by Lk Bookman
Have you ever had the nagging feeling that something might be missing from your yoga practice? As a long-time asana practitioner, I've felt that way at times … a need to delve deeper and to change Samskaras, those habits that no longer serve me, like perfectionism! With many yoga practitioners, asana is the introduction, but meditation is the life changer. I've been intrigued by meditation and by those who are able to practice it regularly. The benefits have been ingrained in my psyche through my yoga studies, and although I've aspired to start a meditation practice, I seemed to find other ways to spend my time (like checking email and social media)!
It wasn't so much the new year that inspired me to start meditating, but rather an illness that left me unable to teach and practice yoga asana for several weeks. I am not accustomed to being that sick, so it was a big “wake-up” call that I needed to take better care of myself. I am amazed at my body's ability to stop me in my tracks, and I realized this was a prime opportunity to delve deeper into my practice. It wasn't easy though. If I've learned anything from yoga, I've learned that change is a gradual process. Beginning a meditation practice has been no different. It's called a practice because it takes commitment.
Since there are so many styles of meditation, I needed guidance to get started. I talked to fellow yogis and researched the internet. One site I found helpful is 23 Types of Meditation to help determine which type is right for me. I also discovered there are both local public and online resources available (many free). For convenience sake, I started with an app recommended by a friend called Insight Timer. Starting with a six minute morning guided meditation to meditations focusing on grounding, successful endeavors and more, this application has taught me how to progressively lengthen my practice. There is also a chimed timer if you wish to meditate without a guide, as well as beautiful tunes to support your practice.
Following are other resources I discovered during my research. This list isn't extensive, but if you're interested in starting a meditation practice, these are simple and affordable tools to get your started.
Attending public classes and workshops are especially helpful to build a community of fellow meditators, or if you need help with deeper issues such as trauma recovery or PTSD, and chronic or terminal illness.
Austin Shambala Meditation Center
The Austin Shambala Meditation Center is located South of downtown Austin, this center offers weekly classes in English and Spanish on varying topics. From their website: “Shambhala Vision is rooted in the principle that every human being has a fundamental nature of basic goodness. This nature can be developed in daily life so that it radiates out to family, friends, community and society”.
Austin Zen Center
The Austin Zen Center community offers a haven of peace and harmony in which to engage in the task of self-discovery through Zen practice. Welcoming diversity, the practice of zazen is available to people of every race, religion, nationality, class, gender, sexual orientation, age, and physical ability. May all beings realize their true nature. Learn more at http://www.austinzencenter.org/index.html
Yoga Meditation Group
Located in Northwest Austin/Cedar Park area, the Yoga Meditation Group offers meditation practices for people of all ages, as well as yoga asana (exercise) opportunities. Most, if not all meditation sessions are free of charge. From their website: “Yoga Meditation is a simple, enjoyable technique to calm and focus the mind and find fulfillment within. Classes are available for all ages, and they are always free. New students are welcome to our Meditation Instruction and Meditation Practice classes”.
The Meditation Bar
New to Austin, The Meditation Bar is located in North Central/West Austin on Mesa Road. From their website: “The connotations of meeting at a neighborhood bar have been converted to redefine a gathering place that offers something that is considered a commodity in our society…peace and quiet. This bar is serving meditation because the benefits of learning how to clear your mind can change your life. Meditation Bar provides classes that are consistent in quality, independent in belief and serious about helping people exercise their minds.
Many yoga studios offer guided meditation such as Eastside Yoga, Castle Hill Yoga, Dharma Yoga and The Yoga Room. Eastside Yoga, located on East 11th, provides weekly sessions that include asana and meditation, or meditation only guided by owner, Steven Ross. Sunday sessions are always by donation. Castle Hill Yoga located at 12th and Lamar, provides a weekly free meditation class on Friday evening. Dharma Yoga on Manor Roa_d offers a weekly meditation series led by Kelly Lindsay on Wednesday mornings. The Yoga Room in Round Rock provides space for a weekly meditation on Tuesday mornings at 8 am. This practice is for anyone who would like to drop in and start their day with silent meditation. You can arrive and leave at any time, but please be mindful about respecting others' practices.
Online Guided Meditation and Meditation Timers
There are hundreds of topics one can meditate on depending on the intention, so a search online might help you narrow down to topics that are of most interest to you. There are guided meditations to help you find your calling, inspire you to be more creative, and help you develop loving compassion for self and others. You can also find meditations to help with sleep, anger issues, addiction or other habits that no longer serve you in life. Here are few, but for a more extensive list, read "12 of the Best Free Guided Meditation Sites".
As mentioned earlier, Insight Timer is an app available for Android and iphone devices that I found to be very useful. With guided meditations of varying lengths and topics, languages and rated by users, this app is extremely helpful in beginning a practice.
Tara Brach founded the Insight Meditation Community of Washington, DC (IMCW), which is now one of the largest and most dynamic non-residential meditation centers in the United States. This site includes a library of more than a hundred guided meditation tracks to keep you going, various styles, with a new one added each week. The site is really user friendly, and the tracks are all good quality too. No music, just a calming voice guide you through.
The Chopra Center
The Chopra Center provides free guided meditations on various topics, tips on how to get started and much more.
It has been several months since I began a regular meditation practice and the experience has increased my awareness of negative thought patterns, and provided tools to positively improve my life. I have been able to better regulate my mood and decrease anxiety. I have become more focused on the parts of my life I enjoy and less focused on external distractions and negative self-talk. I have found that meditating in the morning has been a great way to prepare me mentally for the rest of the day and to be more mindful in my interactions with others. It hasn't always been easy to make the commitment to meditate, but just like practicing asana, afterwards I feel wonderful, peaceful and ready to embrace whatever life has in store for me!
About Lk Bookman
Lk, a yoga teacher and founder of the Austin Yoga Hub, has been a personal student of yoga for more than 18 years. She began the study of Ashtanga yoga and soon found Hatha Flow, Vinyasa and Yin styles of yoga to be extremely beneficial in providing for a well-rounded practice. Yoga has transformed her outlook on life and provided her with a deep sense of calmness and well-being. She currently teaches public classes at The Yoga Room. Learn more about Lk at www.lkbookmanyoga.com