“Move and Breath into a better life”
You hear it all the time. “Meditation changed by life,” but how often is the meaning of meditation or the reasons why it is so beneficial ever explained. Meditation has been proven to increase emotional control, self-observation, concentration, and relationship satisfaction. Some of the best athletes including Derek Jeter, and highest grossing CEOs such as Bill Ford, can account some of their success to meditative practices. We see the practice and we see the results, but we don’t see how we can include them in our own lives and we struggle to piggyback off our friends’ and family’s transformations into a more peaceful life.
I interviewed Lauren Musselman, a yoga and meditation teacher who dedicates her time to bringing the benefits of yoga and meditation to others in order to help us understand it a little better. I figured if she’s had success getting New Yorkers to settle down, there’s hope for all of us. She first got her personal training certification but found her passion in yoga and has since traveled around the world from India, to Africa, to New York City, where she currently resides, strengthening her practice and sharing it with other.
“Yoga, happened to me, I certainly didn’t go looking for it.” Lauren explains. She started her journey 9 years ago when she agreed to go to her friend’s yoga class in exchange for her friend going to cross fit. It didn’t take long for her to not only fall in love with the practice but want to share that love with others, “My life was changed so greatly I couldn’t keep that information all to myself” she explains. It’s a good thing she didn’t because she has gone on to help many people with her experience.
One of her favorite stories is an athlete who she met 5 years ago, “Not only did he experience daily anxiety, he would have full panics during the swimming segment of triathlons so I began to guide longer meditation portions during savasana and he began asking for “more of the meditation stuff.” She found out later on that when they met, he was “debating trying yoga or beginning therapy; to this day he’s yet to go to a therapy session.”
So how do we go from getting in the way of our progress with anxiety and stress to becoming more calm, capable, and compassionate people? First if “you’re intimidated by the words “yoga” and “meditation”, Lauren recommends removing those labels and calling it movement or stretching or breathing. The idea is that taking the time to start moving and breathing, will teach us to become more mindful. “Mindfulness = Awareness. Awareness = Paying Attention.” When we are paying attention and free of distractions, we start to see the truth about ourselves, our lives, and how we feel emotionally and physically.
We learn to acknowledge “our own hardship, heartbreak, trauma, and suffering” as we “take time to get to know ourselves a bit.” Mindfulness gives us the discipline and time to decide what’s worth paying attention to and what isn’t, so we can let go of what is hurting us and focus on what is helping us. Once we do this for ourselves, we are more available to help others. Lauren explains, “we can recognize and understand what that pain looks and feels like, when we understand we can exercise the compassion muscle; THEN when we see it in others we can offer them compassion as well.”
The Covid-19 epidemic has brought up a lot of unease and uncertainty for many of us, both internally and in our relationships with others. I asked Lauren how we can use the practice to help us during this time and here is her advice
“If you feel anxiety bubbling up and suffocating you, if you are nervously trying to figure out how to get out of the situations that are entirely beyond our control or revisiting the same conversations over and over and over, JUST TAKE A STEP BACK.”
Instead of “turning to an outlet that numbs you,” (too much alcohol, sugar, social media) you can “blast your music and dance it out, or sing your favorite song over and over and over, or run laps around the neighborhood, until you can sit-down and move forward or the craving simply passes.” The point is to focus your attention on something positive, that gets you out of your negative pattern of thinking. Instead of forgetting your problems exist, you acknowledge them and move forward with more ease, knowing you have the tools to calm yourself down.
With so much chaos and confusion, it’s as if the world has been put on hold, so I couldn’t think of a better time to start the journey into a more mindful and peaceful life. Lauren’s currently experiencing that “Now, more than ever, it’s discipline and constant reminders are keeping me grounded and focused.” I asked her the most important thing the practice has taught her is, and she very beautifully stated,
“There’s nothing more than us and there’s so much more than us. This is my life, it is my practice, it is my discipline, and it is okay to drift off, or mess up, or be human. The “yoga” is catching it and coming back to practice.”
I believe we are all worth the time and energy it takes to learn to move and breath in a way that benefits each of us individually, and to have the compassion for ourselves to make mistakes, learn from them, and continue on. I one-hundred percent agree with Lauren when she says we should “give it a try, without expectation” because “you never know what might happen.”
(Luckily for us, she is currently offering amazing yoga and meditation classes every day on her Instagram live and accepting donations (@rising_root).