Monday, February 14, 2011

Meditation Helps Me Float Away for the Weekend!

Angels Wings

I asked one of my very first yoga students
who had been in a Friday afternoon class with me for well over a year,
what her favorite part of yoga was,
"Meditation," was her quick answer.
"Why is that?" I asked my young yoga student.
"Because it helps me float away for the weekend."

Mantra Meditation or Meditation Helps Me Float Away

I recently introduced my students to mantra meditation. I knew that several girls were struggling in their relationship with their family members and/or friends. And, so, one afternoon, I introduced my students to mantra meditation. Mantra meditation is ancient (in Sanskrit it means "instrument of thought") and has been practiced for several thousand years. I told my students to meditate on a positive word or a phrase that speaks to them. Think about what you would like to have happen or how you would like to feel. "I have lots of friends. I love myself. I am happy," were all suggestions I gave my attentive students. After I rang the chimes to signal the beginning of meditation and sat with my own eyes closed for a minute of so, I opened my eyes. I am always curious how my young yogis respond to meditation and part of me is always keeping a watchful eye on them. One girl was looking around the room but sitting quietly and clearly lost in thought. Several other students sat peacefully with their eyes closed and bodies still while one little boy, who cannot close his eyes out or anxiety lay quietly on his mat in crocodile pose (face down). Not a word was spoken as we sat for 3 quiet minutes. After meditation I always have an art activity set up. This afternoon, we drew with colored markers. "Draw what meditation is to you," was my direction. Olivia, a young yoga artist, described her drawing, Angels Wings (shown above) to me. " That's me sitting on the boat and even though there is lightening, black clouds and rain, and a giant wave almost crashing into the boat, I am peaceful and safe, meditating."

I see An Icy Wonderland!

Candle Gazing or I See an Icy Wonderland

Mary, one of my younger yoga students who has the flexibility and aura of an up-and-coming yogi master, asked me if she could bring a candle to yoga class. "Yes, that would be nice," I heard myself tell Mary. A week later when Mary arrived for class with candle in hand, we lit the charred wick and then placed it on the floor in the center of our yoga circle after we finished our yoga poses and settled into meditation. The glow of the candle created a peaceful, warm space in the room. Aside from the random thoughts about flames, schools, and children running through my head, the presence of this once-burned light blue candle made me think about the first time I gazed into the flame of a candle (called trataka in Sanskrit) at my adult yoga/meditation class. I couldn't see what all the fuss was about and why in the world anybody would want to stare into a flame although I do remember staring for hours into a campfire flame as a child and how peaceful that made me feel. Having taken a few classes in Buddhist meditation and even more classes in yogic meditation, I find that I prefer to close my eyes and let my mind "watch" a beautiful white lotus flower unfold or recall the image of kayaking on Newfound Lake on a sweet summer morning. Those images help me feel centered and peaceful. Staring into a flickering flame just doesn't do it for me but different strokes for different yoga students and candle gazing, I thought, might really work for some of my students so I decided to give it a try. And, to my surprise, many of my students loved candle gazing, well gazing into a once-burned candle might be more accurate. Where I saw a yellow flame dancing around, distracting me from my own much-preferred mental images, my yoga students imagined a cave with all kinds of life in it, an ocean stopped in time, a icy wonderland full of imaginary creatures with a campfire burning bright in the night sky. Candle gazing into a candle that had burned in such a way so as to leave melted and then hardened wax had become a way for these students to project their thoughts and feelings onto an external object and let their imaginations take off. Next time I try candle gazing, I am most definitely going to stare into the flame of an old, well-burnt candle and remember to let my imagination take over :)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Make Way for Meditative Ducklings

Make Way for Ducklings


Walking Meditation or Make Way for Meditative Ducklings

We had just finished a guided relaxation and my young yoga students lay still on their mats. Time for walking meditation I thought. To prepare for this, I asked my students to roll up their yoga mats and stand quietly in mountain pose (feet firmly grounded, arms hanging loosely by their side). Then I began to slowly walk around our room.  With all eyes on me I quietly repeated, "Heal, toe pad, toes," over and over as I made my way around the room in a wide circle. "Watch, listen and follow me," I then guided my students.  The room was immediately filled with energy as my young yogis started wandering around the room, into the corners, up near the piano; each in her own quiet space.  Like a school of minnows, disturbed in their pond,  each young student was now swimming in his or her own direction, breathing excitedly.  As I attempted to regain some sort of order and move us into meditation I directed them, "Now, breathe in and lift up your heal, then your toe pad, and finally your toes.....breathe out and place down your heal, toe pad, toes...."  I thought about the first time I tried to synchronize my breath with my walking in an adult yoga class. I was in quiet hysterics as I struggled to get my toes and my breath to work together while listening to my masterful yoga teacher, walking with perfect synchrony, direct us and perfectly model, "Breath, heal, toe pad, toes.  Breath, heal, toe pad, toes."  Kids learn so much quicker and with less judgment. Within a few minutes their feet and breath were in tandem. "Swans dancing in the springtime rain, I thought to myself," as they gracefully made their way around the room in a meditative walk.  After a few minutes I sensed the space between us had changed and so turned around to find that all my sweet young yoga students had cued up behind me, with just inches separating me from them and them from each other.  We continued on, "Breath in, heal, toe pad, toe...breath out, heal, toe pad, toe," for the next few minutes but all I could think about was that famous sculpture in Boston Public Garden where the mother duck leads her ducklings, all lined up behind her, around the park. "Make way for meditative ducklings," I smiled to myself as we continued to quietly walk through the room.   Make way, indeed.