Land Yoga sent me over to the JCC to teach a free yoga and meditation class this past Saturday as part of their R&R Shabbat Saturdays. If you’ve not been there, the upper west side location of the Jewish Community Center is a huge, lovely building on Amsterdam Ave. near 76th Street. Saturdays are buzzing around the center with community members attending playgroups, movie screenings and other activities designed to give their day of rest some positive vibes. After our hour-long Ashtanga Yoga asana class, I guided participants through a meditation. I’d like to share the three simple techniques I used because they’re super accessible for anyone looking to clear their mind!
Simple Meditation and Relaxation Techniques
Take a comfortable seated position, either in a chair or on the floor. Make sure it feels comfortable and that your spine is in a supported, upright position. If you find tightness or discomfort during your practice, move around a bit so that you are relaxed. Try not to fidget all the time, but be aware and allow the body to feel at ease. Turn your palms to face up and rest your hands on your knees or thighs. Close your eyes.
Begin by observing your thoughts, noticing where your mind naturally settles. Allow each thought to come…whether it’s about food, family, your relationship, financial problems, tonight’s plans, or your mile-long to-do list. One by one, accept each thought. Acknowledge it. Thank it for being there, and then send it on its way. Work slowly, observing each thought or sensation that comes up. Gradually, as if you were cleaning clutter out of a room, make space in the brain. Try not to judge yourself or become frustrated when more and more thoughts come up. Repeat the practice of acknowledging, accepting, and letting go until the thoughts slow down and you feel softer and more centered.
With the newfound space and emptiness in the brain begin to focus on the breath. Notice the natural rhythm of the breathing. How the body feels as each inhale comes and each exhale goes. Place your right hand on your heart and your left hand on your belly. Notice the feeling of rising and falling in the chest and belly as you breathe. Allow your mind to focus on one idea or thought of positive nature. For example: thankfulness for good health, or more generally just the sensation of happiness. On each inhale allow yourself to take in the positive. Allow opportunity and newness to flood your body via your breath. With each exhale allow any obstacles to this positive happy thought exit your body and mind. Inhale the positive, exhale the negative. Inhale the opportunity, exhale the obstacles. Feel the physical sensation of each breath. You can keep your hands on the chest and belly for as long as you like, or let them return to their place on your thighs or knees. Repeat.
Finally allow your thoughts to slow down again. If you’ve been sitting you can come to lie down on your back with your palms facing up and your feet relaxing away from each other (if you prefer to stay seated that’s always an option). Beginning at the tips of the toes, trace your awareness up through each part of the body. Move slowly and allow each one to relax and soften. End with the very tip of the head. Settle in and rest for at least five minutes.
Do you have any of your own meditation or relaxation techniques? Let me know if you try these!