Hello and welcome to my first ever blog. I hope this is the first of many blogs that will inspire and motivate you to begin your own yoga practice or develop an existing yoga and meditation practice.
This month is ‘Mindfulness in May’ and all of the Vitality Yoga teachers have joined the campaign; committing to 10 minutes of meditation each day to raise funds for an incredibly worthwhile cause, access to clean running water in countries that desperately need it.
We’ve all heard of the wonderful benefits of meditation. The yogis have professed these benefits for thousands of years. In fact the yoga poses were only designed as a prelude to meditation, so that the body was more open and ready to sit in meditation for longer periods. Now modern science supports these ancient claims.
Last year Harvard scientists confirmed that meditation actually helps to fight high stress levels and discovered that meditation is so powerful it can actually change the physiology of a person’s brain, resulting in positive changes like a decrease in anxiety and depression.
The practice of Mindfulness originated in the Theravadan Buddhist tradition. You may not be aware of it but the mind is constantly busy, thinking of the past or planning the future. The practice of mindfulness meditation requires us to sit in the moment; to still the mind and be present. It’s no easy task, and most people require an ‘anchor’ or something for the mind to focus on. Usually it’s the natural flow of the breath; watching the breath pass at the tips of the nostrils and observing this natural state and the sensations around it. Mindfulness, or the practice of being present can be practiced in everyday activities of life but this a huge challenge unless one is practicing mindfulness meditation daily.
So why don’t we all meditate?
For many years I meditated daily. I was lucky enough to spend extended periods in Nepal and lived in India and Thailand where I was able to participate in silent meditation retreats regularly. I had no children, minimal commitments and my job as a tour operator allowed me to work for weeks on end and have a few weeks off at a time. It was easy to be committed to my meditation practice. I was in an environment which supported spiritual endeavors and I was surrounded by people who had also made that commitment.
Back then I would sit for an hour at a time meditating, often in a gorgeous ashram or monastery listening to the sound of kirtan (yogic chanting) or monks chanting. Heaven! ….and easy to be mindful, I’ll tell you.
Since the birth of my twins 20 months ago, my personal practice has lapsed. Even though I knew I needed meditation more than ever, it seemed impossible to find the time. So I lowered my expectations and discovered that meditation doesn’t have to be done in a special place. It’s not uncommon to find me hiding in the laundry, meditating to the melodic drone of the spin cycle and the distant chimes of playschool. I’ve also discovered that meditation can still do its magic even if I sit for a shorter period of time.
This month I have committed to 10 minutes of daily meditation.
Meditation gives my head a rest from the busy-ness of life. After I have meditated I feel calmer and more able to maintain the bigger perspective, instead of getting weighed down in the little dramas. I’m a better parent, a better yoga teacher, a better partner and a better listener. Since nearly every disease is ultimately caused by stress, meditation is not only good for my mental health, but it keeps me physically well.
10 minutes of daily meditation is a big commitment for me right now. It’s not much, but it’s making all the difference to my life.
Melanie Chapman has trained in the Sivananda tradition and has also trained with Vitality Yoga, Donna Farhi and Heather Agnew of Trinity Yoga. She has been teaching yoga for more than 10 years and is also a personal trainer, fitness instructor and massage therapist. She specializes in fit yoga, prenatal yoga and gentle yoga. Melanie is a senior trainer on the Vitality Yoga Teacher Training Course. As daughter to Kehry Frank, the founder of Vitality Yoga, Melanie has practiced yoga virtually all her life, including extended periods of training in ashrams, monasteries and retreats in India, Nepal, Thailand and California
Please make a donation to the ‘Vitality Yoga’ team at ‘Mindfulness in May’ by following the link below.
Looking for mindfulness inspiration? Try reading ‘The Power of Now’ by Eckhart Tolle, the ultimate guide to living in the present.