My adventures as a yogi began when I was about eight-years-old hiding in the trees with my friends. We were spying on my mom meditating, who at the time was a yoga teacher. We all giggled when I said, “Look, my mom is going to levitate.”
Somewhere along the way the torch was passed from my mom to me as I made many trips to India, New Mexico and California to study with some of the World’s Greatest Yoga Masters, Swamis and Gurus.
Before I went on this “yogic journey,” I had this gut feeling there was more to the picture than just getting everyone physically fit. As I listened to others tell me they were stressed out, anxious, depressed, not sleeping, not able to focus, concentrate etc. And I too, had so many unanswered questions. This fueled me to want to learn more, to go deeper and explore yoga and meditation as another tool to perhaps find some answers to my own and others’ many questions.
“You don’t need anything, all you need is you and your breath.“
While travelling to these places to learn more about yoga and meditation was an exciting new adventure, it was also a very foreign experience for me. What I was about to embark on couldn’t be more opposite than what I was doing. At the beginning it was quite a struggle to go from an extremely competitive environment of speed, strength and power, to sitting for hours meditating: still, quiet, slowing down my breath and heart rate, silent yoga and meditation retreats and chanting mantras with yogis in turbans, long beards, orange robes etc. In essence I went from this fast paced “doing” lifestyle to just “being”.
At first I had a great deal of difficulty sitting still for even a few minutes. On top of this, the more I sat in silence and meditated, the more questions I had. In fact, my questions were often met with more questions and my thoughts often led to more thoughts.
I actually remember thinking when I was meditating that I must be doing something wrong, since isn’t the purpose of meditation to not think, clear your mind, not have questions and go into a thoughtless state? I thought meditation was supposed to be relaxing and calming, yet my mind was racing.
What I didn’t realize was my mind had always been racing, but I just wasn’t aware of it since I was so busy “doing.” Fortunately over time, my mind quieted and there were less questions, in fact sometimes no questions at all. My thoughts lessened and I was able to sit still and meditate for extended periods of time—sometimes over two hours. I began to go into these deep states of relaxation both physically and mentally and somewhere along the way the dots started to connect.
Over time I began to find the balance to compliment my competitive Type A athletic personality. How did I do this and get to this place? The simple answer is through meditation. The great thing about this is you don’t need anything— all you need is you and your breath! I learned it’s important to also be still and quiet so you can listen to what your body, mind and spirit are telling you. Otherwise you just continue repeating the same ingrained habits and patterns over and over again—overriding or ignoring the “true” messages they are delivering.
These ingrained habits and patterns are much like a record that gets stuck in a groove and keeps playing the same thing over and over again. Through meditation (sadhana, daily meditation practice) you can find balance, relaxation and focus on what really is important to help you lead a healthier and happier life. Things that may have bothered you before or caused you a great deal of stress or anxiety no longer bother you to the same degree. Like “water off a ducks back” you can be “in the eye of the hurricane”. I’ve often said you can’t control your external environment, but you can decide what you bring to the situation and how you perceive it.
MEDITATION TIP #1:
Sit tall with a straight spine or lie down with eyes closed. The breath is through your nostrils and you want to slow it down since simply slowing down your breath to eight breath cycles is dramatically calming.
Inhale… abdomen fills with air (relaxes and expands), then the chest expands followed by the upper ribs and clavicle lifting. The exhale happens in reverse order with the clavicle relaxing, then chest emptying followed by the abdomen pulling in and up forcing out any remaining air (navel point pulls in and up toward the spine).
Find a quiet space in the morning, afternoon or evening to practice your long deep breathing for 3-11 minutes. If your mind wanders try counting backwards from 27 to 1 (Inhale 27, Exhale 27, Inhale 26, Exhale 26 and so on) or mentally say the following mantra Sat Nam (pronounced Sut Nom… Nom sounds like mom). Inhaling Sat, Exhaling Nam.
Check in throughout the day to see if your breathing is shallow and in your chest or expansive and in your belly. You can set your watch to go off every hour or two as a reminder to do this.
MEDITATION TIP #2:
It’s important to remember. The mind follows the breath. The key to controlling the mind is controlling the breath. Yet of all the positive changes a person can make, learning to breath deeply, and completely is probably the most effective for developing higher consciousness, and for increasing health, vitality, and connectedness in one’s life.