Starting a Yoga and Meditation Practice
With the summer slowly drawing to a close and inevitable onset of autumn, it is a great time to turn our energy towards cultivating a yoga and meditation practice. Far from the common misconception of aged yogis spending hours on end sitting cross legged and OM-ing to themselves in rooms foggy with incense smoke, both yoga and meditation are easily accessible to anyone, anywhere, of any age. It is time to stop claiming you aren’t flexible enough for yoga! Whether you are a seasoned yogi who has let their practice slide over a summer of jet-setting or you are a total beginner, the changing seasons are an incredible time to drop old habits and (re)introduce some new ones. You don’t need hours of free time to dedicate - a simple five to ten minutes is a great start, any more is a blessing - so it is time to slow down, breathe deeply and start to turn our gaze inwards…
Traditionally asana (the physical side of yoga) was practiced to keep the body supple enough that there would be no discomfort during prolonged periods of meditation, but there are great side-effects for the body too. Whether you are drawn to yoga as a spiritual practice or simply as a form of exercise, it is an amazing way to unwind, stretch, increase flexibility and strength, improve sleep, boost mental clarity and reduce stress. More dynamic forms of yoga can be a great way to sweat and get the endorphins flowing, or sink into stillness with slow flow and restorative poses to gently release any physical or emotional tension in the body. Whatever style works best for you, use the breath as your guide and treat your practice like a moving mediation.
Meditation, or mindfulness, is equally less daunting than it sounds. You can choose to lie, sit down or even move slowly around as you use focus on the breathe to help clear the mind. By learning to control your mental chatter and keep yourself in the present moment you are equipping yourself with valuable tools to help you deal with life’s obstacles, as well as giving you some precious moments of respite from our busy daily lives. Just a few minutes in the morning before you start your day, or even on the bus to work, can help de-stress, de-clutter and transform the mind, leaving you feeling relaxed, refreshed and ready to take on anything!
If you feel the call and are interested in beginning your yoga and/or meditation practice, be sure to leave your preconceptions at the door. There is no aim other than to be present and no one cares if you can't touch your toes! Whilst a handstand is an impressive physical feat, yoga is predominantly a mental practice. All it takes is a little time and dedication; such small things to give in return for such amazing outcomes!