Yoga for a Deeper Meditation
By: “AJ” Amy Jo Crowell, Publisher Dallas Yoga Magazine & Founder Cosmic Yogi Festivals
Many of my friends are tend to think meditation is about sitting on a cushion on the floor and chanting strange sounds for hours at a time. Yes, this is a type of meditation but only a few can master that level. This image often is depicted in the mainstream media and has done a major disservice to other mediation methods. The media image alone scares people into not trying the practice. They say things like, “I can’t sit on the floor for all day!” or “My mind wanders within the first two minutes.” I assure you…everyone has their own personal style of meditation and where you sit or how you sit is a personal decision. Of course, your mind wanders! All of our minds wander…the idea is to practice bringing it back to your center and focus on your breath. When it wanders again…and it will, bring it back again to your center and focus on your breath. It takes a lot of practice to meditate for long periods of time. I remember when I first started, I couldn’t focus my monkey mind for more than a minute. But I did notice afterward, that I did feel calmer and more relaxed, so I kept practicing and trying. As a yoga teacher and a former high school teacher I always remind my students, “Repetition strengthens and confirms.”
When I went to Yoga Teacher Training in India it was reinforced to me firsthand that yoga includes meditation. If you are doing yoga, then you are doing a form of meditation. Just by bringing your focus inward to your breathing and postures, paying attention to your energy and releasing both mental and physical tensions you are practicing a form of meditation. Yoga includes the energy flow of our lives and tapping into the source of awareness within. By doing this we become full of uplifting energy, serenity and we learn to listen and rely on this inner stretch more.
Practicing at 4am with a guru in India is an experience I will never forget, and I gained knowledge I will use forever to help myself grow and become the best version of myself. In India, the physical aspects of yoga are important, but they place as much or more emphasis on meditation. Let me explain, they use the physical yoga postures to tune into their bodies and get energy flowing before meditation. It is considered part of their meditation practice. By doing yoga postures you are preparing your body for meditation. You are stretching to get your blood flowing to allow yourself a better energy flow up and down the spine and throughout your body. Yoga postures gently wake up your body and allow the stagnant energy to be released while bringing in new uplifting energy and awareness. Postures and stretching also relaxes your body so you can sit more comfortably in meditation without being distracted by your body being stiff.
You don’t have to do anything fancy or over do the yoga postures before meditation. The idea is to get your body open to receiving energy and letting go of the unnecessary. Here are some very easy yoga ideas to get your body ready for meditation:
Standing Heart Opener
- Stand with your feet 6 to 12 inches apart, hands on your heart
- Inhale, raise your head slightly up and bring your arms out to the side opening your heart chakra, push your chest forward slightly while keeping your shoulders relaxed.
- Exhaling, brining your hands back to your heart center and relax your chest and shoulders.
- Repeat 10 times.
Standing Forward Bend
- Continue standing with your feel 6 to 12 inches apart and place your hands on your abdomen.
- Inhaling, reach up with your arms above your head and apart with your chin slightly up.
- Exhaling, bend forward. Pause at the end of your exhale.
- Inhale, coming back up with your hands over your head and chin slightly up.
- Exhale, lower your chin and come back with your hands on your abdomen.
- Repeat 10 times.
Upward Legs and Arms Stretch
- Lay on your back and bring your knees to your chest on the exhale. Gentle rock side to side.
- Inhaling stretch your legs up and lift and leave them in the air. Also on the inhale, lift your arms up and bring them over your head on the floor.
- On an exhale, bring your arms up and to the floor next to your sides while slowly bringing our legs to the floor.
- Repeat 5 -6 times.
- Continue laying on your back and place your hands on the floor next to you or on your abdomen.
- Inhale, relax and lift your hips up off the floor into Bridge Pose. Stay up for a couple breaths.
- Exhale down. Stay for a couple of breaths.
- Repeat 5 -6 times.
There are many other poses you can include in your pre-meditation practice. Some of my favorites are Cat/Cow, Downward Dog, Upward Dog and Pigeon Pose. Remember to focus on your breathing during your postures.
Once you feel energy flowing and your body is stretched out then sit in a comfortable spot. You can choose to sit on the floor with a cushion or in your favorite chair. Focus on your breath and breathe naturally. Keep your attention focused on your breath. When your mind wanders…and it will…bring your focus back to your breath. Here are three suggestions to help you get your mediation started in seated position:
- Place your hands on your mid abdomen (belly button area). Inhale and visualize positive healing energy flowing into you. Exhale and release. Take 6-8 breaths and allow the new energy to expand and flow freely throughout your body.
- Place your hands over your heart. Visualize trust in yourself and trust in the source within you. Stay with this feeling of trust for 6-8 breaths. Feel the contact with your awareness within.
- Place your hands between your navel and your heart. Breathe naturally and feel the flow of your breath. Feel the calmness within. Spend as much time as your desire here.
When you are ready to come out of meditation and back into your body, place your hands on your knees with palms up. Continue to feel the awareness of your body. Stretch and bend forward to physically awaken your body. Listen to what your body desires and do this as many times as needed. Come back to seated position and when you are ready, open your eyes. Take your time coming out of meditation and walk around the room when you get up. Take the feeling of your practice with you into the world and remember to spread love and kindness.
It doesn’t matter if you are new to the deeper side of meditation or if you are a pro. Keeping mediation simple and remembering it’s not about perfection but about finding your peace within.
About the Author:
“AJ” Amy Jo Crowell is the Publisher of Dallas Yoga Magazine and Founder of the Cosmic Yogi Festivals. She has been in advertising, marketing, publishing and large-scale event planning for over 25 years. AJ has been an entrepreneur since graduating with her Master in Business Administration. She began her career owning stores in Deep Ellum and printed entertainment guides throughout the state of Texas for over a decade. As an inner-city high school for many years she implemented Peace Makers Classes in several of the schools teaching the importance of acceptance, diversity and giving back to the community. AJ is an Amazon.com Best Selling Author of “Loved Back to Life” a book focusing on recovery from addictions. As Owner of Crowell Properties, her business expertise is utilized as she rehabs homes and specializes in finding solutions for anyone finding themselves in financial dilemmas with their mortgages. An adventurer at heart she went to Rishikesh, India to Samadhi ashram and was 200 hour certified in Kundalini Yoga. You can find her teaching workshops and leading meditations with her crystal bowls and life size chimes throughout the DFW Metroplex. You can reach her at email@example.com. Check out upcoming festivals at www.cosmicyogimovement.com