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Yoga off the Mat: Embracing the Moment with a Quiet Mind

It's Week One of our #FuelHappiness holiday campaign with lululemon, and this week's happiness practice is Meditation.

As our friends at lululemon athletica are wise to point out, chronic stress, anxiety, and anger can screw with our happiness levels, our judgment, and our health. Fortunately, just five minutes of daily meditation can help reduce stress, improve well-being, and decrease aches and pains. 

Of course, quieting your mind can be easier said than done–especially at this time of year. To help you get in the right frame of mind, take these words of advice from Zenergy guest blogger Lauri Bunting: 

Yoga Off the Mat: Embracing the Moment with a Quiet Mind

It’s 3:00 am and you are jolted awake by a seemingly endless stream of thoughts. With galloping heart and erratic breaths, you toss and turn, lamenting each passing minute of lost sleep. The more you try to quiet your mind, the noisier it becomes.

The sun has risen and you and your partner are now enjoying your morning cup of coffee. Slowly sipping, your eyes glaze over and your mind is cast into a current of drifting thoughts. You hear the jarring words, “Are you listening to me?”

Later in the day, your child is bubbling with excitement while describing an incident on the playground and you suddenly realize that you have not heard a single word. You have a lot on your mind. You are not alone, nor is your racing mind a product of the technological age.

Some 2,500 years ago, a sage named Patanjali dedicated an entire book about the perils of the racing mind and plotted a path to a liberated state, devoid of thoughts. This seminal book, called The Yoga Sutras, invites readers to step into the moment and experience life through the eyes and ears of a quiet mind.

Patanjali defines yoga as a state whereby thoughts that normally clutter the mind settle. Using the metaphor of a lake, our thoughts are like ripples on the surface, whipped around by the winds of regrets, desires, and fears. The waters beneath become murky. As the winds die down, the lake becomes still, clearly reflecting the world around it as well as the world within.

Just the same, when the mind stops drumming up stories of the past and future, we perceive the external world with clarity while remaining firmly anchored to who we are. We step into the flow of life, navigating, steering and adapting to each shifting current. “Now” becomes our mantra as we relinquish our grip on what was and what will be.

Exercises to Embrace the Moment & Quiet the Mind

1. Blowing Away the Past and Future

• Sit comfortably on the floor or in a chair, close your eyes, and tune into the sound and feeling of your breaths. Follow the inhalation and exhalation for 5 cycles.

• Next, inhale through your nose, and exhale through puckered lips as if you are softly blowing out a candle. Feel your breaths become calmer and longer. Continue for 3 cycles.

• Next, inhale with your head facing forward. Then exhale through puckered lips while turning your head to the left. Continue breathing in this manner, inhaling center and exhaling left. With each exhalation blow away the past, creating a little space between this moment and all that preceded–your loves, losses, achievements, failures, honorable acts, and regrets. Complete 5 cycles.

• Next, inhale center and exhale right, gently blowing away the future, creating a little space between the present and all that you anticipate, desire and fear. Complete 5 cycles.

• Finally, with head facing forward, follow the inhalation and exhalation, fully embracing the experience of the moment, nothing but the simple act of breathing. Continue for 10 cycles.

2. Catch and Release

• Sit comfortably on the floor or in a chair, close your eyes, and tune into the sound and feeling of your breaths. Follow the inhalation and exhalation for 5 cycles.

• Continuing to breathe in this manner, become the vigilant witness of your thoughts. Observe with a subtle curiosity–“I wonder what my mind will stir up next!” As a thought rises, catch it with your awareness, and then release it with the next exhalation.

• Sometimes, the mind will want to hold onto what it tags as an important thought. You can have an imaginary box for those thoughts that you can revisit later if you so choose.

3. Mantra

• Mantra is simple the repetition of a sacred sound. It is nothing other than using the instrument of the voice to produce vibrations that tune the instruments of our body, breath and mind. When we are truly listening, the mind must be still. Try quietly chanting the sacred sound, “OM.” As you exhale the sound, feel it vibrate within. As you inhale, bask in the residue of the sound.

4. Staying Anchored

• Commit to taking 10 cycles of mindful breaths each morning upon awaking. Attune to the sound and feeling of the breaths as they flow in and out. Drop your anchor here so that as you climb out of bed and step into your day, you can operate from that place of calm, space and clarity, engaging with the world through the eyes and ears of a quiet mind.

Lauri Hoffman Bunting brings more than 20 years of experience to her yoga teaching, emphasizing breath and alignment as important keys to unlocking physical and energetic blocks in the body. Currently, she is studying Yoga Therapy through Integrative Yoga Therapy. Lauri also is a certified plant-based chef and wellness coach. She enjoys working with individuals to help them achieve optimal wellness through yoga, diet and lifestyle.

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