Why should I Meditate?

Often, it can be intimidating to start a meditation practice. We might fear that we cannot do it “correctly”, that we are unable, or the thought of simply sitting with ourselves can be too much. But meditation takes many shapes and forms. One of our lovely meditation teacher’s, JaVonne Bowles is here to help you break down those barriers and fears. Read what JaVonne has to say about getting passed the initial hurdles of meditation and the ways your life may change.

When and why did you start meditating?

My first form of meditation was through journaling, but on January 1, 2016, after volunteering for the first time at PYR and being cued into a Gratitude Meditation, I was invited to check-in the weekly Mindful Meditation Sessions. The yogis that lead these sessions were indispensable.

They made it extremely easy for me when seated meditation was the topic of discussion in my Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) around March 2016. Originally it was a requirement that I kind of dreaded of my YTT, however meditating quickly turned into a “why not” instead of a “why” (if that makes sense). I will have been practicing meditation for 3 years in June :)

What changes have you noticed in your life since practicing meditation?

Journaling took place out of a need to express myself, I’ve always had ideas and thoughts that seemed close, yet still out of reach. Once I began to clear my mental path of where I wanted to go and how I wanted to get there life seemed limitless. Even when I forget that I am capable of accessing this ready-to-go tool, I become slightly frantic and even a little anxious. Meditating constantly reminds me that I am not my thoughts, nor just a physical being – stepping out of the cycle of life truly grounds me. When I think (after a meditation session) or speak from a mindful place, it is not as rough as it used to be. People have told me that I speak with clarity and I owe this to my meditation practice.

What tips do you have for someone looking to start a meditation practice?

There is never a wrong way. We are sometimes conditioned to think that if you are not seated or breathing properly then it is not meditation, I implore you to find what you already enjoy doing and simply change your perspective. For example, if you are a cook and over the years cooking has become second nature, it takes almost nothing of you to prepare a fine meal. Stop and (using the words I’ve recently read in Holly Z’s blog post) “become a novice”. Allow yourself to really think about what it is that you are doing and why. Why choose those spices over the other, why the method you choose, say sauteing, instead of steaming? Enjoy the flow of your breath as you continue to do your regular task. Begin there then practice patience with yourself as you move into the more subtle ways of meditating, for example, a seated practice. Keep a journal and invite random chatter as you place pen onto paper, let the rougher edges of your thoughts, the ones that appear to always be there, to come out.

Why do you enjoy teaching meditation?

I enjoy creating safer spaces. I believe that I have a general understanding of what pressure feels like and the desire to be perfect in every aspect. When I lead meditation, the level of pressure and perfection is placed in your hands – accessible if you wish to delve into it yet first accepting and loving where you currently are.

Have you noticed any changes in your students? If so, what?

When I first started leading, I would always hold space (as my teachers had done for me) for any questions, comments or concerns. Usually it was I that occupied that space alone. The students seemed timid to share and not necessarily content. As I’ve continued to deepen my personal practice, conversations that take place both before and after are full of life and the wonders it has. Perspective has changed.

Join Javonne Bowles and Jena Morrison for meditation weekly at our pay-what-you-can studio! We offer weekly meditation on Wednesdays with Jena at 6pm and Fridays with JaVonne at 11am! Visit our class schedule for more info!

Meditation & Holiday Stress

Meditation & Holiday Stress

Written by PYR Ambassador Jena Morrison

It’s no secret that for many of us the holidays are stressful. Kids are home from school for a few weeks. There’s shopping and errands to be done amidst all the traffic. And, a lot of us spend time on the road traveling to be with family and friends. If that’s not stressful enough, the change in seasons to cold, dreary days makes even getting out of bed sound that much more unappealing. This often means that stress is at its peak during this time of year.

So, how do we deal with stress? There are several ways to deal with stress, but not all of them are necessarily “healthy”. Some of these less than healthy ways might include resorting to our favorite comfort foods, excessive shopping, or eyeing that bowl of egg nog. While these are not on their own negative things to do, taking them to extremes can end up making us feel worse while not actually addressing the stress itself. Luckily, there are a ton of other options that we can choose from to bring our stress levels down. These include things like exercise, journaling, reaching out to our support network of family and friends, and meditation.

Meditation, personally one of my favorites, is all about mindfulness. Mindfulness is simply defined as bringing one’s attention to the present moment in a non-judgmental way (1). This notion has been around for centuries; however, only recently has science decided to take a closer look at the practice of mindfulness. This includes a number of studies showing that mindfulness can be helpful in reducing perceived stress, anxiety, and depression, all of which can be exacerbated by the busy holiday season (2) (3) (4). If you’re intimidated by all of this, don’t be. Being mindful is really quite simple.

Being mindful doesn’t have to be anything overly formal or done in a specific pose. It can be as easy as taking a few moments to fully listen and appreciate your favorite song on the radio. It can be taking a few deep breaths and taking the time to appreciate the smell of your morning cup of coffee or cocoa. Or even taking 10 minutes to go outside, breathe in the crisp air, and focus on nothing but the coolness and nature around you. Taking even a moment or two here and there can add up. So whether you follow a formal seated practice 20 minutes a day or simply take a few moments here and there, it is still the same. And, mindfulness doesn’t even have to be still. Yoga is a way of making your meditation an active meditation since it requires you to focus solely on what is on your mat and your own experience.

So take a few moments over the next few weeks to catch your breath. And, if you want a more formal practice or want to learn more about meditation, come join us in the studio! Any of the Ambassadors would be happy to help you start your own practice or grow one that you already have.

References

(1) Kabat-Zinn, J. (2016). ‘This is not McMindfulness’. Psychologist, 29(2), 124-125

Lengacher, C., Shelton, M., Reich, R., Barta, M., Johnson-Mallard, V., Moscoso, M., & … Kip, K. (2014). Mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR(BC)) in breast cancer: evaluating fear of recurrence (FOR) as a mediator of psychological and physical symptoms in a randomized control trial (RCT). Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 37(2), 185-195. doi:10.1007/s10865-012-9473-6

(2) Cordon, S. L., Brown, K. W., & Gibson, P. R. (2009). The Role of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction on Perceived Stress: Preliminary Evidence for the Moderating Role of Attachment Style. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy, 23(3), 258-269. doi:10.1891/0889-8391.23.3.258

(3) Goldin, P. R., & Gross, J. J. (2010). Effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) on emotion regulation in social anxiety disorder. Emotion, 10(1), 83-91. doi:10.1037/a0018441

(4) Song, Y., & Lindquist, R. (2015). Effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction on depression, anxiety, stress and mindfulness in Korean nursing students. Nurse Education Today, 3586-90. doi:10.1016/j.nedt.2014.06.010

 

Starting January 1st, join Jena Morrison for Mediation Wednesdays fro 6-6:30pm and join JaVonne Bowles on Fridays from 11-11:30 am!
Bring peace to your holiday season by practicing at Project Yoga Richmond!

*Christmas Eve Class: December 24, 9:30-11 am
Bhakti Flow with Elizabeth Shurte

*Closed Christmas Day, regular class schedule resumes Dec 26

*New Year’s Eve Class: Dec 31, 9:30-11am
Gentle Yoga and Meditation with Billie Southworth Carroll

* New Years Day Class: Jan 1, 3-5pm
Inside Out: Presence in Motion with Michele Nierle and Slash Coleman

Join the event on Facebook or visit our class schedule for more info!
Yoga, Mindfulness, and You

Yoga, Mindfulness, and You

by PYR Ambassador Amy Taylor

Hey there, PYR supporters! Thank you for making the world a more mindful place.

Research tells us that mindfulness practice helps reduce stress, improve performance and enhance relationships. It makes sense. When we calm down and get centered, life flows more smoothly.

Yet it’s so hard for most of us to unplug from the outer world and plug in to our inner power source.  This is where yoga comes in to work its magic.

Yoga is the gateway.

Yoga allows us to “do” something that feels great, strengthens our bodies, improves our health and — oh yeah —requires that we step away from the clamor of the world and tune in to our inner voice.

When we practice yoga, we are practicing mindfulness. We focus on the breath. We guide our wandering minds back to the present. We grow more mindful by the moment. And we are changed by the effort.

Sometimes, when I leave a yoga class, I notice that trees seem greener as they dance in the breeze. Birds sing in harmony.  The air smells like cotton candy. Often, I’m inspired to reach out to a friend or take action towards my dreams.  

Always, I’m grateful to be alive.

Exercise alone never gave me those side effects. I believe it’s because practicing yoga makes me more mindful.

History tells us that yogis practiced asana, or physical postures, in order to build up the stamina to sit in meditation, which supported them in attaining advanced states of spiritual consciousness.

Honestly, though I have practiced yoga for 18 years and taught for eight, I have been unable to sit still and meditate on a regular basis. Or at least I didn’t choose to make it a priority.

That changed this year. Maybe all those years of yoga practice prepared me. Who knows? But now I have a daily meditation practice. It’s a source of true bliss.

Project Yoga Richmond offers Mindful Meditation for 30 minutes at lunchtime on Tuesdays and Thursdays. These classes are a wonderful way to weave mindfulness into your days and your life. Give them a try.

Or just give yourself credit for practicing mindfulness whenever you step on your yoga mat. You are building physical, mental, emotional and spiritual stamina that will nourish and sustain you, our community and our world.

So thank you, PYR community! Your mindfulness matters.

 

Visit our class schedule to see what meditation can do and find the class that is right for you!

The latest on classes and special events, plus an inside look at how practicing with PYR helps our community. Sign up here.