A Beginners Guide To Yoga & Meditation
Yoga and meditation are becoming increasingly talked about for its numerous benefits. Whether you want to destress or get in shape... no matter your goals, yoga and meditation can bring plenty of balance back into your life.
Never in a million years did I expect to be a yoga, let along a meditation teacher and travel the world!! But when life threw some challenging curve balls my way and my life was falling apart, I knew I had to figure something out - anything that could relieve me from the pain and trauma of heartbreak, homelessness, friends and family deaths, unhealthy addictions, etc.
Yoga became my healthy way of escaping from the intensity of life. It trained and sharpened my mind to be able to focus, to heal and to gain clarity on who I am and the direction to move towards. With a committed practice, my life began to repair itself. I learned the importance of things like discipline, integrity, non-judgment, awareness and uncovered my true values, purpose and passions. All the samskara's (bad habits) of my past were shedding away all in their own time. All I had to do was learn to be patient with myself and the process.
Change doesn't happen overnight! And thank goodness for that! When we made drastic life changes too suddenly our ego can rebel and we end up worse off that before... So to make sure you don't fall off the amazing beautiful and wonderful path of yoga & meditation, here are some tips I wish were given to me when I was first starting out.
One more note...
I also never expected in a million years I would travel the world, live in Bali and take pictures with waterfalls! Dreams do come true and with yoga and meditation in my back pocket it made it that much more easier to take the leap into completely unknown territory.
But, Before we dive into all of it, its important to have a well rounded understanding of....
What Is Meditation?
First off, there are SOOOO many kinds of meditations out there that come from different backgrounds. But like I mentioned earlier, meditation is a way to train and focus the mind. When the mind is untrained and without focus it's known as a monkey mind and that can cause a lot of distractions and messes in our lives. There's a reason why they call it a 'monkey mind' (lol).... and that's because your mind needs discipline in order to stay focused on your goals and what you set out to achieve. So many times the reason why people don't follow through on their goals and dreams is because they get distracted. No matter the excuse, distraction, in whatever form it shows up, can totally throw us off our path. But the good news is we can always get back on track!
Now, I study and teach Kundalini Yoga & Meditation, as this was the practice that most resonated with me. That's not to say I don't love a great flow class, but this was the path I was able to finally commit to without much effort. It just felt right. I love this practice because it's filled with an incredible amount of variety. It incorporates asanas (physical movements/exercise), pranayama (breath work), mudras (hand positions that activate acupressure points in the body) and chanting beautiful mantras.
What Are Mantras & Why Do We Chant?
For me personally, mantras are simply one of the most powerful parts of a meditation practice. Whether you are repeating a positive intention to yourself in English, Sanskrit or Gurmukhi (ancient languages) with serene music in the background... it has peaceful, deeply emotionally balancing effect on the psyche. It acts as a reminder to the truth that we sometimes forget and have amnesia about.
We all have those moments where we feel weaker, uninspired or unworthy and when those moments arise, if we can remember we are not those thoughts and, in that moment, do something, like engage in a practice that reminds ourselves that we are creative, uplifted, inspired, worthy, fun, loving, courageous, brave, or whatever else it may be... then we are retraining that sad, lonely part of ourselves and lifting ourselves up!
What's also really cool (in my opinion)... and side note... I totally geek out on this stuff, as your about to see...
When you chant mantras in the ancient language they become more than just translations of positive affirmations. There are meridians and acupressure points within your mouth and when you recite these words your tung hits these areas within your mouth. And, they have a subtle, but powerful effect on the nervous system. Also, certain mantras have a more physiological effect too because mantras as designed to slow down your breathing.
It goes way deeper, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to spiritual science. But knowing this should give you some inspiration to try out some mantras or chanting for yourself!
Here are a couple mantras that I just love, love, love!
This one is for when I just need to come back into balance overall. Known as Kirtan Kriya. Yogi Bhajan said that if we just practiced this meditation alone, we would make the shift into the new age with grace. Here are instructions on how to do this meditation
And here is an english option that is just a simple and fun reminder of truth. Its got a great beat too! So enjoy and maybe dance a little ;)
This one is for when I need some uplifting and I feel depressed or down. The orchestra of the music really moves me and I go into a state of feeling not just inspired, but confident and ready to achieve whatever I want to set my mind to.
Brandon's Beginner's Guide To Meditation
1. Anyone Can Meditate. If You Can Breathe You Can Meditate!
Ask yourself, how badly do you want to grow and develop into the best version of yourself? If you have that fire in you, that drive to overcome your anxieties, fears, insecurities and worries and replace those old ways of living with a new, more harmonious way to be, then that's all you need.
The most important thing to know is to be kind and gentle with yourself as you adopt a spiritual lifestyle. Let things integrate in their own time, flow with the process. If you try to force change too quickly, like I mentioned earlier, your ego will block you every step of the way.
Instead, keep yourself uplifted and inspired on a daily basis. Sometimes I don't want to sit and chant or meditate... instead I clean the entire house and that is my meditation. I usually have mantras playing in the background so I still am receiving that harmonious frequency around me.
You know yourself best and you know how your ego manipulates and gets sneaky on you. Be even more aware of its trickery and replace egoic thoughts, desires and otherwise with ways to be creative, motivated, inspired and joyous. There are so many things to appreciate and enjoy all around us. Just sitting outside and appreciating the wind through a trees leaves can be complete bliss, if you just put yourself into the experience fully.
Remember, you can make anything a meditation.
2. Set The Mood For Your Sacred Space
Now, when you are desiring that sweet, spacial time to yourself to mediate, practice conscious breathing, or sing some beautiful mantras.... it really does help to set the space n a sacred, intimate way. The yogi's would tell you that this is your time to develop a deeper relationship with the You with You or with the Universe within you. That is a very deep and loving connection you are accessing. Respect this process and honor the revealing, uncovering and awakening you will go through. Some days you may be in tears with profound insight or healing and other days nothing may happen. Both are equal in importance and the space you set for your sacred time will allow you to drop in deeper.
To set the space, this is what I like to do:
- Candles. They are a great way to have soft lighting and it activates the fire, air and ether element in the room. The fire element will help with your own will, drive, ambition and focus. The air element will help with receiving insight, intuition and divine teachings. The ether element is a much more subtle element that connects to ancestral wisdom. It's said in yogic scriptures that when you activate these elements around you, these energies help the graceful process of meditation. It's deeply relaxing and very enjoyable.
- Aromatherapy Oils or Sandalwood Incense. Sometimes Sandalwood incense can be a bit too strong for some people (like my mom - lol) and this can be more irritating that soothing and meditative. If you can handle Sandalwood, I highly recommend it as this scent has been used for thousands of years for its deeply transcendental effects on the psyche. OR, if you love essential oils and aromatherapy, I highly recommend this option too. But remember if you are meditating first thing in the morning to use an oil that is uplifting and in the evenings use a calming oil like lavender.
- Create An Alter. I know this might sound strange for some of you out there. And trust me I get it, it took me a long time to get the whole alter thing. Now that I do, I have a little, traveling alter set up that goes with me everywhere and no matter where I am in the world, its the first thing I set up in my room. An alter is what I call a 'gratitude space' where you put things that are sentimental to you in this space. I also have little pictures of gods, dietetics, spirit guides and ascended masters. This acts as a reminder of purity and humility for me - two vows that are important to me to my core. I also have some crystals and its the place where I put gifts from others too. Every time I see my alter, my thought to myself is, "I have so much to be grateful, people love me, I am loved and I have a really exciting, beautiful and peaceful life. Thank you for it all!"
3. You DO HAVE TIME... to mediate
I think the most common thing I hear about mediation is that people complain about not having time to mediate. Could that be you too? I used to say it too! Then as I dived deeper and deeper into the teachings, my practice got longer and longer. I've even sat in meditation for 2.5 hours at one time and hardly even flinched at the time! Now, that takes years to develop and it may or may not be a path for you, but you can see how time shouldn't be an excuse or limitation you put on yourself.
On my YouTube channel, I have plenty of meditations that are between one, three and five minutes each. So, check that out for some inspiration!
Also, think about all the time we waste scrolling through Instagram or Facebook or dillydallying with other things (again, distractions)... what would it take to be able to recognize that you waste time on a lot of random things throughout your days?! Once you realize this, then make a small change. Wake up earlier - not an hour earlier, but at least 15 - 20 minutes earlier can make a huge difference.
Begin telling yourself you have time. this is also a practice in abundance training too. When you say, "I don't have time!" you are stating an affirmation of lack. When you say the opposite, in a relaxed way, "I have plenty of time!" you are calling in abundance. It might seem too subtle to be significant, but this affects your core belief system and if you desire change, this is where it starts!
Here is a great meditation you can literally do in ONE MINUTE! :D
The One-Minute Breath
For one minute, follow this breathing technique:
Breathe in for 10 seconds
Hold your breath for 10 seconds
Release for 10 seconds
And then begin again
Practice this breath pattern for one minute a day in the morning and evenings.
Eventually you can increase the time to 3 minutes, 5 minutes and even up to 11 minutes.
4. Meditate When You Are In Transit (traveling, i.e. the bus, train, etc.)
I do this ALL the time! When I was traveling through Singapore, I was staying in a hostel that didn't have any area for me to practice yoga at and there wasn't any parks nearby. Feeling limited, I knew I had to figure out a way to keep up with my practice. Here's what I did...
When I would be on my skateboard traveling around the city I would be practicing a pranayama called the Four Part Breath.
All you do is...
inhale in four separate parts then,
exhale in four separate parts.
Here is a video on how to practice it correctly
5. Meditate When You Cook!
At the time of writing this, just last night I spent the evening at my moms house and I put on my meditation music and we sang and chanted while we cooked an amazing, vegetarian meal. Now, this is a lifestyle I am pretty used to - cooking and singing love into my food (I'm really such a hippie - lol).
But my mom has a different routine and we enjoyed such a peaceful time together! Then, when we were eating the food she kept saying over and over again how good the food tasted, saying she had cooked all the same things before but not with the meditative music and chanting. She kept expressing how the food tasted so rich in flavor, like nothing she ever had experience before! This is the power of vibrational frequency absorbing into the environment. The food we were cooking was infused with harmony and love.
Try it out and let me know what you think!
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