June 2, 2011

Why Meditation & Yoga is the Perfect Combo. ~ Amy Ippoliti.

By Amy Ippoliti

The combination of a yoga practice (asanas) and the sitting practice of meditation can create an amazing synergy. After practicing and teaching both, for 25 years, I’m hugely grateful for the integration of the two in my life.

This past weekend, I had the great honor of co-leading a retreat with my long-time friend and meditation teacher, Sharon Salzberg.  Sharon has been studying meditation since I was in diapers, is a NY Times best selling author on the subject and is one of the most jovial yet grounded beings I know.

The retreat group ranged from those with advanced yoga asana practices and minor seated practices to strictly meditators who had dabbled in yoga before but did not make it regularly to the mat.

Sharon spoke eloquently about how the practice of meditation is such a potent opportunity to let go of self-admonishment. That is to say it is OK to see ourselves for more than just our mistakes or flaws, and if we begin to dwell on the flaws we can reset and then begin again…

“All of this opportunity is present in the practice of simply feeling our breath” Sharon Salzberg

In the same way when we practice yoga, the moment we align our bodies to find the “sweet spot” of two opposing energy flows, a gateway opens to allow in more prana, to release emotions, to become more empowered and to go deeper in our poses.

This is how the two practices are similar.

What would life be like if you had no meditation practice as a yogi?

Well, you might be “buzzing” a lot more. You might even lose concentration more often when trying to balance. Or perhaps when you fell out of a pose you might be quicker to berate yourself versus laughing it off and moving on.

All of my work with meditation has helped me: 1) to focus more; 2) to forgive myself when my body feels like crap; 3) to keep my energy grounded.

What would life be like for a meditator without a yoga practice?

It depends on how long you have been meditating and what your alignment has been like when you sit!

I know far too many meditators that have sat in poor alignment for years and subsequently developed chronic orthopedic issues along the way.

Note: This is no different than what can happen from sitting at the computer or holding a baby on the same hip for too long!

Chronic issues that can develop from meditation include:

  • Lower back pain
  • The old “ice pick” in the shoulder blade syndrome
  • Knee pain
  • Feet and legs falling asleep
  • Foot cramps
  • Butt pain

The classic seated posture of meditation has been performed by a long lineage of meditators since the Buddha, so there is some powerful juju in taking that posture.

Due to discomfort however, many long-time meditators have given up the cushion in favor of the chair.

The chair has its own set of issues though. These include tightening in the hips, misalignment of the lower back and hunching of the shoulders.

Clearly if you have intense limitations that make meditating on the ground impossible then by all means, the chair is the way to go.

However, if you could get to the floor because your body was open enough to do so comfortably and this meant more freedom in your body, wouldn’t you give it a try?

Good yoga can help you get back to that classic posture and help you join the ranks of meditators who have sat like that for generations.

Yoga practice performed in good alignment supports both the strength and the body-knowledge needed to sit on the cushion for long periods pain free.

The great news is that we get to have both practices working in symphony informing and enhancing the other.

To discover how you can sit more comfortably for meditation and last longer with out discomfort through yoga alignment, this video will help!

Please leave a comment below to share your experience of these two practices.

Amy Ippoliti is world-renowned yoga instructor, Amy travels extensively to help others bridge the gap between ancient yoga wisdom and modern day life. Amy inspires thousands to have breakthroughs on and off the mat.

Amy has been featured on the cover of Yoga Journal and Fit Yoga Magazine as well as in numerous publications including Self, New York Magazine, Yoga Journal, Yoga International, Yogini (Japan), Allure (Korea) and Elephant Journal. She has also been a contributing writer for Yoga Journal, Fit Yoga, Origins Magazine, Elephant Journal, and many more. www.amyippoliti.com

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