Loving Kindness meditation

Metta meditation (loving kindness meditation) is a simple repetition of a few phrases, but oh…. so much more powerful!  We have been repeating a shortened version in class the last few weeks. Many yogis have responded positively and wanted to know more.

Metta meditation has been extensively studied, and its transformative power ranks it the most promising single practice of any explored.  As one author says, “I’d put all my money on this one!”

Research demonstrates the incredible power of the loving-kindness meditation:

* deepens social ties

* increases the ability to experience self-compassion

* increases the ability to express compassion

* increases ability to receive compassion from others

* it's empowering to direct well wishes to others 

Sustained practice of Metta over time has been shown to:

* decrease stress levels

* increase immune function

* decrease pain & anger

* may even slow aging: compassion meditators have longer telomeres (caps on each strand of DNA) allowing cells to survive longer

A 7 week course in Metta showed:  

* significant increase in participants daily experience of positive emotions and their sense of social belonging and connectedness. 

Metta meditation is a simple repetition of 4 phrases:

May you be happy.

May you be healthy.

May you be free of suffering.

May you be at peace (filled with ease).

Be compassionate about your experience of compassion :)    If this meditation feels forced  or awkward in the beginning, that’s okay.  It’s important to remember that you don’t have to pretend to feel anything that isn’t genuine.  

To begin:

Sit on a blanket, sit against a wall, or lay over a blanket or block.

Begin by focusing on your breath.  When you notice your mind wandering, gently call it back.  Begin this meditation with yourself …. offer yourself the 4 line mantra (see above).  

As you breath in, say a single line of the mantra to yourself.  There is no need to pretend or try too hard.  Then say the next 3 lines.  

Second round:  now call to mind a loved one, perhaps someone who has shown a great deal of compassion & kindness to you.  Holding him or her in your awareness, offer the same wishes you offered to yourself. 

Third round:  now call to mind a neutral person, one of the hundreds you may pass each day.  No need to dig …. just the first one that comes to mind and offer up the same good wishes.  Breathing in and out, line by line, continue to expand and direct your experience of loving kindness.  

Fourth round: now call to mind a challenging person.  Maybe someone who hurt your feelings or with whom there  has been a struggle.  As best you can, offer this person the same mantra, breath by breath.  

Finally, let your awareness expand to embrace all beings everywhere.  Offer up the same mantra to this vast sea of life.

Please pass this along to anyone you think would benefit.  

From my heart to your heart, Lynn 

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Simple Joys

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This week we focused on simple joys. The practice was about letting yourself play, feeling into this “in breath” and this “out breath”, connecting with your strong body and your steady mind.

Students were invited to think of something they were grateful for. Regardless of anything that had been stewing in their mind, I asked them to try to move back to a place that is incredibly simple. Remembering to focus on very simple things in our lives relaxes us, opens us, grounds us, makes us feel happy. These things we can summon back when stress & worry take over. We let simple joys and playful shapes inform our “feel good” flow this week.

First, the breath. Students dropped into a slower, deeper pattern to their breath. Intention setting followed as students thought about how they wanted to take on their day, how they wanted to feel in their day. We warmed up with sun salutations. I encouraged students to notice what a simple joy felt like to them. Sometimes if might be a moment of rest or pause, other times adding some challenge to a pose. Eagle pose was added to surya namaskar B, as well as a playful trio of chair to boat pose, optional half boat pose. Yogis laughed and remembered the simple joy of not being too serious :)

Practice deepened into warrior poses, crouching tiger into a plank “core” flow, watery spider for the simple joy of releasing tightness in the hips & inner legs, more core with dolphin to forearm plank, onto standing splits into clasped warrior 3 into revolved half moon. Rest periods or vinyasa offered as transitions. Onward to pigeon and a few variations of ustrasana pose (camel).

With hearts wide open, yogis offered up prayers and blessings and asked for what they needed. These shapes are so intelligent and sophisticated but they also remind us that yoga is about more than these beautiful postures. Yoga brings us back to ourselves. It teaches us how to breathe again. It gifts us with a self-care, mindfulness practice. And it allows us to share this practice with each other. May you be happy; may you be peaceful; may you be free; may you have ease; may you be safe; may you be healthy. ~Lynn

Enjoyment

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Bliss, freedom, enjoyment … states unaffected by gain or loss. Maybe not what we experience most of the time :) It sounds wonderful. Can you believe it is possible? We practiced this last week in class.

So even if students came to class tired, frustrated, hyper, anxious or tight ….. I asked them, “Can you enjoy where you are?” “Can you enjoy yourself even if you fall out of a pose?” “Can you enjoy yourself even if you’re not good at a pose?”

Is there really a way to experience joy & freedom when things aren’t going your way? It seems worth trying, worth being in the conversation. The idea is: things can get messy & intense, yet inside of it all, can you somehow feel free? We let the practice open us up to this concept, this possibility.

Class started with 3 Oms as a way to consciously step into the practice together. Students practiced bellow breaths, strong standing poses such as parsva konasana with dwi hasta arms, a minute hold in dolphin, partner tree pose, strong balance work in dancer and warrior 3, pigeon, sky diver, Hanumanasana, janu sirsasana, a deep savasana & the loving kindness meditation to close. I playfully asked them to try to see if they could feel free and find pockets of enjoyment/bliss even in a strong moment of core or balance. Student showed great focus as they redirected the monkey mind back into the feeling body, back into the breath body and back into the present moment, remembering: Now is the time for yoga!

Namaste, Lynn

Renewal

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This week the theme was renewal. Lining up with the start of spring as we see more daylight, more new growth, green hills, and feel the energizing affect of sunlight. Renewal is about leaving a little space, an opening for something fresh to arise.

In practice, we did some of the poses twice to notice what new might be born the second round. I instructed: if struggling with a challenge or conflict, allow for a something new to arise, emerge, be born …. maybe an insight, a mantra, new energy, dreams, hobbies or projects forgotten. We started with surya namaskar; each student allowing for their own metamorphosis. Letting their breath and their intentions and the poses liberate energy through their bodies. In warrior 1, we did circles with steeple mudra hands to churn out any stagnation and make room for rejuvenation.

Yogis were reminded that their movements are less important than their intentions behind them. I offered encouragement to let every movement be an exploration of . . .

* a new way of being

* a new way of breathing

* a new way of seeing themselves

* a new way of seeing the world

Some of the poses practiced twice included: warrior 2, parsva konasana, cresent twist, side plank, & eagle. Toward the end of class when students were warm, we played with Ganesha’s twisting trunk and bird of paradise. We ended in gomukasana making circles with eagle arms. After savasana, students repeated a Loving Kindness Meditation to themselves and to all beings everywhere:

May I be happy

May I be peaceful

May I be free

May I have ease

May I be safe

May I be healthy

Happy Spring, Lynn

Heart openers with mantra

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This week we practiced heart openers with mantra. Mantra means a vehicle for the mind. It is a word or phrase that can soothe the mind and help the mind focus. The heart is usually associated with concepts of love, compassion & forgiveness. One definition of love is a universal identification with all beings, not just one. When you experience that kind of love … you’ve reached yoga :)

We did poses that opened the center of our hearts. Not just big backbends at the end of practice, but backbending shapes within standing, balancing and hip opening poses. Student picked a mantra that resonated with them. Usually one word or a phrase. Students were asked to think of an area where maybe their heart was closed off, and where did they want to open their heart? I offered up some suggestions:

I believe, I can, I will, I accept myself, I trust myself, I am enough, fearless, as ease, strong, ready.

We connected with our ujjayi breath and yogis chose a mantra. They were encouraged to pick something even if it morphed into a different mantra later in class or later in the day. I wanted them to have the experience in this class of working with mantra and seeing how it helped or shifted them. Sometimes mantra has the powerful way of making space for insights, relaxation, peace.

Poses included anjenayasana, big goalpost arms in cresent, humble warrior 1, warrior 2, parsva konasana & triangle. We added a backbend in our tree pose at the end of a balancing sequence of eagle and dancer. In pigeon, we clasped our hands behind our head to open the chest space. The closing of practice included camel poses, purvotanasana and a second round of the beautiful, heart-opening anjenayasana. Some yogis chose the option to place a block under the bottom tips of their shoulder blades in savasana to continue with the gesture of heart opening. Thank you for a lovely practice …. namaste, Lynn