Good Morning, Beautiful. Good Night, Gorgeous.

The quality of our sleep depends on the quality of our sleeping mind.

*Check out the workshops in the “Beyond the Pose” series here.

Good Morning, Beautiful! Recently, I facilitated a workshop on yoga practices for sleep … the small class size of amazing women was intimate & laidback. We shared our personal experiences with sleep disturbances, & discussed what modern science has discovered about the importance of sleep for rejuvenation of the brain — consolidation of memories, “global downscaling,” & emotional response reset. The techniques shared from the yoga tradition included breathing techniques, poses for the end of the day, as well as lifestyle habits/rituals. A beautiful blend of modern science & yoga philosophy & practice.

 

From years of experience dealing with stress in an unhealthy way, resulting in poor sleep & waking up in a panic almost nightly — I’ve practiced these routines & techniques for years, adding or subtracting what works for my mind/body as needed. That night, after the sleep workshop, you’d think I’d sleep like a baby — I’d just taught the same techniques & practices that I do myself on a regular basis.

 

Well, not so much. My eyes shot open at 1:56am, mind racing.

 

I was so frustrated — I thought, “Are you serious?! I have worked on this sh** for years … have been sleeping better & waking up better … I just shared what works for me less than 12 hours ago … & NOW this?!”

 

And then I laughed. Well, a little internal chuckle so as not to wake Jim (he’s an expert sleeper, by the way) … but a laugh at myself at 2am amidst a panicked mind that wasn’t going back to sleep anytime soon. I mean, c’mon … the scene was pretty comical. The quality of my sleeping mind … whew, it was a doozy!

 

So the truth is I didn’t get a good night’s sleep. Yep, I teach yoga … yep, I share yoga techniques for sleep. And yet I learned some valuable lessons on my journey to go beyond my Internal Critic:

  1. I’m learning.
  2. Have a sense of humor amidst the frustration.
  3. There’s no magic formula — the progress is in consistent practice over time, as Panditji states here, from his commentary on The Yoga Sutras:

“Because we are unaware of what is happening in our inner world while we are asleep, it is imperative in our waking state that we practice techniques for sleeping in a healthy, enlightening way.” – Dr. Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, Himalayan Institute

 

Are you experiencing sleep disturbances? Whether you’re new to yoga philosophy & practice or a long-time practitioner, I hope you’ll take heart from my “2 steps forward, 1 step back” experience last week. For me, I’m taking this opportunity to reflect on my current practices / routines during the day & my bedtime rituals … taking in what benefits & letting go of what doesn’t … perfect for the autumn season, actually … & continuing my practice. I’d love to hear your favorite ways to nurture your sleep — comment below! Good night, Gorgeous!

Beyond the Pose

“As I said earlier, yoga has been used, to a great extent, only for self-improvement—to make our bodies feel better, to be healthier, to feel less stress. What we’ve lost is the idea that when I think of another and extend compassion to another, I improve myself. When I help another person, we become literally inseparable. This is what tantra teaches, and it is the key to living in a more expansive way that benefits ourselves and the larger world.” – Rod Stryker, Parayoga

Have you wondered if your yoga practice is more expansive than your 24″ x 68″ yoga mat? More than a stress reliever, detox program, or booty lifter?

If so, yay! Woohoo! Thank you!

Don’t get me wrong, I love asana — posture practice. And I love that there are so many different styles of physical practice … you may not get benefit from the Hatha class I teach today, so here’s a Vinyasa class for you … or a Yin practice. Circle back to Hatha when you’re ready ;).

That said, I continue to be amazed that “yoga” is so much more. The word “hatha,” for example, joins the letters “ha” & “tha,” & represents the two controlling forces of life. Sandra Anderson of The Himalayan Institute tells us,

Yoked together in one word, these letters illustrate the practice of hatha yoga—the joining of the forces of light and darkness, the resolution of disharmony and opposition, and the transcendence of dualities of all kinds. It is this state of balance and equanimity that supports and strengthens us, and which nurtures the unfolding of a deeper level of awareness and spiritual wisdom.

Do I know what all this means yet? Nope. I continue to learn, practice, witness, STRUGGLE … on & off my mat. I hope you’ll join me.

Let’s share how we practice Hatha yoga off of our mats & in the world. What have you been up to lately? An extension of compassion that changed you? A helping of another that transformed your view or way of being? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

At Love Yoga, we’re offering “Philanthropy Thursdays” — donation classes that extend support to local organizations doing great work in our community. Last month, our extended yoga family raised $200 to support programs at Canine Partners for Life … I was SO HUMBLED that folks who couldn’t make it to a physical practice said, “Here, I’d like to donate anyway.” Yoga is beyond the pose.

This month, Nickers ‘N Neighs Therapeutic Riding Center will benefit from your practice on & off the mat. Donations of any amount make a difference! Bring a friend — widen the circle!

In addition, I’ll be offering Sunday workshops on practices (physical, breathing & cleansing) to support you in sleep, joint health, & your general daily round. Called “Beyond the Pose,” these workshops cater to those of us wanting to delve deeper into our practice & transformation. Check out Love Yoga for more information & registration.

Whether you “practice yoga” (i.e. on a mat) or not … you practice yoga (!) through your relationship to your Self, to your world & to those around you. Extend compassion, love, light — transform your Self. This is our practice.

I hope to hear how you practice in the comments below =).

Ubuntu – I am because you are.

This February I won a trip to the Wisdom 2.0 Conference in San Francisco, CA from the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation and Propeller. Wisdom 2.0 is an amazing conference bringing together teachers & leaders in the mindfulness movement from all over the country. It was a pretty cool experience.

Honestly, the reason I entered the drawing was because one of the prizes was a signed copy of the Dalai Lama’s & Desmond Tutu’s most recent book – The Book of Joy. The book has been sitting on my shelf all summer.

I packed “The Book of Joy” for our 2-week trip through New England recently. Jim, the dogs & I borrowed my in-laws’ pop-up trailer & drove 2,400 miles exploring, hiking & eating our way through New York, Vermont, New Hampshire & Maine.

Anyway, on my short list of “top 5 people you’d like to have dinner with” are Desmond Tutu & the Dalai Lama. I’m so taken by their presence in the world — & especially their absolute JOY & sense of humor. I highly recommend “The Book of Joy.”

Desmond Tutu facilitated the Truth & Reconciliation Commission after the fall of apartheid in South Africa. He constantly refers to the concept of UBUNTU — the philosophy that “I am because you are.” Here’s Desmond Tutu: What is Ubuntu?

I’m thinking on this Ubuntu in light of the great devastation currently experienced by humans & animals of Texas & Louisiana in the wake of Hurricane Harvey (we in southwest PA are only getting a smattering of rain & high winds — Harvey “after-thoughts,” if you will). My friend Emily flew from Seattle to Houston & is currently helping out at an animal shelter — Ubuntu — I am more fully human because Emily is expressing her full human potential in Houston.

I’m thinking on this Ubuntu in light of Jim & my 11th anniversary — thousands of miles of travel & experience across the U.S. together, hundreds of miles of hiking/kayaking/climbing together, with unknown miles ahead … together. Ubuntu — I am more fully human because of who we are.

And I’m thinking on this Ubuntu in light of a new fall schedule — Uniontown schools back in session, a new teaching schedule at Love Yoga Studio, & opportunities to teach yoga at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church & East End United Community Center. Ubuntu — I am more fully human as I encourage others to reach their highest human potential.

Where do you experience Ubuntu?

Here are a few ways I hope to inspire your Ubuntu practice:

  • Donation Class Thursdays at Love Yoga Studio — this month’s donations go to Canine Partners for Life. Join me & fellow Love Yoga teachers Alycia & Kristin … & a CPL puppy-in-training!
  • Lafayette School Garden Open House — Wednesday, September 6th at 6:00-7:30pm. Garden-inspired food by Ethel’s Edibles, kids’ activities & program highlights from East End United Community Center, Fayette County Power Up! Nutrition Education, Canine Partners for Life, & more. See details here: Lafayette Community Garden.
  • Join the Love Yoga Community — No gimmicks, just yoga … time-tested practices to cultivate more energy in your body, calm in your mind, & compassion in your heart. Check out September promotions here: 30 for $30 & more!
  • Share this blog post with a friend or family member — you are because they are. We are here to bring out the best in each other.

Here’s to you, dear one! Thank you for being you today!

Cheers, E

Register for Mindful Classroom Workshop

Hey all! Quick post to encourage you and/or fellow educators to get your last-minute registration in for Intermediate Unit 1 Summer Institute this week. Lots of workshops to choose from, including a workshop I’ll be leading on incorporating mindfulness activities into classroom routines & culture on Thursday, August 10th from 9:00am to 3:00pm (lunch provided). Only $35 (what?! I know!).

While “online registration” is closed, you and/or a friend can still sign up by giving me a call / text at 509.406.0928 or message me on Facebook (Erica Seaver-Engel), Twitter or Instagram (baxter4610).

We have a small, intimate group — so we can cover a lot of ground together, discuss your unique goals for adding mindfulness & yoga activities into your daily routine, & dive into your burning questions!

I look forward to seeing you Thursday!

P.S. Check out August yoga offerings at Love Yoga. See you on the mat =).

Know Your Garden

Holy Rain & Thunderstorms, Batman! Last week was a doozy … Baxter & Tortilla, our furry family members, were none-too-pleased with the pop-up storms day & night.

 

That said, last year at this time we were scrambling for water at the Lafayette School Garden, a project I’ve been honored to be part of for 2 years now. Our collection tanks were bone-dry. This year, July has been a banner month for water collection =). The bush beans are in full production, we harvested 15 heads of garlic last week (our first experiment with this crop), & the leeks & herbs are flourishing.

 

Where’s Your Water?

What’s yoga got to do with water & gardening? Well, I think about what nourishes me — like water to a garden, my yoga practices (not just asana, but also breathwork, meditation, food choices, sleep, relationships, etc.) nourish me & help me grow in body, mind & spirit. What nourishes you? Where’s your water?

How’s your garden growing this year? Whether your veggie garden, or your yoga garden …  I’d love to read your comments & see your photos.

 

Summer Garden Open House

YOU’RE INVITED, Yogis! Come & see what’s growing at our Garden Open House this week — Thursday, July 20th at 7:00 – 8:30pm. The garden is located behind Lafayette School on 300 Connellsville Street in Uniontown, PA. All are welcome!

 

YOGA — Come out & try a garden yoga practice with Kristin, founder of Love Yoga Studio. We at Love Yoga provide you with a community of practice for body, mind & spirit … in the studio & in the garden! (Mats are provided =) )

 

FOOD — Try food creations from Chef Joe Carei — local chef, UHS track coach & dedicated to our local community — featuring veggies & herbs growing in the garden! You might just walk away with a garlic bulb from our very first garlic harvest!

 

COMMUNITY — Local community organizations featured include: Fayette County Community Action Agency, Fayette County “Power Up!” Nutrition & Exercise Education Program, Canine Partners for Life, & the Wilderness Experience, Leadership & Service (WELS) Program. Don’t forget to let your kiddos take a book from the Little Free Library =).

 

ART — You’ll meet Lafayette’s 2017-2018 “Artist-in-Residence” Diane Adams – who will be guiding students in a murals project in the garden. Her work is extraordinary, & we can’t wait to see what she & the students create together.

 

Know Your Garden

I invite us all to get to know our local gardens this summer … whether in your backyard or in our community. In addition, consider what nourishes your “garden” — your body, mind & spirit. When you’re well-nourished inside & out, you can take your practice off the yoga mat & nourish others.

 

Here’s to growth on & off the mat, Erica

 

Widening the Circle

Sending you well wishes as July begins! First, a PSA from Tortilla & Baxter (my boys, pictured above) — Keep your pets safe this July 4th! Tortilla recommends a comfy bed indoors, chew toy, Rescue Remedy & soft music or fans to block fireworks noise. July 5th is the busiest day at shelters & rescues — so keep your pets safe & secure in your home!

Now on to my musings =) …

Check out my Hatha Class schedule here =) — Love Yoga Class Schedule

Yesterday I got together with friends from my 2015/2016 yoga teacher training at Himalayan Institute – Pittsburgh. Sidenote: I recommend the sweet potato fries at Cafe io.

My teacher friends & I each have our own unique teaching schedules, teaching focus & methodology … & I learn a million amazing things each time we get together. I had no idea what kirtan was before meeting Chris. Gigi is teaching in community centers & studios, & has one of my many dream jobs — banding & counting songbirds. Elizabeth recently moved to Pittsburgh, & I always get ideas for places that Jim & I need to check out (have you heard of Randyland?!). Nancy, a retired school teacher, now teaches kids’ yoga, & I gained awesome tips for working with my kindergarten group this summer.

These beautiful, funny, intelligent, spirit-full souls filled my cup to overflowing this week — a week filled with new programs (exciting), fireworks sending my dogs behind toilets (not-so-exciting), & the emotional beginning of my monthly cycle (beautiful yet sometimes a bummer). From the initial 9 months of weekend yoga teacher trainings together, we’re continuing to widen this circle of support & friendship …

Several years ago, the phrase “widening the circle” struck me — I can’t remember where I heard the phrase, yet it’s part of a quote from this guy you might know:

Albert Einstein Quotes Wallpapers8[14]

One of many reasons I think “widening the circle” strikes me is that I’ve felt a little outside the norm, & at times rejected from groups, since I was a kid. I’m not unique here — I think we’ve all felt this way at one point or another. When I learned the term “introvert,” I felt a weight lift — oh, so THAT’S why big groups/parties are exhausting! That’s why I enjoy solitude – not because I don’t like people, but because I can recharge my batteries.

This widening the circle is so appealing to me — & being with Gigi, Elizabeth, Chris, & Nancy this week further confirms the appeal. There’s so much learning to be had, such inspiration to take in, so much laughter to lift any spirit. Well-being is cultivated.

Now, you extroverts are probably thinking “duh” — & I give you credit for that. I love your life-of-the-party, wide-circleness.

Widening the circle is what I love about my personal yoga practices too. I jumped into yoga thinking I’d get exercise with a little stress relief sprinkled on top. I was an over-exerciser & anorexic for over a decade during my teens & early 20s, & in bouncing back I wanted more balance, but also wanted to continue to move my body, sweat, etc. in a “healthier” way. I LOVED vinyasa flow classes – the movement, the challenge, the pretty poses. I practiced for years.

Widening the circle. “Yoga isn’t exercise,” a renowned teacher stated matter-of-factly. Curiosity. What are these 8 limbs of yoga? Asana (poses, the physical stuff) is ONE part of yoga, one that has been capitalized on in exercise-crazed Western society. So what are these other “limbs”? The journey begins …

As a teacher trained in Hatha Yoga, I wish I could say I loved my first Hatha Yoga class. I didn’t. Seriously. My mind said, “This is so sloooooowwww … we’re holding these poses forEVER … why am I laying in Savasana for 10 minutes? I’ve got shit to do.” I was used to moving!

But I returned to class. Each time I practiced the simple (not easy) movements, breathing techniques, relaxation … I felt something shift. A widening of the circle … of compassion for myself, of the strength within me, of something bigger/deeper than the external skin/muscle stuff. I practice vinyasa, yin, etc. now & then … yet the Hatha practices continue to have a profound effect on my mind, body & spirit.

Because of my own initial experience with Hatha Yoga, I encourage first-time students in a yoga class to avoid allowing their minds to make snap judgments about their experience … to come back for a second class. (Caution: There is something to be said about following your gut instinct if a class feels emotionally or physically unsafe.) It takes courage to try a new class, & the mind can be clouded by nervous energy, excitement, uncertainty, etc. In addition, Hatha Yoga classes can be quite different from popular Western fitness-based yoga classes. There is a pose sequence, yet also breathwork, subtle energies being manipulated, soothing the nervous system, focusing the mind.

On one hand, how great is it that there are so many choices? I hope we (myself included) continue to widen & deepen our understanding of yoga practices, not only on our mats, but in our lives too. On the other hand, our one-&-done culture is not used to Patanjali’s instruction from the Yoga Sutra to practice “with consistency” & “over time” in order to experience the wide circle of benefits the 8 limbs of yoga offer. One class, meditation session, or workshop isn’t going to cut it.

The circle of yoga practitioners is widening — over 36 million people in the U.S. alone. If you’re practicing, who can you invite into the circle? If you’re not practicing yet, maybe it’s time! There are a MULTITUDE of ways to practice yoga — one of my teachers said, “If you can breathe, you can practice yoga.” You are part of the circle!

I look forward to hearing from you, & how we can widen the circle of well-being in Uniontown & beyond. The benefits of yoga philosophy & practice are meant to be shared. Contact me through the comments, or by email at erica.seaverengel@gmail.com … or the very best way, face-to-face in a yoga class!

Cheers to you! E

 

How Do I Know if It’s ‘Working’?

How do I know if my yoga practices – postures, breathwork, meditation, lifestyle, etc. – are working?

I appreciate Dr. Pandit Rajmani Tigunait’s answer from “Inner Quest”:

The essential technique of yoga is to bring your mind to a state of balance – to attain control over its modifications. You become the master of your mind when you attain the ability to guide it so that it works the way you want it to work. Chitta vritti nirodha yogaha (Sutra 1.2)

Controlling the mind does not mean suppressing the mind. It’s like driving your car. Having control over the car means driving it the way you want and to the extent you want. It also means that you are able to stop it when you wish and turn it when you want. Similarly, control over the mind means having the ability to let it work when it is needed, and to stop it from running when it’s time to rest.

Any technique that helps you gain mastery over your mind is a part of yoga: your diet, exercise, and breathing, as well as your thinking process and your philosophy of life. But with any practice you do, see whether it is helping you become clearer, more concentrated, more organized, and more cheerful. Are you having fewer doubts, fears, attachments, and complications in your life? Is your life becoming simpler and more straightforward? If you are moving in that direction, you are practicing yoga. If not, there is something wrong either in the practice itself or in the way you are doing it. No matter how glorious a practice seems to be, no matter how popular it is, or how much others seem to admire it, if you do not notice a positive effect on your mind then such a practice does not qualify as yoga.

So, does my asana practice bring me concentrated energy or exhaustion? Does my meditation practice result in clarity in my everyday life? Do my food, sleep, relationship choices bring me joy or drag me down? Food for thought =).

Find more wisdom here: The Himalayan Institute

May – Mental Health Month

I didn’t know May was Mental Health Awareness Month until I was asked to facilitate a yoga / meditation session for a local support group. What an amazing group of strong men & women – I was humbled by their courage to attend this session, by their open-ness to trying a little yoga, & by their honest assessment of their experience after the practice.

“I feel I can breathe a little easier.” “I feel a little calmer.” What precious feedback.

I didn’t know:

https://www.nami.org/NAMI/media/NAMI-Media/Images/IntoMentalHealth/IntoMH-Facebook-Timeline.png

I didn’t know:

https://www.nami.org/NAMI/media/NAMI-Media/Images/IntoMentalHealth/IntoMH-Facebook-Timeline-2.png

There’s much I do not know about mental illness … I do know that I have judged others out of my own ignorance and fear.

My personal yoga practice continues to evolve my understanding of myself — my body, my mental / emotional states, my spiritual path. I’m only scratching the surface of the Yoga Sutra (ancient text explaining the goal and practice of yoga) and the understanding that I practice these 8 limbs of yoga to reveal my True Self, rather than seek something or someone outside of myself to validate or make me better.

This refreshing understanding contradicts certain religious interpretations that we’re born incomplete, in need of fixing, or “sinful.” (Growing up & continuing to practice in the Lutheran faith tradition, I’m only now moving past a dualistic “sinner-saint” thing — I think we’re all much more nuanced than that, & maybe Jesus saw us as more too.)

This not-enoughness plagues so many of us, myself included … & I don’t know about you … it certainly affects my mental well-being.

I do not claim to know the very real thoughts/feelings of hopelessness, frustration, fear, sadness, shame, or anxiety associated with mental illness. I hope if you or someone you know is struggling — and we all do know someone according to the above “1 in 5” statistic — that you use your yoga practice to cultivate light and compassion within yourself so that you may be present for yourself or that someone. Note: There’s no need to change you or offer solutions to someone else — your presence is enough.

What about mental well-being? Cultivating that inner sense of well-being, ease, stability? Enough-ness? Here are some practices that I’m working with —

  • Morning Routine – Practices that both cleanse & nourish – tongue scraping, dry brushing, abhyanga, neti pot, tea & journaling.
  • Simple Asana – no fancy poses or expectations, just simple yet profound hatha sequences that provide grounding and stability.
  • Meditation -Taking time to retreat, get to know myself, and that myself is enough.
  • Taking in my dogs’ joy – Baxter & Tortilla are always, always, ALWAYS happy to see me. When I wake up in the morning, they’re eager to get going. When I come home from work, they wiggle & waggle with delight. When we’re relaxing in the evening, they want to be close. I can’t believe I take this devotion for granted some days.
  • Social Connection – This one can be difficult for me as an introvert – I recharge in solitude. Contrary to popular belief, introverts like me really do enjoy people & socializing, it just takes more energy so we need to retreat (for our mental well-being!).
  • Honoring my Daily Rhythms – I’m not good at this one. I go to bed way later than my body wants to … & struggle to rise even though I LOVE mornings. So, I have an intention for summer ;).

So, consider your mental well-being this month. Recommit to your practices, or start a new practice (maybe click here). Let’s commit to cultivating compassion and a sense of enough-ness — for ourselves and especially for those seeking their own mental well-being in the midst of struggle. Learn more about Mental Health Month here: NAMI.

Overwhelmed

I’m overwhelmed. Cuts to the core of a person who fancies herself as a keep-it-together, don’t-show-weakness-or-failure woman.

Some folks react to overwhelm with anger, laughter, going out with friends, talking with a therapist, or fill in the blank. When I reach the tipping point of overwhelmed, I cry. The feeling of tears seems to come out of nowhere, at an unexpected time, as a result of a “happy” or “sad” experience or conversation. I think, “What the heck am I going to cry for … right now?”

Of course there are signs (often weeks before) that I’m becoming overwhelmed before this tipping point. Here are a few of my warning signs (maybe you identify?):

  • There’s a “+6” on my day’s calendar, meaning I have to scroll down in my phone for 6 more events, meetings, or to-do’s. Oh, & the following 2 weeks are similar.
  • I’m heating up frozen burritos for lunch on my way out the door – but they’re “organic” so I feel better about it.
  • I notice I’m not sleeping through the night — when I’m reaching a tipping point of “too much,” my body wakes at 3am & starts thinking, planning, worrying. (Towards the end of a previous & awesome job, this happened regularly for a couple years)
  • I do my morning practices – lemon water, neti wash, abhyanga, asana, relaxation & meditation – yet sporadically & more out of sheer survival than for enjoyment, fulfillment, or self-care.
  • Time with Jim deteriorates. I’m too distracted for time hanging out, getting outdoors, or intimacy.
  • I’m out of touch with my family.
  • My dogs don’t get their morning walk, & I’m flying in / out the door through the day saying, “I love you, I’m sorry, I promise we’ll walk, snuggle, play when I get back.”
  • My hair sheds more. My digestion goes haywire.
  • I procrastinate – more than I already do – because I just don’t know where to even BEGIN.

And then one day I come home & cry. My body finally says, “Look sister, once AGAIN, this isn’t working for you. Time to let the flood gates open.”

I’m still overwhelmed with too much on my plate mentally & emotionally – yet admitting it to myself & letting myself cry releases some of the self-imposed pressure.

So here I am, writing a blog post in the middle of it.

I haven’t graduated from periods of overwhelm. Seems to be a lifelong learning course for me =). My ongoing lessons include:

  • Notice subtle signs in my body, mental state, sleeping & eating patterns. Early.
  • Go easy on judging myself for getting myself into this overwhelm. Again.
  • Delegate. People want to help, work together, be part of something bigger.
  • Say “No.” To projects better suited to someone else’s time, talent, passion.
  • Say “Yes.” To self-care – to quality sleep, cooking good food, making time for yoga on & off the mat. To spending time with my husband/dogs/family/friends, getting outdoors. (Connecting Heart & Mind came across my email this morning … so I said “Yes.” The practice deserves sharing!)

Maybe you’re like my husband, who takes most of life in stride & doesn’t let much get to him. Maybe you’re like me, who works through periods of “Gaaaaaahhhhh! It’s all too much!” There’s room for all of us. We’ve each got our “stuff” we’re working through, learning from, to become the True version of our Selves (1.3).

It’s okay to feel overwhelmed. Let’s just take things one day at a time.

 

Sit

“Yoga is the quieting of the fluctuations of the mind.” – Yoga Sutra 1.2

 

The first time I was introduced to this statement in my yoga teacher training, I thought, “Oh, ok. Simple enough. Let’s do this.”

I laugh out loud now, embracing my go-get-em naivete regarding my personal yoga journey. I continue to discover that, rather than a still pond, my “fluctuations of mind” range from cute little ripples to raging 60-foot waves.

First of all, I began practicing yoga postures as a form of exercise & stress relief … NOT as a way to quiet my mind. I needed to be in shape, on-the-go, & accomplishing things. I needed to be better & do more … just a little less stressed in the process =).

Maybe you or someone you know can identify?

Secondly, learning that yoga is more than getting into & out of physical poses … that there are several aspects, or 8 limbs of yoga, & I’d been focused on one (the physical) … well, for me that realization was both daunting & exciting. Exciting because there’s so much more to learn – a lifetime of learning & experiencing, really. Yet also daunting – “You practice yoga? You teach yoga?” someone asks. Hmm, do I? (but that’s a reflection for another time)

Physical poses serve to open the body, move energy & breath in an intelligent way … so one can move into the deeper aspects of yoga – relaxation, concentration, meditation & so on. If I stop at posture practice, roll up my mat & move on, I may be missing an opportunity to know myself a little more deeply, connect to something bigger, & move out into the world with stability & ease in mind as well as body.

So it’s time to practice some sitting … this thing called meditation. (Now cue the stereotypical image of skinny, old, half-dressed man with legs impossibly tangled, zen-like face, probably sitting for decades in enlightened bliss)

Reviewing my meditation journals from a while back, I read, “So I’m doing all this yoga stuff so I can SIT? Really? But I’m not DOING anything. And it hurts. And it takes too much time. What’s this sitting going to accomplish? What’s in it for me?” (& the mind waves start to roll …)

Maybe you or someone you know can identify =).

Thankfully the first step in meditation — establishing a sitting posture — is simple & offers immediate feedback & results. Sit so you feel upright, stable & comfortable. Period.

No pretzel legs. No time requirements. No feeling yogic or having secret knowledge.

Use a chair! Grab those cushions & blankets. Experiment. You’ll know when you’ve found your perfect sitting posture. Sit for one minute or twenty. The point is to SIT with ease & stability on a regular basis. Then the process of meditation begins.

Why focus so much time & effort on the simplicity of sitting?

“Regardless of which sitting posture you choose for your meditation practice, perfecting it leads the body & mind into ever deeper states of stillness. A perfectly stable posture focuses the body in the same way that an object of concentration focuses the mind. All the energies flow in one direction; the posture is held effortlessly, & body awareness no longer impinges on the mind. You will also notice that the breath becomes stable & effortless — more regular, smooth, quiet, & subtle. Then you are ready to enter a phase of concentration in which the mind itself is ultimately the object of attention.” – Rolf Sovik, Moving Inward

I continue to experiment with this first step in meditation – finding my seat – tweeking with a cushion here, an exercise to strengthen my back muscles there. It’s a process. There’s a lotta yoga – the process of quieting the fluctuations of my mind – still to experience.

How’s your journey going? I’d love to hear your experiments in finding a sitting posture that works for you. Comment below!