Meditation over Medication

By Kristine Normand

Meditation is as simple as sitting down, closing the eyes, and dropping into our “zone.” It is so simple yet we neglect giving our meditation and yoga practice the attention they rightfully deserve. Is it fear of the unknown? Lack of time? Lack of commitment? Lack of patience? Whatever the excuse is that we make up to distract us from the precious time of being fully present with our mind and body, Kristy Souto will assist you in overcoming any simulated barriers of resistance in a two-hour workshop. This workshop will focus on how to build an at home yoga and meditation practice that will motivate your passions instead of making meditation and yoga seem daunting.

Developing an at home practice can appear intimidating, but with Kristy’s guidance, you will leave the workshop with a new zest of ideas and eagerness to practice the methods you learn. A strong home practice is a necessity to anyone who is serious about the health of his or her mind, body, and spirit. Practicing at a studio is a great time to be instructed by a qualified teacher into poses and transitions, but there is nothing more gratifying then flowing with your own breath and the energy of your body. Sitting in meditation at home allows you the freedom of no time constraints or distractions of anyone around you. Practicing asanas (poses) at home allows you to creatively express yourself and flow, as you desire. Unrolling your mat at home builds confidence in postures and helps you feel your real edge. This freedom allows you to find a deepness and connection that might not be accessible during a class setting.

Kristy’s experience in teaching meditation and various styles of yoga has made her adept in narrowing down the key components to formulating a powerful method for creating a home practice. If you are ready to take your yoga practice deeper, learn more about yourself, and become more in touch with your souls journey to source, join Kristy March 25 from 2-4 PM at Yoga Junkie Studio in Crestview for a valuable worksh12496036_787270091402329_2501796858370728096_oop. Cost is $20 and there is limited space, reserve your spot today!

DIY Yoga Wheel

By Kristine Normand

A dharma wheel is useful for enhancing stretching by opening up the back, chest, shoulders, quads, and hip flexors. There are a variety of uses for the yoga wheel, but it is essentially another prop to help assist in deeper stretches and accessing difficult poses. The dharma wheel helps create counter balance in difficult back bend poses and forearm stands. The wheel can be used for gentle practice or learning how to enter into full expression of poses such as pushing up into a handstand. Plenty of YouTube videos and tutorials exist for methods to using the yoga dharma wheel.

Dharma wheels can be pricey costing up to $100! This tutorial demonstrates how to make your own dharma wheel with no sawing or sanding required. Other tutorials require intensive labor of precise measuring, electric sawing, sanding, painting, and a whole list of required tools. This tutorial is simple, cheap, and no intensive labor required.

Materials:

6-12 inch diameter PVC connector pipe found in your local hardware store (larger PVC can be purchased thru pipe companies)
Recycled yoga mat
Scissors
Super glue or other permanent adhesive
String
Ruler

Directions:

1. This particular PVC piece is 6 inches in diameter and 6 inches in width. It is optional to spray paint the PVC any color you desire or leave it plain.
2. Measure or wrap a piece of strip around the circumference of the pipe and cut the exact length.
3. Place string on yoga mat and mark the length of the circumference. Measure 5.5 inches for the width to be cut from the mat.
4. Cut the yoga mat with designated width and length to cover the wheel. This cut piece of yoga mat will serve as the light cushioning over the yoga dharma wheel.
5. Use adhesive to glue one end of the mat to the wheel, leaving .25 inch of space on the edges. Continue to apply adhesive and roll wheel over the cut mat piece until it is completely covered.

It does not take more than 20 minutes to complete this yoga project and cost less than $12.00 for the 6 inch size (typical wheels are 12” and retail for over $59)! The wheel is a great tool to assist in the health and flexibility of the spine. This prop also offers new challenges and strength building for your yoga practice. Give this quick project a try and enjoy the years of use and benefits.
dharma FB

dharma wheel
Yoga Junkie Studios will be offering this DIY as a workshop on February 25th in our Crestview studio location. Originally created by Sri Dharma Mittra, the Dharma Yoga Wheel is an amazing tool that helps anyone, from beginner to the advanced practitioner, move deeper into their yoga postures. The wheel stretches deep into the hard to reach places in the body including the shoulders, chest, abdomen, hip flexors, and spine. This amazing tool aids in deepening backbends, gaining flexibility in a variety of ways, and inviting a sense of play into your practice. Come join Deanna & Kristine to learn how to safely use the Dharma Yoga Wheel to unlock your hips, mid-back and shoulders.

In this workshop you will make your own Dharma Wheel with Kristine Normand and then Deanna Lock will lead you through a heart-opening flow asana practice using the wheel to tie it all together.

$45 fee for this workshop includes all materials to make your Dharma Wheel as well as instruction, demos and playtime using the wheel. Following the creative space will be an hour long yoga practice utilizing the wheel. To register: yogajunkiestudio.com

Can’t Live Without Restorative

By Kristine Normand

Most of the yoga community attends yoga class for the workout, the challenge, the serene environment, and to get in touch with their physical bodies. It is no surprise to hear yogis state that they have never attended a restorative yoga practice because they do not want to "just lay down." If you have not yet attempted a restorative yoga session then we challenge you to give it a try and become utterly obsessed!

Restorative yoga is a gentle practice that creates the environment to surrender deeper into asanas and bring the mind into a meditative state. If you attend yoga for the calming factor, restorative will bring you to a new level of yoga relaxation. The gentle flow allows the body to open and lengthen in various poses that are held for extended periods of time. These movements allow you to truly find your edge and be present with how your body feels.

Blankets, bolsters, blocks, straps, tennis balls, wall, and sandbags are used to position the body in proper alignment for maximum benefits. This prop friendly practice helps break the “bad” prop stereotype as you find yourself stretching muscles you did not even know existed! The teachers do the work for you as they position props, offer adjustments, and ensure you are completely comfortable. Gravity takes over and relaxes your muscles and mind into almost a sleep induced state. It is not uncommon to drift in and out of conscious awareness and wake to someone snoring during class. Along with deep states of relaxation and increase in flexibility, restorative yoga also has benefits that alleviate stress, boosts the immune system, and helps develop compassion for the self and others.

Vanessa Murray teaches the regular restorative yoga practice on Sunday nights at 7. During a brief interview Vanessa expressed her passion and calling for this healing yoga that has impacted her and other practitioners lives. Vanessa states, “I love the way people melt under my hands. You see people let go of their worries, stresses, and tension they hold in their body. It is such a beautiful and opening practice. People think it’s the easiest practice in the world, but it is actually the hardest. It is hard to let go. When you are asked to lay still in silence for 10 minutes, you have to get real with yourself and look deep down. It’s hard. Things come up. You have to really look inside yourself and see yourself for who you really are. I use a lot of sensory guidance to ease you on your path towards gentle healing. The biggest thing to remember is that restorative yoga is for you and your body. It is all about self-love and self care. You cannot take care of others if you do not first take care of yourself.”

Take time for yourself during the animosity the holidays bring with a special Holiday Restorative session. Restorative yoga is the perfect time to give your body the self-love and care it craves. The environment is soothing and enriching as your body, mind, and spirit heal on both evident and subtle levels. Join Yoga Junkie Studio owners Teri Harnett and Kristy Souto for a unique 1.5-hour restorative flow. Their combined vibrant and soothing personalities create a welcoming and safe space to guide your body and mind into deep states of relaxation for healing. Come lay down with us this Saturday December 3 from 12-1:30 for this truly special event at our Crestview location as you discover you cannot live without restorative!

Find Your Path – Join us tonight for 8 Limb Path Candlelight Flow with Dawn Avent!

Love yoga? Love candle light meditation? Don’t know what 8 Limb Path is? Perfect! This two-hour session will focus on the 8 limb paths, which are the components that make yoga, yoga! Dawn Avent E-RYT200 RTY500 will guide you deep into practice and exploring the depths of your body and yoga working together in unison. During this warm (heated) practice you will be surrounded by candlelight for a full 90-minute flow. Candlelight practice creates an ambiance of clarity and soothing energy that can help bring you into a gentle mindset or stimulate your spirit into a highly focused practice. Gauge the energy of the room and your body and allow it to move you into a nourishing practice for the mind, body, and spirit. The flow will prepare your mind and body for an engrossed guided meditation that will bring your mind into peace as you achieve a deep meditate state.

So what are the 8 paths? You are already probably familiar with 2 of the limbs, asana and pranayama. These are the Sanskrit terms for poses and breathing techniques that generally becomes the main focus during every yoga practice. The other 6 limbs coincide with what you already know and practice. Around 200 A.D. Pantanjali recorded the philosophy of yoga and the 8 limbs to controlling the restlessness of the mind in The Yoga Sutras. Being more conscious of the parts that make up this ancient practice allows us to center our practice and become more in tune with our true self. It is evident that each limb holds equal importance and resonates with being part of the whole. Below is a simplified breakdown of the 8 paths.

1.Yama- Universal Morality
Universal morality is our observance toward others and how we treat people. Yama is the ethical and moral code on the path towards achieving peace. Yama is further broken down into five wise characteristics.
5 Wise Characteristics of Yama:
Ahimsa– Nonviolence, harmlessness; the practice of not causing pain to any living thing in our thoughts or actions
Satya-Truthfulness; the practice of always communicating the truth to others and to the self
Asteya– Nonstealing; do not take what rightly belongs to others and do not steal by over consumption
Brahmacharya– Celibacy; maintain respect and self-control for your body and spirit. Do not waste energy and time on acts that are not of love
Aparigraha– Modesty; have and take no more than you need in all aspects of life

2.Niyama- Personal Observances
Niyama is like Yama as it relates to an ethical code, but Niyama is a code we adopt towards ourselves. It is an attitude that is linked to how we treat our mind and body.
5 Internal Ethics of Niyama:
Saucha-Purity, clarity; the practice of physically and internally keeping ourselves clean of toxins, negative thoughts, patterns, and behaviors to maintain a healthy mind and body
Santosha– Contentment; accepting who you are and what you have. Practicing that everything happens for a reason and using pain and struggles as a tool for growth
Tapas– Austerity; being completely aware and control of the energy of our mind and actions.
Svadhyaya– Self-study; any practice that results in self-reflection of consciousness. Practicing mindfulness and accepting ourselves for who we are with compassion.
Ishvara pranidhana– Surrender to the divine; creating time every day to practice gratitude towards the divine and bring awareness to the greater force driving and guiding our existence.

3.Asanas- Body Postures
Practicing asana has benefits to all parts of our being. In the practice of surrendering to poses we build strength mentally and physically while challenging stillness and balance. It is in these postures where we become attuned to our physical body’s strengths, limitations, and needs. Our mind becomes still as we become acclimated to who we are and the power of our bodies.

4.Pranayama- Breath Control
Pranayama is the practice of controlling the breath and energy within our body. Through conscious awareness of the breath we are able to direct the energy in the body in the practice of self-discipline and vitalizing the chakra system of body. It is through breath control that we are able to bring the mind and body into a calm state of relaxation.

5.Pratyahara- Control of the Senses
Pratyahara is withdrawing the senses resulting in the loss of desire for external attachment. Through meditation we are able to bring our senses focus into the body and the desire for attachment and objects is diminished. Desire is linked directly to suffering and leads to imbalances in the mind and body. In this practice of yoga we find the inner peace that is constantly there.

6.Dharana- Concentration
Dharana is intense concentration of one object or experience. The focus is controlled and attention is maintained in one direction. The mind does not wander aimlessly, but concentration is held upon one object without judgment. The mind is able to hold its attention with all senses of the body engaged.

7.Dhyana- Meditation
Dhyana is the practice of meditating on the Divine. Unlike Dharana, Dhyana focuses on seeking truth and answers from contemplation. During meditation we bring our true nature to light and listen to the wisdom of our subconscious. We connect with the Divine and feel a sense of unison with the world around us, while experiencing the falsehood of reality.

8.Samadhi- Union with the Divine
Samadhi is the ultimate goal of yoga with a merging of the body and spirit with the Divine. During Samadhi, the body and senses are in a state of rest but the mind is able to comprehend and explore deeper states of consciousness. This is a state of truth and pure joy where the ego has left the body and one is able to live from their pure identity. This is a difficult task, but the other limb paths are designed to prepare one for this merging of the mind, body, and spirit.

The 8 limb paths of yoga are a tool to helping aid one in their journey to self-actualization and enlightenment. Each path is related and does not exist without the other. The paths together make up the purpose and practice of yoga. Integrating these practices into our lives helps create balance and positive health benefits mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Allow us to help you find your path as you embark on this journey during a candlelight flow to deepen your practice and overall well-being.

AcroYoga for Every Body

by Kristine Normandedits-42

AcroYoga is as the name implies: the blend of acrobats and yoga. This partnership practice is gaining highlights as you may have seen routines and pictures browsing through media and magazines. The balanced duo is not only inspiring, but it is a practice anyone can partake in. Do not be intimidated by the terms acrobat. You do not need to be a cirque de solei performer or master yogi to partake in the fun.

AcroYoga is for everyone and every body. Short, tall, fat, small, has no meaning in any yoga practice. As long as you are willing to practice patience, strength, and confidence, there is a place for you. AcroYoga involves a partner. There are three main components to the creation of these skillful asanas: the base, the flyer, and the spotter. The base is the foundation being the main weight supporting component and having the most contact with the
ground. The flyer typically is airborne using balance, core strength, and focus to maintain position with fluctuating center of gravity. The spotter is for safety to ensure smooth transitions and prevent injury to either partner. AcroYoga can involve daring poses, but there is a level of practice for each comfort level. Partner stretching is involved and the practice builds trust and strength. Because this discipline involves the trust of a companion, it creates a more focused and centered practice where the success of poses relies on mutual effort and balance. With the level of trust that is required, this practice is well suited for couples and spouses as they can grow their practice together and feel the mental and physical improvements.

Don’t have a partner? No worries! November 12 we will be hosting an AcroYoga workshop at our Crestview location. Come learn the basics and important safety techniques to protect both partners back and bodies. In this workshop you will have the opportunity to work with multiple partners and people familiar with the practice. The environment is perfect for learning how to get involved and to deepening your practice that already exist! If you are interested but nervous, this workshop is for you. Step out of your comfort zone. There is no weight, size, strength, and level of practice requirement. There is a place for everyone and every journey cannot start without taking the first steps forward. We have had amazing turnouts of participation during previous workshops with people completely surprised by the poses they were able to perform. Let us surprise you and join us for this fun filled session of performing yoga arts.

There is an I in Inversion!

By Kristine Normand

Inversions not only look incredible, they make you feel incredible too. There are numerous health benefits associated with turning your world upside down for a few minutes each day. The change of perception oxygenates and floods blood to the brain and joints that are usually deficient. Depending on the pose, pressure is reduced from the neck and back as natural spinal alignment is restored and compression is released.

Neck and back pain effect over 85% of the population. Inversions decompress vertebrae that are affected by the daily weight of gravity. This process allows herniated disc to slide back into their proper alignment, relieving pain. The decompression benefits also increase back flexibility and strengthen the spine. Inversions are not only a natural therapy effective for pain management, the increased blood flow boosts the immune system, controls indigestion, relieves insomnia, and is a great form of stress therapy. The benefits are not only internal, as inversions strengthen the core and have cosmetic effects. The increased blood flow nourishes the skin, decreases acne, and it is even proven to help with hair growth!

If the health benefits are not enough, performing these poses is inspiring. It takes poise, balance, strength, and discipline to be able to maintain stability on the hands, shoulders, or head. Poses can seem intimidating, but like all yoga asanas, there are variations to fit all levels of practice. With practice and patience come results.

(Yoga Junkie Studio frequently offers Inversion & Arm Balance Workshops where instructor Julee Cristie teaches basic progression poses to full on inversions. Join us in class or in a future workshop to learn how to safely position your body to prepare a strong base for headstands, handstands, shoulder stands, and more. )inversion

Floating Meditation with Destin’s Float Brothers

By Kristine Normand

While watching the Netflix original series, Stranger Things, I was intriguingly attracted to the scenes where one of the main characters is submerged into a sensory deprivation tank. The sensory reduced environment is used to channel
other planes of existence with enhanced clarity and focus. All external stimuli on our earthly plane of sight, sound, smell, taste, and even touch are reduced as much as possible. Curiously, I began to research sensory deprivation and its effects on the human conscious for meditative processes.

In 1954, Professor Dr. John C. Lilly, an American neurophysiologist, developed the first float tank in attempt to test reduced sensory environments on the brain and body. Over the years studies have proven float benefits of intense relaxation, pain management, memory recall, and heightened senses. The science behind the therapy is from the sensory reduced environment allowing the brain to enter into theta waves. Theta waves are the brain waves recorded when the brain enters into sleep and upon waking up. This state allows the brain to have elusive experiences of visuals, subconscious connection, and creative states. Theta waves are also recorded

in deep relaxation states associated with meditation. Float tanks and pods are gaining increasingly widespread interests as they are being used in hospitals, spas, fitness centers, and universities. Float Brothers in Destin is the first business in the Panhandle to offer this unique therapy experience. I was remarkable enough to revel in this pleasure for a 90-minute float. The facilities are exceptionally clean and offer four themed rooms to enhance your experience. The spa offers the space room, the nature room, the ocean room, and a patriotic room. The patriotic room is dedicated to our veterans that faithfully serve our country. Float Brothers also generously offers free floats to veterans diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder!

I was interested in floating to enhance my own meditative practices. Being in a sensory reduced environment, relaxing the mind and body to enter a higher state of conscious seemed infallible! The float pods have a futuristic appeal with colorful LED lights, music options, and a call box connected to the front desk. In the float pod you have the option of closing the pod door, listening to house music or using the aux cord, and turning off the lights. The tank is perfectly heated to 94 degree and filled with 1000 pounds of Epsom salt in a foot of water to create the buoyancy.

Along with being the science behind the float, the Epsom salt is comprised of sulfate and magnesium. Magnesium is shown to improve circulation, relieve stress, restore electrolytes, and assist with insulin processing. Along with these internal benefits, you leave the tank with a natural glow that leaves the skin supple and radiating.

After my pre float shower, I plugged my phone into the aux cord and played a guided meditation with binaural beats to help me relax. I laid in the tank overfilled with anticipation to float in complete relaxation. With the water heated at body temperature, when the body relaxes, the brain cannot differentiate between what is in the water and what is exposed to air. This enhances the feeling of floating in zero gravity. I was completely weightless and no matter how hard I tried to sink under water, I buoyantly floated straight to the surface. I shut the pod cover, turned off the lights, and began to float into the deepest state of relaxation I have ever experienced.

I could feel every muscle in my body that held tension, mostly my neck, and for the first time I was able to easily breathe into the tension and feel the immediate release. The pods also offer neck floats to assist in the journey if one struggles to find comfort relaxing the neck. I experimented with the Float Brothers new neck assistant prototype device. The material was lightweight and allowed me to comfortably prop my neck in cervical alignment while floating. After awhile of listening to the guided meditation, I was ready to experience complete silence. I reached over and turned the music button off. I was completely alone with my thoughts and with zero external stimuli; it was unlike any meditation I have practiced. I felt like I was spinning and was just able to surrender my thoughts and body to the weightlessness. There were points where I could not feel my body and it felt as if I was floating in space. (Perfect for my space room experience!) Before I knew it, the music, jets, and lights gently turned on to wake me from my floating trance. I completely lost sense of time and physical awareness. It was the most effective meditation session I have been able produce! After exiting the tank, my skin appeared noticeably clearer and I was in such a delightful mood. I had vivid dreams while I was asleep that night, and even woke up in my bed upside down!

The float pod is beneficial to new and experienced meditators to transcend their mind and body into deeper states of relaxation. The process really reveals the stillness and clarity the mind and body seeks during meditation. Without stimulus, it is easier to focus inwards and relax tension that creeps into the muscles. Not only was it valuable for meditation, but it also helped with muscle recovery. I was experiencing shoulder soreness and pain from multiple Chaturanga Dandasana sequences the prior day, but upon leaving the pod, my soreness was completely gone! I was in disbelief how 90-minutes floating could make my body and mind feel immediately rehabilitated. Along with my bliss from my rejuvenated mind and body,

Float Brothers offers a tea and coffee bar set along a wall mural of inspirational quotes and comments from guest experiences. The quote that resonated with me was, “A spiritual bath of warm, velvety goodness.” That is exactly how I would describe it. The water is warm, velvety and spiritually cleansing as it nourishes the mind, body, and soul. It is an absolute must for spiritual practice, pain management, or just a relaxing spa day.

The owners, brothers Chris and Trey Hearn, are exceptionally warm and welcoming. Their earnest custom service radiates their genuine passion to help people. Along with their dedicated program for free float therapy to veterans, the spa aims to service people in any practical way possible. Chris mentioned that float therapy is an excellent safe zone to make important decisions, reflect on life, and figure out ones passions. The float pod is therapy that benefits all aspects of ones daily life. The float experience exceeded my expectations in every way and it was more beneficial than any massage, energy work, or other therapy I have partaken in. The prices are practical and Float Brothers offers different membership packages. Take your mind and body to another dimension of relaxation and float away with Float floatpicBrothers.

Check out their website at www.floatbrothers.com

5 Practices in 5 Minutes

By Kristine Normand

A little tweak to a morning routine can make all the difference in the days energy and body’s contentment. Most people sluggishly wake up and have a slow, dreary start to the day. Use the refreshing morning hours to the fullest to embrace the morning dew, the length of the body, and the novelty the new day brings. By adding these five simple practices into your morning routine, you will immediately notice a change in your delight for the day. These practices are healthy lifestyle adjustments to practice before breakfasts that take 1 minute each! Try them out and gain a sense of morning accomplishment to the days beginning.

1. Stretch and Smile
Upon hearing your alarm, take 1 minute (or more) to take a full body stretch and smile about waking up. Hug your knees to your chest, roll around from side to side, and gently wake up your body from its deep state of relaxation. Smiling while waking up immediately releases endorphins and serotonin from the brain. Endorphins serve as a natural pain reducer and serotonin acts as an anti-depressant. Forget the aspirin, all we need are more smiles!

2. Gratitude Journal
Start a gratitude journal to count your blessings, and name them one by one before even getting out of bed. Positive psychology research shows that by intentionally writing out things to be grateful for stimulates the release of dopamine in our brain. This is the neurotransmitter that is related to our reward system and makes us feel good. After eating chocolate, dopamine is released in the brain. No wonder we keep craving more and more! Along with the positive effects of this chemical change in our brain, this practice reconfigures the brain to search for the good in everything before the bad. The ultimate goal of life is to be happy and this 1-minute exercise allows us to be present in the moment and truly feel the many blessings we have everyday. Experiment with this exercise by writing 3 things you are grateful for, for 21 days to credit the science of psychology or debunk the research.

3. Set Intentions
While you are already in writing gear, take 1 minute to write out intentions for the day. Set a positive intention for the day and write out to-do lists to be complete. Set positive intentions such as love, gratitude, respect, patience, kindness, and other objectives of peace that you can keep with you throughout the day. Anytime there are moments of imbalance, return to your peace by remembering your intention and breathing into it. Writing out to-do lists gives a physical remembrance of things that need to be done. We are more likely to accomplish tasks when we plan what we have to do, and not to mention do not forget them!

4. BIG Glass of Water
When we go to sleep our stomach enters a deep state of relaxation also. Instead of immediately reaching for the cereal and coffee, drink a big glass of water. Water is a gentle way to break the fast from 8 hours of no food or water. It helps rehydrate our body and the positive effects on the body are numerous. Increasing water intake helps with weight loss, skin health, food digestion, brain function, and overall health benefits to our entire body. To increase detox effects, add lemon to your water. Lemon contains Vitamin C and Potassium that has a whole load of positive health benefits in itself. Drinking lemon water helps balance the pH of the body, clears skin, aids in digestion, and overall boosts your immune system.

5. 1 Minute Meditation
Seriously, meditation will change your life. Sitting in meditation for an hour can seem intimidating, causing people to shy away from the practice all together but it does not have to be like that! 1 minute of practice gives positive benefits of its own. Take 1 minute to accept your peace and stillness and just breathe. It is easy to hold light focus on breath for 1 minute and enjoy the tranquility the morning brings. I like to use my brief morning meditation time to walk outside barefoot and feel the wet grass beneath my feet. By doing this practice outside, it allows for a moment to connect with the body and nature at the same time. I do a grounding exercise where I envision roots extending from my feet into the core of the earth and just breathe into the morning stillness, listen to the birds chirping, and prepare for the day that lies ahead.

5 minutes for these 5 practices is all it takes, transforming your morning into a motivating ritual that inspires positive energy of gratitude and abundance for your whole day. After engaging in these simple practices, continue to eat breakfast in a state of gratitude and contentment. All it takes is a little mental discipline and desire to make a happier and healthier you.

Now go and “Namaslay” the Day!

Meditation Station by Kristine Normand

The intention to meditate and the physical act of carrying out the intention are two separate brain functions that do not always connect. Even though meditating takes no resources but our time and space, people still struggle to even attempt the mindfulness act of settling the mind and body. When one of my dear friends finally meditated for the first time, she came back overwhelmed with excitement saying, “I did not know my mind could be so silent!” When meditating, there is a clear sense and appreciation of what is happening in the present moment. Spending time in meditation helps us to distinguish and relate to all of the details of our present lives, not what we want it to be, but what it actually is. We begin to reject depression of the past, anxiety for the future and become at peace with the present.
While sitting in meditation we are able to bring attention inwards and observe our thoughts and body. Many people become frustrated with the practice as they find their mental chatter will not cease or they are uncomfortable with the thoughts that arise. This is absolutely normal and acceptable. This uncomfortable moment and frustration is the perfect teacher to teach us loving kindness towards ourselves. We can choose to accept ourselves and release the emotions and thoughts that arise, or we can struggle against ourselves. By accepting what arises and releasing thoughts without obsessing over them, we begin to expose ourselves and gently soften in our own release.
Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, a Buddhist meditation master, continually refined his meditation instruction in order to minimize the struggles people experienced while meditating. He spoke about how it is never a good idea to struggle during meditation, so if one is uncomfortable, it is okay to make subtle movements to adjust. He taught six points to good posture and settling down: seat, legs, torso, hands, eyes, and mouth. The instructions as cited in Pema Chodron’s, “When Things Fall Apart” are as follows:

1. Whether sitting on a cushion on the floor or in a chair, the seat should be flat, not tilting to the right or left or to the back or the front.

2. The legs are crossed comfortably in front of you- or, if you’re sitting in a chair, the feet are flat on the floor, and the knees are a few inches apart.

3. The torso (from the head to the seat) is upright, with a strong back and an open front. If sitting in a chair, it’s best not to lean back. If you start to slouch, simply sit upright again.

4. The hands are open, with palms down, resting on the thighs.

5. The eyes are open, indicating the attitude of remaining awake and relaxed with all that occurs. The eyes gaze is slightly downward and directed about four to six feet in front.

6. The mouth is very slightly open so that the jaw is relaxed and air can move easily through both mouth and nose. The tip of the tongue can be placed on the root of the mouth.

When one becomes out of focus, bring attention back to the body and run through the six points. Rinpoche also gives useful instruction to simply label thoughts as, “thinking” when they arise and return attention back to the out-breath. Each time the mind runs rampant or you feel distracted, just compassionately bring attention back to the relaxation of the body and out-breath. It does not matter how many times you have to do this, as long as we practice with gratitude and compassion, it gradually trains the brain to settle into the calmness a few moments longer.
If you struggle with this practice, a good way to start a meditation practice is with guided meditations. There are apps, YouTube recordings, and other free recordings that gently guide you into relaxing your body with reminders of where to focus your attention. Guided meditations are useful as they are usually combined with relaxing binaural beats and tones that are scientifically proven to alter our brain waves to bring us into deeper relaxations. The gentle voice of guidance also gives us a point of focus that helps maintain the concentration of the moment. This takes away the struggle of not knowing how to settle in or where to bring your thoughts. There are plenty of guided meditations that walk you through Chakra balancing, lucid dreaming, insomnia, anxiety releasing, deep relaxation, and much more.
By continuing this practice we begin to control our mind, and not letting it control us. We expose every part of ourselves and compassionately become in conscious control of our senses and perception of reality. The compassion we practice during meditation spills over into our daily lives, and we find the peace and acceptance of the present moment staying with us. Start a meditation practice, maybe try for 1 minute a day and gradually move up to 5 minutes, 10 minutes, an hour, or however long you feel comfortable. In regards to practicing meditation Pema Chodron states, “Ultimately, it comes down to the question of just how willing we are to lighten up and loosen our grip. How honest do we want to be with ourselves?”

5 Bedtime Yoga Asanas for Better Sleep by Kristine Normand

bedtimeasana

Bedtime is the nightly vacation from the mental and physical chaos the day brings after a busy day occupied with school, work, children, family, friends, and unfinished to-do lists. Good news! The relaxation, space, and clarity you feel during and after practice does not have to end at the studio, you can bring that serenity to the bed- where it belongs. Before going to bed, try these five yoga asanas in bed to induce better mood and better sleep. The poses are restorative allowing sanction time to calm the mind, focus on the body, and repeat positive affirmations before drifting sound asleep. Surrender into each pose for 2 minutes for an easy 10-minute bedtime routine.

1. Wide Leg Childs Pose, Balasana
Start with knees wider than hips with toes touching behind you. Bend forward at the waist with arms extended reaching towards the opposite wall. Lengthen torso and extend tailbone towards opposite wall. Rest forehead and shoulders into the mattress. Close eyes and start to deepen your breaths. With each inhale reach a little further and sink deeper into the pose with each exhale. Embrace the smell of your sheets and release tension in your body.

2. Legs up the wall, Viparita Karani
Place pillow at the wall and scoot legs completely against the wall with sit bones rooted onto the wall. Straighten legs with heels, ankles, and hips in alignment. Extend arms to the side or rest on your stomach to feel the movement of each breath. Relax shoulder, neck, and head onto the mattress. Close eyes and feel the difference in your heart rate, chest expansion, and the overall movement of energy in your body.
This pose is proven to lower heart rate. It gives your heart a break from actively fighting gravity to circulate blood to your legs and back to your heart. Continue deep breaths and enjoy surrendering into the pose while meditating on the breath.

3. Knees to chest, Apanasana
Start to transition into this relaxing pose by gently bending your knees and bringing them towards your chest. Embrace your legs, smile, and tell yourself how much you love you! Roll shoulders down and away from the ears. Slightly move chin towards the chest to remain alignment in the cervical spine. Take these two minutes to hug your body and repeat positive affirmations.
I repeat these simple statements with each affirmation corresponding to a chakra energy center:

I love how safe and grounded I am.
I love and enjoy my body.
I love and accept myself.
I am love.
I love to speak my truth.
I love to listen to my intuition.
I love to honor the Divine within me.

Repeating mantras and affirmations make them a reality because we believe what we tell ourselves. By showering yourself in love, you begin to radiate its essence, and it carries over to everyday life.

4. Happy Baby, Ananda Balasana
Now that you’ve made your spirit happy, transition into happy baby pose. Open legs slightly wider than torso and bend knees toward chest. Grab outside of feet and pull knees down towards armpits. Focus on breath and clearing the mind of mental chatter. Deeper breaths as you feel your body becoming more and more relaxed. Gently maintain resistance while keeping shoulders, neck, and head resting on the mattress. Feel the release in your hips as you continue to relax your mind and body.

5. Corpse Pose, Savasana
Finally! Savasana you can fall asleep in! Position yourself where you comfortably can fall asleep. Pull blankets over your body. Take one last body stretch and extend legs with arms gently resting at sides, palms facing up. Let feet and hands relax and fall naturally limp. Release muscles in the face and unclench jaw. Do a complete body scan from head to toe breathing into every muscle that feels tense. With every exhale, visualize releasing the tension. Close your eyes, feel all of your muscles loosen, and continue to go deeper into relaxation with every breath. Feel your body get heavier and sink deeper into the mattress as you gently drift off to sleep.

After a goods night rest, when asked if you’re ready to get up in the morning you won’t sluggishly respond “Namaste in bed,” but you’ll rejoice with “NAMASTE ALL DAY!”