meditation

Prop it Like it’s Hot: Meditation Cushions

All photos in this post by Dean Tumibay

All photos in this post by Dean Tumibay

The yoga world is full of many tools that are used to both enhance and support your practice. The “Prop it like it’s hot” series will review a number of different yoga props, and how practitioners can use them as a base for modifying, or in some cases, deepening your asana practice. For this portion of the series, we’re reviewing meditation cushions.

While the name suggests that this prop is used primarily for meditation, we’ll review how a meditation cushion can also help to enhance more active postures for both beginner and advanced practitioners.


Using the cushion for a seated meditation

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Often, meditation is challenging for people who are starting out, as people find that there are too many distractors to tune out. One challenge is finding a comfortable position to sit in for an extended period of time. Meditation cushions in this regard provide a perfect balance between a firm surface that provides appropriate support for the sacrum, but enough compliance to contour to the shape of your pelvis. While many people assume you sit in the middle of a meditation cushion, we actually encourage practitioners to sit on the edge, allowing the cushion to slightly elevate the posterior surface of the pelvis. This encourages a slight anterior pelvic tilt. By sitting on the edge of the cushion, and allowing the hips to roll forward slightly, we encourage the natural curvature of the lumbar spine into lordosis, allowing us to comfortably stack our shoulders over our hips.

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Using the cushion for forward folds

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Tight hamstrings and general tension in the pelvic region is a common ailment in a culture conditioned to sit for long periods of time. In these cases, seated forward folds, such as paschimottanasana as well as baddha konasana with a forward fold can be particularly challenging. As it does with a seated meditation, sitting at the cushion’s edge can facilitate a gentle anterior pelvic tilt, encouraging a soft forward fold while maintaining proper alignment of the lumbar spine. This encourages proper alignment in our forward folds, and prevents the tendency towards rounding the lower back.

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Using the cushion for twists

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The compliance of the meditation cushion allows it to conform to our pelvis, but it’s equally firm nature provides enough support to allow us to remain grounded in our posture. In seated twists, due to tightness in our hips, often times one side of our pelvis will have difficulty remaining connected to the earth resulting in a lopsided seat that is unstable to perform a twist from. With the help of a cushion, we can have an even distribution of weight through our base to allow us to focus on a deeper rotation through our spine.

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Using the cushion for active postures

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Many yoga postures require us to bear weight through our knees, which for many can be an uncomfortable experience. We can maintain the integrity of these postures, such as a low crescent lunge, with our knees propped on a comfortable surface like a meditation cushion that allows us to go deeper into the posture, without having to endure pain during the hold. For deep postures such as the front splits (hanumanasana) or any modified variation, the meditation cushion propped under our back leg allows for support through that limb, but gives space for the pelvis to go even deeper into the asana.

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We have meditation cushions available for purchase at both our south and north locations. If you have experience using meditation cushions or meditation props in your practice, please feel free to email info@yogalifestudios.ca with your experience! If there are any specific props you’d like to see in our “Prop it Like it’s Hot” series, again please contact us via info@yogalifestudios.ca or our various social media streams (twitter, Instagram, Facebook).

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Meditation 101 (Guided Meditation Audio Included!)

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Starting a meditation practice can be daunting - where do you start? How do you sit? What exactly does it mean to be "in meditation" anyhow? How can you navigate through your inner landscapes with more depth and authenticity? Who am I, beneath all these layers of body and mind? This workshop with experienced yoga & meditation practitioner and instructor, Amanda Ings, provides a space for you to explore each of these questions, and much more. A simple, easily approachable 4-step meditation will be shared and broken down, both in practice and in discussion, step by step. Exactly what we are doing in each step and why, how it works in the body-mind-energy-consciousness field, and how each step can be integrated into your daily life to bring more presence, power, and stillness, in yourself and your relationships with others. This workshop is appropriate for everyone; those wishing to deepen their current practices (in yoga or meditation), and those completely new to meditation and/or yoga. Everyone always takes away exactly what they need.

Amanda will be leading the first workshop of a 2-part series, Meditation 101 this coming Sunday at our North location. Find out more here!

Bonus—for a sample of what you'll learn this weekend, try out one of Amanda's guided meditations here: Guided Meditation with Amanda Ings

 

Sean and Keia's Upcoming Retreat: Video

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Have you met these two? After getting to know these loving goofballs throughout this video, it's pretty tough to pass up on an opportunity to go on their upcoming retreat this September in Golden, B.C. Yes, there will be plenty of silliness, but time for serious stuff and stillness, too.  

Check out their video, enjoy all of the bloopers (there are many!), and if these two speak to you, head on over to our Retreats page to learn more or sign up for some sweet time away!

 

Embrace the Spirit from Within with Sean and Keia on Vimeo

Embrace the Spirit from Within runs Wednesday Sept. 24th-Sunday Sept. 29th at the Quantum Leaps retreat centre in Golden, B.C. Visit our Retreats page for more details, or send us an email with your questions.

3 Reasons Why You Need a Restorative Yoga Practice

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Adapted from Mind Body Green

 

Restorative yoga has a wonderful way of allowing our entire physical body to relax.  This practice is an “active relaxation” class where we purposely support the body in yoga postures with props so we can stimulate and relax the body towards balance. Muscle and joint tension melts away, the endocrine (governor of hormones) system will be restored and any residual stress in the nervous system washes away.  We are left with better digestion, energy levels and a good overall sense of well being.

 


Maybe you strive to go to super power core and sweaty, hot Vinyasa three times per week, and run every day after work, but how often do you stop to truly relax and connect to your self?
Here are three reasons why I think keeping a gentle yoga class as part of your weekly practice is so super important.

 

1. You'll relax. 

 

There is a certain relaxation that comes at the end of a sweaty, power yoga class. But what if you could feel that blissful state of relaxation and release for an entire hour-long class?! That’s what gentle yoga feels like to me. Rarely will you be asked to hold a downward dog at all, and definitely not for more than a breath or two at a time.
Gentle classes are typically slow-moving, connecting each deep, lengthened breath with the next as you move deeper into each stretch or twist, making space and then slowly melting in to it.

 

2. You'll connect to the divine. 

 

Whether you have a solid spiritual practice or are looking to delve deeper into your spirituality, gentle yoga is the perfect place for a moving meditation. Practice bringing your attention to the Divine and allowing yourself to be cracked open with every gentle back bend. Listen to what comes up with every hip opener. Be present for what speaks to you.

 

3. It will help with intention-setting. 

 

I was honored to lead a gentle yoga class on the evening of MLK Day here in Austin. I spoke about ahimsa, or non-violence, from David’s Frawley’s Yoga and Ayurveda. I read a favorite quote of mine from the mouth of the Doctor himself:
 


 “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” 

I asked the class to set an intention to focus on ahimsa during their practice that evening. I asked them to imagine, with every inhale, filling up with a bright light, or an energy, that represented non-violence and loving kindess. With every exhale I encouraged the class to release everything else that wasn’t serving them right then in that moment, to allow for focus and attention on ahimsa.

The classroom reverberated with energy and love and at the end of the practice, I felt so uplifted! Many students reacted the same, and went floating out of class for the evening, truly on a yoga high. Imagine the possibility of even the smallest intention, set to your moving meditation and dedicating every breath of your practice to bringing that intention in to being. It is so powerful!

 

 


Yogalifer Emily McNicoll shares her personal insight on this nurturing practice:


"My passion around restorative yoga lies not only in helping people heal their body and mind but to provide a sacred experience in which they can shine a light on the shadowy sides of the self and ultimately feel more comfortable in their own skin."


 

Our upcoming "Rest & Restore" workshop, hosted by Emily, is full to the brim!  If you would like to stay in the loop for the next workshop please email us at info@yogalifestudios.ca