buttocks heavy. Place your hands in your lap, lengthen your torso and melt your shoulders down your back. Lengthen the back of your neck so that your face tips down subtly and close your eyes. Let your chosen meditation process guide you from here, but come back to these steps anytime you find yourself slumping or drifting off.

Schedule updates and events... (see Lorien's schedule for all ongoing classes)
  • Saturday, December 5th 1:00-3:30pm Soothe Your Soul, a Therapeutic Workshop for ALL! Part restorative yoga, part gentle yoga, part meditation, this workshop is all about dissolving stress. Open to all levels and abilities and no previous yoga experience necessary. $40 pre-reg, $50 day of; register at Willow Glen Yoga. Consider this workshop a gift to yourself or a loved one.
  • Private therapeutic yoga sessions: this is a one-on-one 60-75-minute session with Lorien that includes some restorative yoga, guided imagery and breath work that is tailored to your needs. The first session is FREE, and subsequent sessions are $60-$80, depending on location and frequency. Please see Lorien's private yoga schedule to sign up for an introductory slot today!