No matter what your age or situation, the ability to be able to truly still the mind and sit in meditation is a wonderful life enhancing skill to have. Especially perhaps in the run up to Christmas which can be an additionally stressful time for many!
Kirstin Anna Isherwood, Lead Assessor for the British Wheel of Yoga recently held an introductory class here at The Elms Retirement Village. Fifteen residents along with organiser Tracey Coulson sat with Kirstin as she explained a little of the history and background of yoga and meditation including some of the terminology used and its meaning. ‘We are all energy; energy flows through us and around us and we can learn to become aware of that, more mindful of what is happening in our bodies and this can help us become calmer, healthier and ultimately more at one with The Divine.’ explained Kirstin who then led the group into an explanation of how important the position you sit in is for meditation. Lots of shuffling and re-positing followed with some opting instead to use a chair to be sure the spine was in the correct alignment and that the sitting position was maintainable.
‘The mind will always try to distract you; to get your attention.’ said Kirstin. ‘Once in the correct position and you are comfortable it is important to ignore any itch, tickle or muscle twitch.’ Kirstin explained how it is possible over time and with practise to become able to ignore these and any other distractions. As beginners we were advised to bring our attention back to ‘the breath’ should this occur.
The group then tried out some different approaches designed to help quieten the ‘Monkey Mind’ that always wants to play with you! Looking to a candle flame or counting up to 7 but without another single thought coming to your mind other than the number – most of us not getting past the number one! – were some of the techniques tried.
Kirsten then talked us through a short relaxation exercise which involved laying down in the ‘corpse’ position. Many of us were thankful to be able to change position by this point! Once again the focus was on bringing mindfulness to our energy; how our bodies felt and shifting that to a state of balance and deep relaxation.
We finished with what proved to be many peoples favourite, chanting a mantra; Om. The universally recognised symbol that all material objects, thoughts and phenomena are states of energy vibration. Kirstin demonstrated the chant and the group copies her making the sound seven times. We all felt the vibration of the sound through our bodies profoundly relaxing and calming.
One comment Kirstin made particularly resonated; ‘It is important that we look after ourselves and keep enough of our energy for ourselves in order that we can help others.’ A great mantra all round.