A few weeks ago I ran into my yoga teacher on the street (it’s a pretty incredible story actually, you should read it). And I took her advice and came back to my practice, slowly but surely. I am not a yogi by any means. I do OK I guess, but it’s always intimidating to me to go to class because it always feels like, no matter what the level, I’m behind the curve. Yoga has been so popular for so long now that there’s zero mystery anymore; everybody expects that you’ll at the very least have a basic knowledge of how to execute poses.
So when you’re in a room full of women who are all effortlessly standing on their heads while you’re struggling with downward dog and just trying not to fart, it can be hard to feel zen.
I expressed this stress (I left out the farting part) to my teacher and she said that WAY more important than what was happening in my body, was what was happening in my mind.
In meditation and yoga practice, there is something called the “monkey mind”. Here’s an excerpt from a short and fantastic article published in Psychology Today about meditation that I think perfectly explains what the term “monkey mind” means:
“In meditation circles you’ll often hear the term “monkey mind.” The “monkey” refers to how our primate relatives are able to swing from one branch to another with awe-inspiring skill. Similarly, our minds bounce from one idea to another, but rather than inspire awe, the activity often fills us with anxiety….
“Meditation quiets the monkey mind. While there are many types of meditation, all techniques are based on a system of repetition and focus.”
Some days, I feel like I have a brain FULL of monkeys. Especially if I’m just trying to sit at home and meditate by myself. I can sit and breathe in a quiet space ‘till the cows come home- but chances are I’m thinking about my grocery list. Or needing to get my car smog checked. Or how cute that girl’s yoga top was in class last week. I wonder if it comes in other colors? Can I pull off purple? Do I need to fart? It’s ridiculous.
So it’s lovely when outside stimuli takes my mind off of my mind (does that make sense?). This can mean music, or a mantra, or the sound of a teacher’s voice giving you instructions, or of course actually moving your body as you practice yoga.
Lately I’ve been super into the mantra thing.
It’s small, simple, repetitive (just like psychology today says!), and super easy to do anywhere. I’m allllllll about taking the easy route these days. At first I kinda felt like using a mantra was “cheating”, but it’s NOT. You’re not going to become Ghandi overnight and be able to perfectly quiet your mind and release all emotions. Any tool you find that helps you stay focused on your goal is a tool you should use!
So I started writing down some sentences/thoughts/mantras that I came across over the past few months that resonated with me. I try to choose one every day and sit with it for 3 minutes. It’s hard, I’m not gonna lie. But oh man, is it worth it. I listed a few below- sit and breathe with the one you like best for 60 seconds. Seriously, just put a timer on your phone and try it. I dare you.
“Smile, even in your liver.”
“I am enough”
(In breath)“In – 2 – 3” // “Hold – 2 – 3” // (Out breath) “Out – 2 – 3”
“Give it to God”
“Tell the truth”
(In breath) “I am happy.” (Out breath) “I am healthy.”
More on the positive effects of meditation to come, but for now, just trust me, K?