A soft breeze meanders its way through the white-walled studio and caresses your cheek before it moves on to your neighbor beside you. Sitting cross-legged, you focus on breathing through your body. Concentrating on your breath and clearing your mind.
If you open your eyes, you see those neighbors come in all shapes and sizes, both men and women, and from a variety of backgrounds.
It’s a fairly eclectic group that comes to Yoga For You on Monday nights at 7 each week to try out a new class recently added to their schedule: meditation.
Adam Wiese leads the class, which began in March, at the yoga studio on East Avenue B by the public library.
Wiese, who has consistently been practicing meditation with a teacher since 2007, said there are many benefits from the practice of meditation, both spiritually and physically.
Spiritually, he said that almost all religions have some sort of contemplative practice in their tradition.
“It has, historically, been very much the East Asian religions that have put it front and center, but you find it within Islam, within Christianity, with Judaism, they do in fact have contemplative and meditative traditions, they’re just very often not in the mainstream,” Wiese said.
Helpful to many
Although meditation can aid in your own religious tradition, many outside of the mainstream religions also find the practice helpful in their own unique spiritual journey, Weise said.
“In America, there are a lot of questions being asked or people have this longing that in the west we address by philosophy, by psychology, and those very often don’t have any kind of practice to them,” he said. “It’s a lot of talking. But, people really want an experience, a really direct experience. Often they don’t know what kind of experience … and meditation, yoga, these types of things are really directly aimed at experiencing this certain aspect of your life and of reality.”
Brenda Stone, owner of Yoga For You, said that meditation and yoga gives you a way to clear your mind for those big questions to come to the forefront.
“A lot of times meditation will clear the mind for those big questions that you’re trying to find answers to,” she said. “Because our minds are so cluttered with so much stuff that we just can’t focus, and meditation clears all that clutter. It’s like spring cleaning.”
To get started in the practice of meditation, Weise recommends trying out a class first.
“You could go down to the bookstore … and they’ll tell you how to do a simple meditation practice, and it’s not that those are without merit or benefit, but to really understand to begin to make a connection with both the practice and with other people who also practice, I think are very important,” he said.
“Having something like meditation and yoga classes at a dedicated studio like this begins to become very important as a space for the public to come … a space that isn’t tied to a specific religious sect, but a space where a lot of these practices bring a lot of the insight and wisdom of these traditions out.”
His meditation class is is geared towards people of all levels of practice.
There are many similarities across spiritual and religious traditions that can be found in meditation and yoga, said both Stone and Weise.
For instance, the beads you use in the Catholic rosary, totaling 108, is the same number you can find in mala beads used in various forms of meditation, including the buddhist tradition.
“For the summer solstice we do sun salutations and 108 is like the magic number to do during summer solstice,” said Stone.
Physically, a community practice of meditation also helps people mirror you both in physical things such as posture or breathing techniques, said Weise, as well as “mirroring back the state of mind that you develop.”
“Because a lot of the techniques we’re doing are going towards making the mind get a little quieter, at last on that level of mental chatter,” he said. “When that happens, there’s some things that are lower in your being that begin to, in the long term, kind of bubble up to the surface, and I think that’s really where what you’d call a spiritual aspect comes in.”
It’s at first very good at stress reduction, dealing with anxieties, Weise said, but later on things come out of it that on the surface don’t seem necessarily pleasant, but “they’re necessary, and we work with that.”
In the long term, meditation helps you sync up your view of the reality of your life and the actual state of things, he said.
But don’t expect that to happen over night.
“All the language of it is that you’re going on a journey, it’s a path, you have some place to go, so that idea becomes very prevalent,” he said.
He said that often it’s this long-term commitment and pathway to discovery that is underemphasized in meditation practices.
“The commitment and the dedication and discipline that doing the long term really takes is often under emphasized,” he said. “With there being so much of meditation for lowering your blood pressure and being less stressed and all of these sort of mundane reasons … what gets lost is that in the long term it’s a path and I guess you’d say it’s a spiritual path.”
Even going to a regular yoga class incorporates meditation through physical movement, Stone said.
“Yoga is the union of the mind, body and spirit. In all classes we focus on connecting the mind with the body, being more mindful of what we do,” she said.
Stone has been practicing yoga for 15 years, taught for five and has owned Yoga For You since July 2011.