Not my average Saturday afternoon.
I’m kneeling on the floor, sitting on a bolster that reminds me of pre-natal classes. Memories go back to being pregnant *shivers* and I all I can think about is how the sweat going down my back is making me feel all sticky.
My eyes have been closed for a good few minutes so although I can’t actually see or hear them, I know I’m surrounded by a group of strangers repeating weird sounds in their heads. I imagine the kids making a mess back home whilst I’ve basically been sitting ab-so-lu-te-ly still for the past 10 minutes. Shocker.
This is my first meditation class. So weird.
Had you told me a few years ago I would be voluntarily forgoing an afternoon of shopping and white carbs for sitting cross-legged and do nothing I would say you’d got on the wrong bus: la-la-land is up there with the fairies, darling.
You know my type, right? The girl with the business degree followed by a decade of spreadsheets, if you can’t explain it, I’m not buying. So what’s changed?
For starters, I’m actually enjoying a regular Yoga practice (that in itself is extraordinary, considering how we started on the wrong foot). Do you know that bit at the end of yoga class when you lie on the floor, listen to chilled music and do nothing (aka savasana), exhausted from the all the sun salutations and shoulder stands? My favourite part. I thought maybe a meditation class was (sort of) 60 minutes of that.
But there’s more. People I follow and respect, doctors, personal trainers, friends and nutritionists, all of them seem to be raving about the benefits of meditation. How it improves digestion, lowers stress levels, helps you sleep better and be more present for, well – life.
I’m curious. There’s gotta be something in it, right?
No negative side effects, potentially high upside and 2 hours just for myself? Meditation class is GO.
Hubby was not terribly impressed when I suggested I might be going to a meditation class. But the thought of an afternoon of “quality time” with his little buddy on the PlayStation without mum around to judge (surely you should be playing actual football outside?) didn’t sound that bad. So while he took on the 3 offspring (popcorn and crisps) under his wing, mum was out doing weird stuff.
So there I am: purple grippy mat on my shoulder, downward-dog proof leggings and equal shares of scepticism and open-mindedness, heading to The Power Yoga Company, wondering if this is has been a terrible idea?
Starting with movement
We spent the first hour in a gentle yoga practice to release any aches and pains that could get in the way of the mind. Ok, I reassure myself this is something that makes sense. A warm up, getting in the mood and so on.
Then there was the repeated, non-stop, sun salutations flow. After a while I suddenly realised that my body seemed to know what to do next. Music and heat blending together, eyes closed, it started to feel like a very different kind of yoga class. And my head seemed to be enjoying it.
Moving on: Breathing exercises (!)
This is where I really thought this was not for me. Not because the breathing exercises were difficult per se. In fact they were really simple. But (1) I wasn’t getting the point of doing this and (2) I just felt, well – silly?
There’s the quick exhales. Hold your breath. Exhale. Again. Repeat. Again.
We also try breathing only through one nostril while covering the other. And imagine the breath flowing up to the space in between your eyebrows aka third eye (I think?).
Sheer peer pressure. Everyone else seemed to know what they were doing, so I just went along. Ish.
But ah! Afterwards you do feel the results: when the nose has been cleared, your head too feels clearer. And as you’ve lost yourself in the repeated motion of breathing in and out this weird way or the other, your mind quietens.
Finally: let’s all meditate
All of the above have only been a preparation for the actual meditation. The main act, the lets-all-sit-still-and-do-nothing or in my case how-the-hell-am-I-supposed-to-pull-this-off ?
I loved how our amazing teacher Mona (I would sit on her classes just to listen to the sound of her voice) was so down to earth about the details of simply finding a good sitting position. If you’re going to spend some time in sitting still then you probably want to be surrounded by pillows, legs supported by props. It felt really nice to land on a soft bolster, basically.
Next thing is to pick your own mantra. Your word or sentence that conjures positive thoughts. I picked the first that came to my head that moment.
(Because I was not sitting at home doing homework/ dealing with the dishwasher).
You repeat that word in your head over and over again as you try to keep outside thoughts from creeping in. It’s not easy, it takes work, it doesn’t just happen. Just keep coming back to it, I guess?
As for the sitting still part? Not half as hard as I expected. In fact, after all the prep and lovely cushions, it was not hard at all.
Something good started to happen. I feel myself nodding a few times, the tiredness of busy weeks and lack of sleep coming down from nowhere. Apparently you’re not supposed to mediate when you’re too tired and certainly not lying down – because you can fall asleep! – but that feels like a waste of a perfectly good opportunity for a nap?
Result: awesome meets chill and gongs.
I know this sounds weird. But don’t worry, I’m not joining a cult here or anything.
As I left the studio and went back to real life everything seemed easy. I was focused, chilled, grateful. It felt a bit like, well – magic. And I wish I could hold on to this high forever.
Of course it fades away. But if you put in the work, you reap the benefits. Meditation did not feel like an out-of-this-world mystical state we inhabit for a while as long as you know the right moves and words;
What I discovered on my first mediation class was an amazing workout for the mind. Which takes effort – as all workouts do. But it’s worth it. And frankly, it’s not like you’ve got any risks of injury so nothing like giving it a go and deciding for yourself.
Fyi, I just ordered this book called The Science of Mediation. You know, in case I need to pull out some facts just to quieten my mind ;).
Have you ever tried meditation before? How did that feel?
Sending you lots of love,
Ps. I have no actual pictures of myself meditating (phones not allowed in mediation class, obvs *sad emoji*) so all photo credits go to the Power Yoga Company.