6 Benefits of Japa Meditation
By Timothy Burgin, Founder & Creator of Japa Mala Beads
While there are numerous traditions and styles of meditation one can practice, I’ve found that using a mantra with mala beads is the easiest and most powerful way to meditate. In addition to all of the benefits of meditation, japa meditation adds the benefits of the energy and properties of a mantra and the healing and transformative powers of the gemstone mala beads! After much research and years of practicing mantra meditation, I’ve narrowed down the benefits of japa to six main areas.
1. Japa meditation reduces stress and calms the mind
The combination of deep breathing, sacred sound and the slow steady rhythm of a japa meditation practice has inherent and synergistic calming properties. This practice creates an entrainment of the mind to induce specific brainwave states. Japa meditation is the easiest and most effective way to activate the slower brainwave states of Alpha (focus and learning), Theta (creativity and intuition) and Delta (healing and calming).
2. Your heart loves meditation
Advanced yogis have been known to slow their heartbeats down to unbelievable rates and studies on meditation have shown it to reduce blood pressure and heart rate, and the risk of heart disease and stroke. In short, meditation has a powerful and profound effect on your physical heart.
3. Meditation improves concentration and focus
The technique of meditation is simple, but the practice is difficult due to the amount of focus and concentration required. Just like how exercising a muscle makes it stronger, meditation likewise strengthens your mind. Japa is the best meditation for the mind as it utilizes multiple points of focus: the breath, the mantra, and the touch and movement of the mala beads.
4. Meditation reduces negative thoughts and improves mood
Research shows that the vast majority of our thoughts are negative. Worst, the repetition of negative thought patterns in our minds strengthens them and increases feelings of sadness, anger, grief, and loneliness. Mantra meditation’s repetition of positive and sacred Sanskrit syllables replaces negative thinking and creates new positive patterns in our mind.
5. Mantra meditation cultivates positive emotions
Research studies have shown that meditators have higher levels of kindness, compassion, and empathy than non-meditators. Amazingly, the areas of the brain associated with these positive emotions have shown to increase in gray matter density with as little as 8-weeks of meditation practice.
6. Mantras increase shakti, grit, and resilience
With continued practice, japa meditation cultivates a deep inner-strength and inner-power that may surprise you. Mantras contain and activate shakti energy, but it is only through the repetition of these potent mantras that this energy can build up over time to be perceived. Committing to a 40-day practice of japa meditation will further increase your inner-strength, life-force energy, and resilience.
20 Minutes of Turning Inward
Meditation accounts for four of the eight limbs of yoga, and is an important aspect of any yogi’s practice. To meditate is to bring yourself into a state of thoughtful awareness, one that allows you to look inward and focus on yourself. Meditating can begin by focusing on your breath, allowing you to be present in the moment.
The benefits of yoga and meditating are numerous, and can help you see the world in a more positive light. It can be a challenge at first to meditate, and some may find it intimidating. Whether you meditate often or you’re new to meditation, this 20-minute audio will help guide you through your practice.
Find a comfortable, quiet place before you begin to turn your attention inward. By adding this 20-minute break to your day, you can help reduce your stress and become more present in your day-to-day life.
20 Minute Mediation:
By Richard Fabio
About Richard Fabio:
Richard Fabio is certified with Yoga Alliance through the Asheville Yoga Center Teacher Training program. During the training Richard really impressed Stephanie Keach (the program director and head mama bear of the yoga center) with his natural talent. He is fully committed to yoga as a way of being, taking yoga well beyond the mat. His early yogic path began with sitting meditation. While his mind approached stillness, he struggled with chronic lower back and neck pain. Richard remembers barely reaching his hands past his knees in a forward fold. He quickly realized the importance of a strong physical practice for the process of healing. Richard is now a firm believer in the importance of proper biomechanics to restore the body to wellness. In Richard’s classes, students benefit from fun dynamic postures combined with insights from his meditation practice. Richard would like to honor and thank his many teachers and the beautiful lessons that have shaped his path, especially his dear friend and guru Gary Weber.
Richard’s upcoming classes at Asheville Yoga Center:
Instructor of the Month: Kimberley Puryear
Taking one of Kimberley Puryear’s classes is to get an hour-long education in authenticity and self love. The moment you lay out your mat in her Tuesday evening Yin class, you are welcomed by Kimberley with a smile (usually followed by a funny one-liner). Although the class is always packed, there is a sense of individual attention paired with the comfort of being surrounded by people looking to find balance in their body and mind. The same personalized attention that goes into her class is applied to her work as the lead instructor of the 200 Hour Teacher Training program. Testimonials from 200 Hour TT grads flow in, praising her ability to connect with students and pass on her knowledge as both a yoga instructor and practitioner. With her workshops, Teacher Training expertise and popular Yin class, Kimberley is one of AYC’s most invaluable family members.
Kimberley was first drawn to yoga as her mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. A friend who suffered from rheumatoid arthritis had been practicing yoga to manage her pain and recommended Kimberley join to help her cope with her mother’s illness. “She taught me basic stuff, especially breathing. I didn’t realize it at the time but I was learning breathing techniques not only for myself but also for my mother, to help her pass peacefully.” Kimberley was especially drawn to yoga’s ability to calm, soothe, strengthen and heal.
In 2007, 10 years after starting yoga, she decided to deepen her practice by attending AYC’s 200 Hour RYT Immersion and 6 months later dove into our 300 Hour RYT. During this time, she discovered her love for Yin. “It was a practice that was so powerful and grounding during a time where I really needed that.” For Kimberley, Yin allows you to sit with aspects of yourself that are uncomfortable. “Life is not comfortable for me naturally, so to have a tool to allow whatever is inside that needs space to be heard and felt and understood is powerful to me. It’s a daily practice to listen to those things and then give myself what I need to nurture myself. And then through that I can help open my heart to other people.” After graduation, she and her husband opened a yoga studio in Columbia, SC. With the success of her studio, she was approached by Stephanie Keach to become a teacher training instructor at AYC. Working with students has caused her teaching style to evolve. In her classes, workshops and TT courses, Kimberley has a fluid teaching style- constantly changing the pose, topic or curriculum to fit the needs of the group and of individuals. This attention to detail stems from her genuine interest in knowing her students. “My favorite thing about teaching is the connection with students. I learn so much more from them than they could ever learn from me. I love that the interaction with each and every single student is an opportunity to connect.”
October 16th was the last day of Kimberley’s 5-day Flow & Yin Immersion. This workshop focused on exploring Vinyasa Flow, Yin Yoga theory and practice, relaxation techniques, pranayama and adjustments. She has another workshop February which will focus on Restorative Yoga. The beautiful thing about Restorative Yoga is that it gives us a chance to reset and flush the system of stress. Kimberley’s workshop will fluidly discuss the negative effects of stress on our sympathetic nervous systems and address how as a yoga practitioner or instructor you can find ways to bring yourself and your students back into balance. Never one to settle for cookie-cutter yoga, Kimberley is clear that her main goal is to give students the tools to find their own paths. “I think that’s the most powerful thing that can come out of a workshop- people saying ‘I can make this my own.’”
Her exploration of balance within her own life and practice influences her teaching style, making her an incredibly relatable mentor to the hundreds of students she teaches each year. “I have been learning for 10 years and teaching for 10 years and I’m just now starting to understand what my practice is,” she says. “It is trying to be strong, fluid, radiant and peaceful. It’s trying every day to really pay attention through my practice and meditation, which of those parts is out of balance.” Her unsurprising success as a yoga instructor stems from this innate ability of hers to adapt, connect and admit that she’s just another person trying to navigate this crazy world.
Michael Johnson is a compelling mix of creative yoga instructor and curious student of the mind. The root of his interest in meditation lies in its ability to help with neurological disorders and for developing wellbeing.
Michael’s worldview and meditation practiced changed when he read Buddha’s Brain by Rick Hanson and Richard Mendius. In this book, they explain how we can literally reshape our brain for greater happiness, love and wisdom through a combination of modern science and ancient teachings. Implementing these teachings into his own life, Michael eventually divested himself of the dogmatic & religious interpretations of meditation and instead focused on a more scientific approach.
Mettā Meditation, begins October 13. According to Michael, “Mettā means the combination of kindness, compassion, gratitude and patience-all in one. It is a meditation technique used for developing these states so they can occur with greater ease and frequency.” When you look at it from a neuroscientific perspective, cultivating these positive emotions proactively builds new connections between neurons, increases gray matter in key areas and primes our consciousness to respond with kindness for the next person you meet as well as the person you’re trying to heal a relationship with.
“Vipassanā is more like pruning, ridding ourself of weeds or bad habits that have accumulated in our mind. So the two meditation techniques go hand in hand. One is like clearing weeds and the other is for planting seeds.” he says. Find out more about how you can develop inner peace, better relationships and a positive outlook on life by registering for the Mettā workshop at youryoga.com.
Also interested in the advantages of the combination of pranayama and music during a practice, Michael and his wife, Stephanie, formed a project called Ösel to share their love of music and kirtan. Ösel provides original music with creative rhythms using a wide range of instruments, traditional Sanskrit mantra and poetry. Each album is 108, 120 or 130 beats per minute to compliment Ujjāyī breathing. Their albums are available for purchase in the Asheville Yoga Boutique. Their next Kirtan at AYC is Oct 8th from 2-4pm by donation.
Michael understands that for beginners, it can be difficult to consistently make it to yoga classes. His advice to new practitioners is “Doing anything for the first time takes a lot of courage. There are a million reasons not to, but if you can just get through the door, take the class and have the experience, you’ll find it’s totally worth the time. It also helps to come with a friend. A lot of people come to yoga class, not to prove anything, but rather to feel a sense of connection and peace of mind that’s hard to get anywhere else. That’s, I think, why people keep coming back to classes.” So if you’re feeling a bit lost in finding your stride in your practice, or even are an established yogi looking to further the depth of your practice, we here at AYC recommend you attend any of Michael’s classes and workshops. He has a massive following of dedicated students not only because of his wisdom and experience as an instructor, but also because of his raw understanding of what it means to be human with all of the complexities of attempting to successfully navigate our emotions and this world we live in. Find out more about the services he offers and his class schedules at clearlightyoga.com and youryoga.com.
Yoga for Stress
Do you feel great? Alive and vital? If not, consider the role that stress might be playing in your life.
Stress can greatly diminish our energy. Stress quite literally robs us of our vitality. We live in an
increasingly stressful world and the potential for the experience of stress comes at us from many
places: work, relationships, current events, life events, social media and information overload can all
create the sensation of stress in our bodies and minds.
Thankfully, yoga and the tools of yoga offer us a way forward to a healthier and happier way of
being. There are three simple steps that you can take right now, utilizing what you’ve already
learned from your practice.
#1 – Shift your attitude. Studies have found that those people who believe that stress will kill them,
do in fact die from stress related and stress induced illnesses. Rather than allowing yourself to hold
such a powerfully negative view, shift into seeing the power of the positive. When you feel yourself
experiencing stress, rather than freak out- affirm that this is what it feels like when your healthy body
responds to challenge. This one simple shift could save your life.
#2 – Move! Get out there and move! Move your body in yoga- any yoga practice or run or walk or
skate or swim or- you get the idea. Our stress response is created through our sympathetic nervous
system. This system reacts to a true life threat in the same way as the experience of traffic making
us late for work. There is no distinguishing the levels of threat- just the same reaction. Our bodies
prepare us for stress by enabling us to run or fight. One of the ways that we can release some of
that response is by moving our bodies.
#3 – Breathe. Allow yourself to not only notice your breath but also begin to work with it. Simple
pranayama (breathing techniques) are incredibly effective in shifting and handling the energy of
stress. Next time you feel stressed- shift your breath- begin to breathe long and deep. Do a practice
of equal inhale/exhale. Allow yourself to inhale for a count of 5 and exhale for the same count. A few
minutes of this will shift your entire perspective and you will begin to feel better right away.
Yogic Chakra Guide
Our chakra system is composed of subtle energy centers that hold the key to our spiritual evolution and development, which affect our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. Through powerful pranayama and meditation practices, dynamic interactive lecture and discussion, as well as creative chakra sequencing in asana, we will begin to understand how these 7 main energy centers store all of our life experiences and future potential.
8 Ways to a Peaceful Class
When you first asked how do you become a yoga instructor, you probably weren’t thinking of becoming a peacemaker, negotiator or disciplinarian. The focus of your answer to How do you become a yoga instructor was more likely on the poses, the marketing and the yoga philosophies that drew you to the teaching path. Fear not, you will learn asanas and philosophies, along with deep breathing and quiet meditation techniques.
Become the arbiter of good and respectful behavior. It’s inevitable. Yoga students come to you from a wide range of backgrounds with varying sets of baggage. But how do you become a yoga instructor in the midst of chaos? The most successful teachers learn through training and practice. Even when it seems as if the negative will destroy your bliss, you will learn how to handle it with grace. Here are eight tips to help you on your journey.
1. Spell Out Your Conditions
When asked, how do you become a yoga instructor when you have to deal with so many differing opinions and states of mind, you answer with a clear set of rules. Write down your class guidelines that include such behaviors as tardiness, cell phone usage and talking during meditation. Leave no room for interpretation when it comes to certain behaviors that will disrupt the class.
Require each student to sign your list of policies upon registration. When a student breaks one of your rules, simply point to the agreement. It will serve as an unbiased arbiter and relieve you from the accusation of singling out any one student. The rules apply equally to all.
2. Control Your Emotions
But how do you become a yoga instructor peacefully when you are feeling angry and resentful? The answer is — you don’t. You must first control your own emotions before you can create a peaceful space in which to teach yoga. It is when you are being challenged that your meditation training and practice will become most vital.
Take a moment to gauge your feelings. Breathe and bring your thoughts to the power that guides your practice. Think about the positive energy you exude and the confidence with which you speak. Look at your anger and understand that its origin most likely lies in fear. Put that fear to rest so that you can take appropriate action as a leader.
3. Become the Listener
So how do you become a yoga instructor with compassion while you’re dealing with disruptions? By taking the time to listen. Very often, your students act out from a place of fear or internal pain. Your willingness to listen to a student’s problems may be all that it takes to diffuse a situation and prevent it from escalating.
A compassionate yoga teacher doesn’t immediately discount any student before hearing her out. Kindness and patience often reward you with respect in return. You’ve learned in your training how to read students — apply it when they are less than forthcoming as well.
4. Believe in Yourself
Disruptive students may challenge your authority and ask you point blank: “How do you become a yoga instructor when you know so little about the practice?” It’s times like these that demand your complete confidence in your training and experience.
Draw on your own truth and the fact that you mastered the training. Bring a wealth of experience to the class. Do not focus on the challenge; instead turn your attention to those students who appreciate your style and methods of teaching, who respect the training you bring and who want to follow your lead.
5. Bring a Sense of Humor
Bring a healthy sense of humor to class along with your mat. While meditation and yoga practice is serious, it’s best served lightly and with the understanding that sometimes laughter is the best prescription for a difficult situation.
After all, it was Einstein who told us: “Before God we are all equally wise — and equally foolish.” A healthy sense of humor can neutralize a negative outburst or disruptive events. Be prepared to laugh at yourself and your sense of self-importance when students challenge your authority. Create a sacred space filled with joy when you react with light humor and decide to laugh instead of cry.
6. Maintain Order
Above all else, students expect you to maintain peace in the studio. You have a sacred duty to stop disruptive behavior immediately and return the class to its sense of emotional and physical safety. How do you become a yoga instructor who promises peace when you can’t maintain order?
You quickly address the problem. Whether you revert to humor or turn to your rules of conduct, you do it immediately. You must stop poor behavior right away if you are to earn the respect of your students and ensure their comfort with your leadership. Just as quickly as the class was interrupted, you can resume your instruction with blissful order.
7. Turn It Over
When studying human nature, you learned that you can’t be all things to all people. There will meet those students with whom you can’t build a connection — those students who, no matter how hard you try, will not be a good fit for your style of teaching.
When you asked how do you become a yoga instructor, you may not have expected to learn how not to become someone’s yoga teacher, but that day may very well come. There are those students who do better practicing yoga alone or who will thrive under another’s tutelage. You’ve sometimes got to let them go. While you may not want to give up on anyone, the fact is that you may have to — for the greater good.
8. So How Do You Become a Yoga Instructor?
By preparing yourself. BY grounding yourself. By relying on your training and the confidence you earned when practicing your art. By creating peace in your classes through self-awareness, humor, compassion and urgency.
A serene environment does not always occur naturally just because you are teaching one of the most peaceful practices on earth. Negative events will occur. Be prepared, practice patience and know that you are ready for any challenge because you are following your bliss.
5 Yoga Poses Away from a Better Night’s Sleep
Whether you suffer from insomnia, or you just want to relax for a few minutes before sleep, bedtime yoga can help you have a more restful night’s sleep. Taking just a few minutes in bed before you fall asleep to do these simple yoga poses may help you fall asleep faster, sleep deeper, and stay asleep longer.
As you climb into bed for the night, take just a few minutes before you do these simple poses, to bring your focus to your breathing. Feel the breath moving in and out of your nose, as your chest and abdomen rise and fall. By turning your attention to your breath, you give the mind a chance to relax and to let go of all the thoughts that are streaming through it all day. Continue to focus on your breath for a minute or two before moving into the first pose.
Janu Sirsasana (Head-to-Knee Pose)
When you feel ready, begin your in-bed yoga series with Janu Sirsasana (Head-to-Knee Pose). Straighten your left leg and bend your right knee, placing your right foot on the inside of your left leg. The right leg and knee should comfortably release into the bed. If not, support your right knee with a folded blanket or pillow underneath it. Hinging at the hips, fold forward as you reach your hands towards your left foot. Remember to breathe into the stretch and not to pull yourself deeper into the stretch. Stay here for three to five breaths, and as you are ready, inhale as you straighten back up. Straighten your right leg and bend your left leg, placing your left foot on the inside of your right leg. Repeat the same steps on this side.
Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle Pose)
Next, move from sitting to lying on your back for Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle Pose). Once you are lying down, bend both your knees and bring the soles of your feet together. Let your knees drop open. Lengthen your spine and along the bed and then rest your hands, palms face up, along either side of your body. Breathe here for 2-5 minutes. As you are ready to come out of this pose, straighten both your legs.
Supta Matsyendrasana (Reclined twist)
Next, preparing yourself for Supta Matsyendrasana (Reclined twist), bend your legs and hug them both into your chest. Extend only your right leg along the bed, while keeping the left leg bent into the chest. As you are ready, drop your left knee across your body to the right. Extend your left arm straight out, so that your spine is in a twist. Breathe here for three to five complete breaths. When you are ready, bring your left knee back across your body and bring your left leg up to meet the right as you once again hug your knees into your chest. Lengthen your left leg along the bed and repeat on the opposite side.
Balasana (Child’s Pose)
Next, move into Balasana (Child’s Pose). Coming onto your hands and knees, spread your knees apart wide and bring your big toes together. Release your backside towards your feet and bring your belly to rest in between your thighs, with your forehead resting on the bed. You can then either extend your arms straight out in front of you, along the bed, with your palms face down, or you can bring the arms back along the sides of the thighs with the palms facing up. Stay here for 2-5 minutes.
Savasana (Corpse Pose)
Finally, come to rest on your back in Savasana (Corpse Pose). Lying on your back with your arms and legs naturally falling open, you can begin a few rounds of left nostril breathing. Place your index and middle finger on your forehead, between your eyes, and use your thumb to close the right nostril. Breathe in and out of the left nostril for several breaths to bring a sense of calmness and relaxation.
Follow this simple sequence of poses whenever you climb into bed – a more restful night’s sleep is just a few moments away!