[su_dropcap style=”default” size=”3″ class=””]I[/su_dropcap]’ve never been a huge believer in meditation or its positive effects. I was always under the impression that meditation was only for health nuts or monks. I didn’t think meditation could really make a difference in how one feels. But I was wrong. Meditation isn’t just for one type of person, nor is it only for religious purposes. It was calm, quiet and immediately beneficial. It was a completely unique experience.
I tried my first group yoga and meditation class one Thursday night after a chaotic week of classes. As an overachieving college student, I was overwhelmed with school and anxious to get ahead for next week’s work load. I had heard classes like this were great for unwinding and focusing, so I was willing to try something new; however my initial reaction was that it was a rouse.
Right when I walked into the yoga studio, I was greeted by our instructor and ushered into a small closet filled with yoga mats, foam blocks, pillows, and blankets. I understood the purpose of a mat and foam block. But, I was skeptic when I saw the pillows and blankets, which I considered sleeping “equipment,” not something typically found in a gym. Nevertheless, we grabbed our gear and settled into a spot in a large, mirrored room.
The room was darkly lit and had blue lights shining across the ceiling. Where there weren’t mirrors, there were large windows on the walls facing a wooded area. The sound of waves crashing played in the background and a group of 15 people were sitting on cushy mats. It felt like I was at a spa. I felt relaxed as soon as I walked in the room.
The instructor gathered everyone up and we began the class with deep tissue stretches requiring the use of rollers to massage the muscles in our legs and arms. This form of stretching was not like basic stretching. We rolled out our muscles until they began to hurt and held our stretched positioned to focus on our breathing. At first, I found this stretch painful, giving me the impression that I wasn’t fit enough to be in the class. I thought others may judge my lack of flexibility. However, when I began to listen to my breathing and focus only on how my body was stretching, I actually felt lighter and more in control of how I was moving. I closed my eyes and I forgot that I was in a room full of people; all I could think about was my breathing. We continued these stretches for 25 minutes, then we moved to yoga.
We began to contort our bodies in various positions; we were instructed to breathe in, breathe out, and breathe again. This was the one thing we were permitted to think about; if our minds began to wander, and my certainty did, we were instructed to label the thought as either good, bad, or neutral and then put it away for later.
My mind was cleared and all I could think about was how air was going through my nose filling my body, then leaving my mouth. I could feel my muscles expanding and contracting; I understood how my body was feeling and when enough was enough. The best part though, is that I felt completely in control of my breathing, my motions and my thoughts. After a crazy week, having control was such a nice change of pace.
After a few more positions, we were instructed to get comfortable so we could begin meditation. Ah. This is why the room had pillows and blankets. I grabbed a blanket and laid completely flat on the floor. Next, the instructor explained the technique of chakra meditation. She invited us to visualize a color, the first was dark red, and then place that color over a certain part of our body. Red was for the heart. She then recited a mantra for the color, which was to be repeated in our heads. For the color red, she chanted, “we are healthy and have love in our hearts.” I began to feel each word the instructor was saying. Each time she would describe a color, I could feel my body relax more and more. My arms and legs felt warm, I felt each breath become fuller and I felt better.
I have always been skeptic of mediation, and even yoga. But, I have never felt so connected to my body, my mind or my environment as I did in that 45-minute class. When I opened my eyes after meditation, I realized that I felt genuinely happier. I loved the feelings of unity I had with my body and the room. I realized that I didn’t have to be a health nut, nor did I have to be a monk or religious figure. I just wanted to be relaxed. And I was. I was completely relaxed.
The next day, I was a low-maintenance friend, a productive student, and an overall better me.
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