Meditation and yoga go hand in hand. Practicing both daily can enhance your overall yoga practice. Thousands of years ago in ancient yogic texts, physical asanas were initially created to prepare our minds and bodies for meditation. Meditation is the act of getting in touch with the present and having awareness over our thoughts. Through regular meditation, we can learn to be more aware of our emotions and how we react to different situations in our lives.
Many people often find the practice of meditation difficult because they don't know how or have misconceptions about what meditation means. There are many ways to meditate and there are no right or wrong ways to go about it. There are many different forms of meditations; Vispassana meditation (which means to see things as they really are),
mindfulness meditation, guided meditation, Yoga Nidra meditation, walking meditation, and more!. All of these different ways to meditate have one common goal, to help us achieve more inner peace.
There are also some yoga poses to practice at home that naturally relax and calm the mind. Child’s pose, Cat-Cow, Easy pose, Mountain, Pigeon, Bound Angle, and Savasana; just to name a few. You can hold these calming poses for 3- 5 minutes (longer if you can and/or want) to really feel their soothing effects.
To begin a meditation practice, come to sit in Easy Pose or a cross-legged position with your eyes closed. Simply sit and notice the stillness around you. We are not trying to quiet the thoughts or alter the breath; just simply listening and noticing the stillness and quiet around you. Do this for several minutes. Start with a simple meditation like this for just 5 minutes a day - anytime of the day. You could try meditation in the morning, afternoon, or nighttime. Aim for just 5 minutes a day and once you feel comfortable, move on to make your meditation time longer. With daily practice; you will begin to acquire the life changing benefits that meditation has to offer.
To relax in Savasana
• Legs spread comfortably apart
• Close the eyes
• Unclench the jaw
• Allow the arms to rest comfortably away from the body
• Allow the feet to fall open gently
• Keep the palms relaxed and open up towards the sky
• Soften the muscles in the face
• Allow all the muscles in your body to completely relax
As the days become colder and shorter, everything in nature becomes quieter and more dormant. Winter can be a wonderful time for soul-searching; a time to reflect and reset our own energy. Winter can be a time to recharge our energy before the onset of Spring. This cooler and quieter energy is also related to Yin energy in the traditional Taoist philosophy. If this calming Yin-style energy is left unbalanced, it can lead to lack of motivation, lack of energy, and lethargy. To balance this energy, we can incorporate its opposite energy, Yang-style or warmer asanas, which heat up the body and mind during these cold Winter days. Here are a few of tips to help warm and energize your body and mind:
Practice a Warming Yoga Sequence
To begin asanas for wintertime, warm-up with a few rounds of Sun Salutations to heat up the body. Make sure to end your yoga practice with some restorative, calming asanas(poses) that allow time for you to reflect and recharge your energy levels. Some asanas to practice are supine and stretching asanas that are held for longer periods of time, such as: Savasana, Wide-Legged Forward Fold (Prasarita Padottanasana), Extended Puppy pose (Uttana Shishosana), Happy Baby (Ananda Balasana), Plow pose (Halasana), and the Sage’s pose (Marichyasana C). When practicing yoga in the winter at home, make sure not leave your home (or studio) to quickly after a practice. Cooling down too quickly can tighten muscles and reduce circulation, which can put you at risk for muscle injuries. Waiting 5-10 minutes before going outside, and bundling up when you do, should be sufficient to allow for a proper cool-down.
Practice Breath Retention (Kumbhaka Pranayama)
In this gentle, beginner-level Kumbhaka Pranayama, we are working to heat the body. Kumbhaka is traditionally practiced holding the breath for 10 seconds, but keep in mind that this length is recommended only for advanced students. In this practice, begin with holding the breath for 2-3 seconds.
To begin, come sit in a comfortable seated position. Take a big inhale in, fully inflating the lungs. Next, hold the breath for 2 or 3 seconds. Slowly exhale out all the air from the lungs. Repeat for up to 10 minutes or longer.
Cold and gloomy weather can certainly affect your mood and disposition; don’t let the weather outside get you down. Be mindful of the benefits that yoga (and meditation) offer. Just a few minutes of daily yoga can set the overall tone for your day! Reading and studying books on yoga or going to a class can help boost your motivation. Can’t get out because of snow or ice? YouTube has some fantastic yoga classes!
Snow, ice, and freezing temperatures can be an excuse for avoiding all kinds of tasks. But don’t put your yoga practice aside, the overall benefits are wonderful for your mind, body, and spirit.
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