Getting back into meditation

It's been quite a while since I gave myself the time to meditate. I became very good at making excuses as to why I couldn't find the time. It wasn't until I had a week or two of stress and anxiety that I realised what was missing and what might actually help me. 

I started to consider meditation before I began my practice again. I had had a long absence from it and knew my concentration wouldn't be very good. I knew my mind would drift and think about all the things that were making me stressed or anxious. I knew I had to give myself time to consider what I wanted the meditation to do for me otherwise I would be practising mechanically and on auto-pilot, with my mind elsewhere.

This is when I turned to the app store on my phone, somewhere I never thought I'd end up looking for meditations. There are so many apps to choose from. I wanted to get an idea of the meditations that are available as I normally practice 'Japa'. I wanted meditations for different feelings, emotions and objectives. I wanted there to be a person talking me through it as I felt my mind would be less likely to wander off if there was a person to bring me back to my practice. When left alone, I am usually sat in what looks like a meditative state but I'm typically just thinking about the day ahead of me or what I have to do in the week.

I heard of Headspace through a training course at work so decided to check it out. I understood it was useful for gaining mindfulness and helping with stress levels. It seemed like the sensible choice for me.

Headspace is free to download with the 'Take 10' sessions being completely free too. These sessions are a ten minute meditation for ten days. Andy (the creator of the app) talks you through simple breath meditations which I found helped me to escape my jittering mind. I began to feel that inner sense of calm I had lost.

After a few of the 'Take 10' sessions, I could feel the positive effect it was having on me and felt connected to the idea of meditation again. I decided to look into paying for a year's subscription. I'm not someone who would invest in something like this but I could feel it was worth it, especially when it works out at £4.99 a month for a year's subscription. £4.99 for your health and well-being in the comfort of your own home sounds like a good deal to me. Buying a subscription with Headspace opens up so much more of the app with the meditations targeting specific things which was exactly what I was looking for. 

I am still continuing my journey with Headspace. You have to complete the foundation course (30 days to complete if you meditate every day) before it unlocks the specific packages. I find that keeping them locked and knowing that I want to experience them, keeps me on track. I actively look forward to waking up and starting my day with Andy talking me through ten minutes of blissfulness. 

My struggles with my ego

I've recently started going to another yoga class during the week. I attend my teacher's class every Tuesday in Bristol. It's an intermediate class so does challenge me (rather intensely some weeks) but I felt I wanted to try something new.

After the Christmas break, I felt like I'd lost a lot of strength. I'd set myself the challenge of being able to hold Pincha Mayurasana - forearm balance by the end of 2017 (without a wall may I add) so I knew I needed to get back into my practice, and stronger than before.

I started digging around to try and find some local classes to me. I came across yogapod and decided to try their class on a Wednesday night in Frome. These are Ashtanga based classes and I know Ashtanga is great for building strength and muscle. I thought the combination of stamina for holding poses that I get from a Sivananda class would complement the strength I could build doing Ashtanga.

I have to admit that I haven't been to another class in a long time. I tend to stick with my teacher as I haven't found a teacher like her anywhere else. Once you click with a teacher, you tend not to go elsewhere (or at least not very often). I have been taught by various other people on retreats and when my teacher has had cover but I haven't attended a regular class with anyone but her for the last two years or more. 

I thought 2017 would be the year to change that; to gain more experience of how different teachers teach to aid my own teaching, to gain a deeper understanding of where I am in my practice and to gain more strength than I have ever had before.

So off I went to my first Ashtanga class in Frome. The teacher greeted me with a smile and chatted to me for a bit about my previous experience and style that I teach. I felt quite nervous. It was new environment and I didn't know anyone. I had that same fear beginners get, "What if I'm not very good? What if everyone is better than me?" It was odd to be back in that position. I hadn't felt that for years.

The class started with Kriyas (cleansing practices). We were practising things I hadn't done since my yoga teacher training in 2014. I began to feel I'd already made the right decision. It felt good to experience these other aspects of yoga that I don't always have time to do.

The class then took a turn I didn't expect. We started with super gentle exercises but these lasted 45 minutes - this is not how I thought an Ashtanga class would go. I'd geared myself up for a difficult, maybe even impossible, 90 minutes. I was sat there thinking, "Oh no. This isn't going to help my practice or get me in to Pincha Mayurasana. I've made a mistake."

After the gentle stretches, we started doing the Ashtanga Sun Salutations and the pace picked up suddenly. At that point, it clicked in my head that my ego had been interrupting the first half of the class. I was so caught up with my expectations I had been taken away from the practice itself. 

I was so used to how a class should feel or how a teacher should teach based on my expectations from my own teacher that I had sat through most of the class with a stubborn attitude. I could feel myself wanting to show off and pick up my own pace but I fought this. I listened carefully to instructions. It was like there were two parts to me; the part that wanted to show off and push myself too hard and the part that wanted to just be. I listened to the latter one. 

At the end of the class, after the last 45 exhausting minutes, I rested in my relaxation. I completely zonked out. I felt a sense a relaxation I hadn't for a long time. As my teacher said on my yoga teacher training, "If you give a good relaxation, it doesn't matter how hard you push them during the class". It truly is the relaxation that will keep me coming back to a class. After all, isn't that what yoga is all about - finding that sense of peace and stillness that comes from a place deep within. When the body is rested, the mind will follow.