Meditation yoga has changed my life. No joke – I’m not the type of person to make bald assertions or promote anything I don’t believe in. The practice of yoga and meditation has changed who I am and made me a better person.
If meditation or yoga is not part of your life right now or you’ve thought about it but just haven’t taken any action, let me tell you WHY YOU NEED TO JUST START and ABOUT ALL THE WAYS IT CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE FOR THE BETTER. This is even more true if you live a demanding and stressful life.
I started a practice of, what I will call, meditation yoga about 5 years ago now. It all started with a Google search of a “yoga retreat” I wanted to go to one summer around town. I found a “Heart Awakening Yoga” retreat. I had no idea what that was, but it was close to town and significantly cheaper than any of the other yoga retreats I came across online. I remember hearing that most of the participants at the yoga retreat were students of my yoga teacher’s and had been for over 15 years! I asked them what was it about this type of yoga and the instructor that made them so dedicated. It was hard for them to articulate exactly how this yoga practice had changed their lives, but in this post, I’m going to try and articulate exactly why I’m a committed yogi. Skipping ahead, I and ended up joining the yoga instructor’s classes in town and have been a dedicated student of hers since. Every week, I attend a 2-hour yoga class. Yes, you read that right – 2 hours. But, the time flies by.
Have I mentioned that it has CHANGED MY LIFE?! So much so that I try my darndest not to schedule any client meetings or events during my class and set a personal boundary that no one else will have me during that time. This yoga practice that I have – even just once a week – is so beneficial and has changed who I am and how I handle stress that I really notice when I’ve missed a class. Mr. OYP (Owning Your Profession) also notices a change in my temper and demeanour when I miss a class. Let’s just say it’s not good for anyone if I miss a class – it’s in everyone’s best interest that I go.
Who am I?
If this is your first time to the website, I’m Ms. OYP (Owning Your Profession) and am a lawyer in private practice in Canada, who has been practicing for about 6 years now. I think it’s fair to say I have some stress in my life and there are A LOT of things about practicing law that can keep you up at night.
If you want to read my story click here and if you want to read about how I paid off $98,500 of student loan debt and a car loan in 3.5 years, click here.
If you’re curious and want to know if I have kids, you can click here to find out.
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What is the Meditation Yoga that I'm talking about?
The meditation yoga that I’m talking about is NOT the fitness yoga classes at your local gym. I’m talking about a yoga class that focuses on yoga as a healing journey. It’s a yoga class where you check your ego at the door. It’s not about what job you have, how much money you do or don’t have or about wearing the nicest yoga outfit to class. Instead, we’re all just yogis; there’s no competition. It’s a class or practice that is ALL ABOUT YOU (the best kind) where you focus on yourself and how you’re feeling that day. It’s not about who can stretch the farthest or get into the posture or who can hold it the longest.
It’s actually quite the opposite. My yoga instructor often says to me, Ms. OYP – “10% less effort”. 10% less effort?! What does that even mean? That’s not how I operate! I’m a high achieving, super Type-A person, how do I give less effort?!
After 5 years, though, I don’t get this comment as often from my yoga teacher, but that said, she just said it to me last week (**smiles**). When she says it, I think “okay, try less, let go, don’t grip and hold my body so much”. That’s so unnatural to me, but I’m working on it because in order to get the benefits from some of the poses, you have to relax into them, breath and hang out in the posture. It’s not about how perfect you can look in the posture or how you can out-balance others in the class.
I should also add that my yoga instructor doesn’t refer to our yoga class as a meditation yoga class – she calls is “Y-O-G-A”. But, that’s the way I’m going to try to describe and articulate the benefits of the type of yoga practice that I do.
The meditation yoga I do is about learning and practicing:
- breathing practices for grounding and relaxation;
- breathing practices for deeper calming, strengthening, stabilizing and energizing;
- how to run prana in the body (prana is the energy medicine of yoga and quiets the habitual thinking mind and deepens healing – which we can all benefit from);
- meditation; and
- being intentional of how you speak to others and how you handle stressful situations.
If any of this is new to you, keep reading – I believe that meditation yoga or a practice of meditation, at the least, can change your life.
What is Yoga?
“Yoga” is defined as a “Hindu spiritual and ascetic discipline, a part of which, including breath control, simple meditation, and the adoption of specific bodily postures, is widely practiced for health and relaxation.”
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What is Meditation?
“Meditation ” is defined as “to engage in mental exercise (such as concentration on one’s breathing or repetition of a mantra) for the purpose of reaching a heightened level of spiritual awareness.”
Meditation seems to be all the rage, which is great, but meditation can take many forms in my experience.
It DOESN’T have to be you finding 2 or 10 or 30 minutes to sit alone in silence right when you wake up or right before bed with or without your meditation app in the background. I think it can be customized for your life and for who you are.
For example, there are certain things that I ordinarily do in my life that feel like meditation because I’m focused on just the activity and nothing else. I find this can happen when I’m:
- Gardening – whether it’s planting flowers, pulling weeds or dead-heading, I’ve noticed that I don’t think about work or what I’m going to do after I’m done gardening (so planning the rest of my day).
- Washing dishes – Yes, washing dishes. I find it somewhat meditative. Anyone else?! I find it actually relaxing and therapeutic. I also notice that I focus on washing dishes and when I’m done, I feel like I have accomplished something and like the feeling that the kitchen is cleaner.
- Dance class – I’m so focused on trying to learn the dance sequence or follow along that I don’t have any room for random thoughts otherwise I’ll miss something. For that hour class, I’m so focused on being in the dance class that my mind is quiet – I’m not thinking about work or planning what I’m going to do after the class is over.
- What about you? Is there something that you already do in your life that gives you the feeling of meditation?
How Meditation Yoga Changed My Life
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I found that particular yoga retreat 5 years ago and that I ended up joining a class every week.
Without looking any more into that, I can honestly say that meditation yoga has changed my life. The benefits that I’ve outlined below are only the benefits that I can articulate and consciously notice. It’s possible that there are other benefits I get that I don’t even notice. All the benefits that I get from meditation and yoga below have changed my life for the better. I also think that meditation and yoga has made me a better lawyer and one of the main reasons I’ve stayed in private practice and the law as long as I have.
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Benefits of Meditation / Meditation Yoga on Your Life
1. Conscious of how often you're holding your breath.
If you have no idea what I’m talking about, for 1 day, I encourage you to notice and watch your breathing. Watch your breathing at work, at home, in traffic, at the gym, outside, when you’re spending time with your family and when you’re in line at the grocery store for example.
As you’re paying attention to your breathing for the day, make observations and write them down. Then, notice if you hold your breath and if so, when do you hold your breath.
I’ve noticed that I hold my breath in stressful situations, so pretty much all day at work! Just kidding, well kind of, so now that I’m aware that I hold my breath, I’m conscious that I do that and remind myself to breath. It works.
Remember to breathe!
2. Less Automatic and Emotionally Reactive in Responses to Others.
For me, this has been THE GREATEST BENEFIT OF YOGA ON MY LIFE.
Before I started the meditation yoga practice in my life, I was highly reactive to situations – whether at home or at work or in traffic. I wouldn’t take a second to think about my reaction and would just blurt something out – and, sometimes those words were hurtful or passive aggressive.
That’s no way to treat other people, even if they deserved it or started it. With a meditation yoga practice, I’m able to notice emotionally charged situations or situations or people that cause me to become emotionally charged or stressed. Once I’ve noticed my reaction to the situation, before reacting – whether by words or by action – I take a quick moment to think about my response. When I respond, I try not to get sucked into their negativity or gossip or their passive aggressive comments. I try to pull myself out from defaulting to automatically react that way and am training myself to THINK FIRST BEFORE RESPONDING OR REACTING TO A SITUATION OR PERSON. It’s been life changing at work and at home because it allows me to de-escalate situations and maintain relationships – both at home and at work.
3. Tools to handle stressful situations and negative people.
We all experience different levels of stressful situations on a daily basis. Whether it’s traffic, the feeling of being late, conflict with people in the office, family tensions, financial stressors, the list goes on. They’re different for all of us, but yoga has given me tools to handle stressful situations and just straight up negative, bitter, jealous people and not get sucked into their energy.
If I was to put stressful situations on a spectrum, here are some of the tools that I use:
- On the lower end of the spectrum, I will practice back breathing. Back breathing is just as it sounds. I practice breathing not only in the front of my body, but into my back. Specifically, the back area behind where my heart is located. I breath into that area and focus on my breathing. This technique has worked when I’m in a long line at the grocery store, in traffic or waiting for an appointment.
- In dealing with negative, jealous or passive aggressive people, I listen to them because normally they’re just looking for someone to listen to them. But, I try not to add fuel to the fire or go down the negativity rabbit hole with them. I also try to be mindful and conscious of not taking in their negative energy or letting their energy affect my mood or my thoughts. So, I use my meditation skills of being able to be an observer outside myself to be aware of these situations and to take care of myself during and after these situations. After these types of encounters, it could just be saying to myself “it’s not a big deal”, “that’s not how I feel” or something along those lines.
- Tap my heart centre. The heart centre is located at the center of your chest, the heart chakra or anahata is the fourth in your seven chakras. What I do it gently tap my heart centre or rub that area with 2 fingers. Because of all the body work I do with yoga, I know that I hold a lot of emotions and stress in the heart centre area. By tapping it gently and thinking about how I love myself, it can help decrease the overall stress in my body and increase compassion and love.
4. Creates space in the body, allowing the body to flow.
After a meditation yoga class, my body feels like it’s flowing, like things are less stuck or hard in my body. I might be doing a poor job of describing this benefit, but when you sit all day in an office job, I feel like my shoulders get hunched over, my back hurts, and like fat is pooling in my thighs, I often times clench my jaw and because I hold my breath (see #1 above), my stomach area is all compacted. Sounds kind of horrible, I know, but it’s true.
5. The Best Yoga Sleeps.
After a meditation yoga class, I have the BEST SLEEP that night. I sleep through the night, don’t wake up and feel so rested the next morning. It’s hard to explain, other than to say it’s the BEST SLEEP and it’s a thing that yogis know – there’s even a hashtag on Instragram #yogasleep.
6. Wake up the next morning with an (almost) clear mind.
Mornings after a meditation yoga class, I wake up with an almost clear mind. I’ve noticed that I don’t start the morning off with thousands of thoughts running through my head.
Instead, my thoughts are slower and calmer and there’s some moments of silence. It’s impressive, really. I also notice that I’m comfortable being alone with my thoughts, which isn’t always the case. Normally, I have to have background noise (music or a podcast), I can’t be in silence. I interpret that to be that I don’t like being alone with my OWN THOUGHTS. I don’t want to hear all of my thoughts, so to silence them, I listen to music to drown them out. I can recognize that’s probably not good, but at least I’m noticing these things.
I’m convinced it’s my meditation yoga practice that has given me this observation and ability to notice these things.
7. Body is less tense and tight. Relieves back pain.
I’ve developed bad back pain over the years from sitting at a computer and desk most days and often nights and sometimes weekends. I’ve noticed that it becomes more painful the more I sit in a day and in a week.
One way to reduce the pain is go to yoga class. We do quite a bit of back breathing and breathing into the ribs, where I can run prana in my back and it helps with the pain. After a yoga class, my back pain eases for about a day and, if I’m lucky, a couple days. It’s temporary relief, but it’s mind-boggling how back breathing and prana can relieve back pain better than a massage, physio or stretching can.
8. Increases Your Self and Body Awareness.
The practice of meditation yoga increases your awareness you have of your body and sense of self. Before I had a yoga practice, I didn’t really pay attention to how my body felt – where it was sore or sensitive; how the front of my body felt compared to the back of my body; and what body parts were tight or tense. Because I didn’t pay attention or listen to my body. I never inquired about WHY certain parts of my body hurt or what might have been going on in those areas of my body. I just kept going on about my day hoping my body would keep up with my busy and demanding lifestyle.
Now, with yoga, I’m in tune to my body and what’s going on with my body. It’s always changing though – every week, I notice differences and sometimes I know why I feel a change or can understand why parts of my body are tight (i.e. hips, shoulders) or one side is tighter than the other side. But, other times, I just notice and then it’s a full stop because just noticing is self and body awareness.
Yoga gives you self-awareness of your own body as well. In my life, I see this through being able to NOTICE how my body reacts in social situations. For example, a stressful situation causes my heart rate to increase, my palms to get sweaty and my breathing to get faster and my voice to quiver a bit. With being able to notice this, though, I’m able to take a breath, notice how my body is physically reacting even if I don’t think I’m stressed and then manage my reaction to the situation. It’s life changing to be able to notice that and control your reaction. For me, in stressful situations, I HOLD PARTS OF MY BODY (USUALLY MY STOMACH AREA).
I can also notice when I’m happy, upset, sad and angry. I know my body enough that I can feel my emotional responses to situations.
9. Emotional Release - whether conscious or unconscious.
Some classes, whether consciously or unconsciously, I experience an emotional release. An emotional release for me has often times been experienced as tears running down my face during a pose or sequence in class, where the tears are my body letting go of something that was emotionally taxing or something traumatic. Most times, I don’t know what it is that I’m releasing, I just know that emotions that have been locked in my body have been able to let go thereby creating space.
I don’t sit in class and hope or try to make an emotional release happen. Rather, it just happens.
10. Focus and concentration improve.
My focus and concentration the next morning after a yoga class are better compared to days without yoga class the night before. I find I’m much better at concentrating on one thing at a time at work and actually crossing things off my to-do list rather than the tendency to start a couple different things all at the same time.
I think it goes with the point above about yoga creating space in the body and in the mind. I find that my mind is more clear, I have less thoughts running in my mind and therefore, I’m able to focus and concentrate better. But, I should say that the benefits of focus and concentration don’t last much longer than the next day.
11. More Present and Observant of your surroundings. Compassionate.
I just notice more in social situations, in nature, at work, at home, on my drive to and from work – I just notice more of what’s going on around me compared to what I did before yoga classes.
I notice new buildings that are being built or old ones that are being destroyed, I notice other people’s energy and pick up on it, and I also notice the seasons changing.
In terms of dealings with other people and myself, I’m just more compassionate. Because I’m noticing more and more aware of what’s going on in my own body and my environment, I think before I speak or judge myself and notice when I criticize myself — which results in me being more compassionate. It’s pretty cool how that has happened.
Final Recap: The Benefits of Meditation / Meditative Yoga
- Conscious of how often you’re holding your breath.
- Less Automatic and Reactive in my Responses to Others.
- Given me tools to to handle stressful situations and negative people.
- Creates space in the body, allowing the body to flow.
- The Best Yoga Sleeps.
- Wake up the next morning with an (almost) clear mind.
- Body is less tense and tight. Relieves back pain.
- Increases Your Self and Body Awareness.
- Emotional Release – whether conscious or unconscious.
- Focus and concentration improve.
- More Present and Observant of your surroundings. Compassionate.