Yoga teachers use a variety of techniques to help their students reach the ultimate benefits from yoga; and to relax in a calming space. She may use different methods to help the student reach that place. Some of the more common techniques used are: chanting, mantra meditation, special breathing exercises, and visualizations. These different practices can be done either seated or lying down.
I am focusing on a guided visualization for this article. Visualization is often considered a part of meditation and it can be used in that manner. I like to use guided visualizations so the student doesn’t have to work at all; the images are all laid out. This practice is great for reducing stress, tension, and anxiety. It often helps students advance in their practice by becoming more attentive and increasing mindfulness of the body. You do not have to follow a teacher to do visualizations. There are lots of recordings you can use, but I think the most meaningful ones are the ones you write for yourself. You can record these and play them back at any time.
During a visualization exercise the teacher may have soft peaceful music playing perhaps soft waves, a trickling stream, or just quiet, soothing music. Some teachers don’t use music at all because they consider it a distraction. I would like to share with you a visualization that I wrote for my yoga classes.
•Begin by lying on the floor in a comfortable position. This includes bending your knees, or keeping legs straight, and using props to make yourself as relaxed as possible. If you feel cool use your yoga blanket for cover. You don’t want any distractions so make sure you get yourself set up, cozy and comfy.
•Roll your shoulders down your back.
•Breathe slowly and deeply, following each breath through your body. Let your mind become one with breath.
•Let everything go allowing your body to sink into the floor. Relax your shoulders, your face is smooth, unclench your teeth. Release your abdomen and feel the muscles of the back let loose. Your eyes are soft.
•Smile softly to yourself.
The Pebble in a River Meditation
Imagine yourself as a smooth river pebble. As a pebble you are flowing through a clear mountain stream. You sink through the clear cool water effortlessly; detached from everything you are falling to the bottom of the stream. Finally you sink all the way to the bottom, the point of perfect rest.
Your are the pebble, you have allowed yourself to fall into the stream and have relinquished everything: thoughts, feelings, muscle, bone. At the center of your being is your breath. You are a pebble resting on a bed of fine sand in the clear stream. The water is soothing to you. This is the point when you begin to find yourself at complete rest; you have found your own peace. Being at peace you are no longer pushed or pulled in any direction. You are silent and still in the sand at peace with yourself and the world.
At the end of a visualization of this type I would allow the students to rest comfortably for a few minutes before bringing them out of their special space. I softly tell them to begin wiggling their hands and feet. Then they take their arms over their head and stretch the body long from fingers through toes. I invite them to draw their knees into their chest and rock gently back and forth, massaging the spine. Then they roll to their side resting for a moment before they sit up and into Easy Pose, and at this time we recognize each other by the salutation, Namaste’. When teaching I would do this at the end of the class. I like to use visualizations such as this, to end a class and leave everyone with a feeling of serenity.
Live well, practice yoga.
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