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Yoga for Meditation

By Jen Wozniak 

Late last summer, I began a regular practice of meditation in a desperate attempt to rid my life of too much stress, too much work; and frankly, too much of life’s many distractions in general.  Most troublesome for me was an inability to maintain regular sleeping patterns as I often found myself lying in bed into the wee hours of the night trying to pacify my racing mind.  Work, bills, that fight with the boss. You name it. I was a mess.  Determined to alleviate my plight (and on the recommendation of a tip acquired at a work party), I began studying mediation techniques, mainly accomplished by reading blogs on the topic, watching YouTube videos, and locating anything I could get my hands on to learn this ancient practice.  The more I learned, the more the mystique of the quiet and tamed mind became attractive to me, the weary insomniac.  I longed to be like the Buddha, sitting in peace and tranquility, liberated from the plight of reality (or, the illusion thereof).  I longed for quiet nights, where I could sleep peacefully to prepare myself for the next day. 

Much to my chagrin, however, in my initial months of my study I discovered that every time I tried to meditate I would just doze off to sleep.  Or worse, I would find myself in so much physical discomfort that I would give up before even beginning.  In my studies I had learned to sit in what is called a 7-point formal posture, which require both flexibility in the lower body as well as relaxed muscles in the back and neck for maximum benefit.  This posture supposedly works well because it requires building a stable base with the legs, which supports a straight spine upon which the head can balance comfortable.  The posture creates a physical state of both relaxation as well as support and alertness so as not to fall asleep or lose the object of meditation too frequently.  However, after several minutes of sitting in this position (or trying to get comfortable in that position to begin with) I found that I would feel tight in my knees and hips, and my body would feel rather uncomfortable.  Further, when I would practice first thing in the morning, I noticed that my circulation was not ideal since my blood was not well oxygenated, and I felt really drowsy.  Although my meditation practice was slowly getting stronger, I often cut my sessions short on account of the way I felt physically or because I was just falling asleep.  I could feel the benefits of meditation starting to take effect on my life overall, but I was becoming really annoyed to just be scratching at the surface.  Some sessions were great, but others not so much.  Mainly I was frustrated that I still had trouble sleeping.

Fortunately for me, in the midst of my woes, I discovered a secret little weapon to combat my drowsiness and physical discomfort: YOGA.  Although I was nervous to give it a try I became convinced that yoga was absolutely the way to go based on all the materials and blogs I was reading online.  So, equipped with a Target-purchased yoga mat, I headed over to Yoga Tropics to venture into yet another ancient discipline and to brave the elements.  RESULT?  Instant love affair.  Even though it took a few classes to get used to the heat, I felt my spine start to open up, my hips starting to loosen, and the mobility in my joints staring to come back.  When I would get home, I would immediately find my 7-point posture, and begin meditating.  What I found was that I could now easily sit peacefully for a solid 20-30 minutes without any issues of pain or drowsiness.  In other word, my yoga practice has become the gatekeeper to fruitful meditation sessions.  After hot yoga my muscles become relaxed, my body awakened and energized, and my circulation begins to flow with freshly oxygenated blood so that my mind becomes still in a way that it cannot when I’m cold, tight and inflexible.  Moral of the story: yoga is the best primer for meditation in my opinion and has been a life-saver for me.  And, while I’m still not at the point of being “enlightened” at least I can now sleep at night.  So, if you’re like me and are finding your eyelids becoming heavy even at the thought of meditating, give Yoga a shot. You might 

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