Yoga · Yoga Off The Mat

Breathe In One. Breathe Out Two.

imageIn the summer, one of my favorite yoga instructors teaches on Tuesday mornings. Many of the students are older summer folks who for over a decade, have been taking this class. It’s a great class. Several of the students are musically talented which I think is why our “om” chant is so amazing. Anyway, this summer, I decided to carve out that time in my schedule so that I could attend every Tuesday.

Last summer, a friend started attending a meditation class offered also only in the summer. She asked me if I wanted to go but I wasn’t interested. She continued her new meditation practice through the fall, winter, and spring. One time she dedicated a whole day to meditate. Another time she volunteered to lead a women’s group in meditation. I could see her growth with it so when she asked me if I wanted to attend this summer’s meditation class, it was easy to say yes. That meets Tuesday evenings.

So my Tuesdays have become my body, mind, and soul day. It’s been a sweet gift to give to myself.

I’ve noticed while my unfamiliarity with zen meditation has caused discomfort and challenge, my familiarity with yoga has deepened my yoga practice. Maybe like a welcomed old friend compared to this strange new friend. To sit still is hard. To sit still with only the guidance of counting the in breath and out breath from 1 to 10 and then starting again, is hard. It seemed like the second the instructor hit the tiny singing bowl signaling us it was time to meditate, my mind took off in crazy chatter. No profound thoughts. More like one long paragraph of: “My breathing has just quickened and it’s suppose to be relaxed. Oh no–what if it’s too loud and disruptive? Oh, I just lost count. Start again. Is it 1 on the in breath and 2 on the out or just 1 for both? Oh man I just lost count again. Wait, my mind is not relaxed. What have I been thinking about? I feel a panic attack coming on. Crap! Shhhh, stop thinking. (Pause for 2 seconds) I was thinking about how my breath got faster but it just got better. Whew, that is a relief. Oops. thinking again. Oh, that breeze was nice. I wish it wasn’t so hot. I have an itch on my knee and I’m not suppose to move…”

The first week, I felt like a crazy woman with my uncontrollable chatter. But as the weeks have gone by, I’ve learned that mind chatter and feelings and sensations that arise is what meditation is largely about. Instead of judging what comes up and wanting to pound it down or get rid of it, there is the option of entering the witness-mind, like in yoga, where I just notice what is going on. If it’s a feeling, notice where it is felt in my body. What does the sensation feels like? What color it is? Can I just stay with it as I watch my breath, counting 1 inhale, 2 exhale… And my mind might be still for a moment or two. Then it’s off thinking about the groceries I will buy after this.

We are all learning to be gentler with ourselves. I’ve heard others in the group talk about how meditation translates into their lives, which for me made me smile because for several years now, I’ve played with the notion of yoga on and off the mat. Yoga has taught me so many life lessons. I’m thrilled to know while I work out the kinks on the beginning of this meditation path, I will see parallels to living my life and feel a deeper appreciation and richness.

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