Everybody has questions about meditation—it can be a tough concept to grasp. But it seems to be well worth the effort for many who choose to practice it. Yogi Andrew Santry talked to us about the positive effects that meditation has had on him, and his students. For those in addiction recovery, Santry teaches a special kind of yoga: Y12SR. This practice integrates the 12 Step principles into the classes, which may also improve mindfulness.
Questions About Meditation Abound
For many people, however, there is mystery surrounding how and when to meditate. Does it actually involve dropping everything to sit and zone out each time you feel anxious? To help us better understand, Andrew Santry answered our questions about meditation and how it influences his way of thinking each day.
Meditation isn’t something that gets me through a thing. It’s more a regular practice which offers me a greater peace when I’m going through something. So, it’s not like a pill you take when you have a headache. It’s a practice that you live so that ‘headache’ isn’t as bad.Andrew Santry
Meditation and Recovery
Mostly, I look into the spiritual principles of 12 Step Recovery and often turn those concepts into a meditation, so I can be more mindful in exploring principles. I can prepare my nervous system to be more receptive and to further deepen my understanding with breath and the meditation. So, some of those things are awareness, open-mindedness, compassion, love and kindness… Those are just a couple off the top of my head that I practice.
Practice Makes Perfect
When I feel that sense of being overwhelmed, I remember the guided meditation practices. I can use that tool and rely on an alternate response method to lower that feeling of being overwhelmed. That way, I can count on a past meditation I’ve used and visualize putting those concepts into a box. Have them disappear and separate them from me, so they don’t have control over me. I might still feel like the world is moving too fast and everything is coming after me, but I don’t become overwhelmed by it. I recognize that this is an intense moment, but I am able to maintain who I am.
Meditation Can Decrease Anxiety…
I have had a lot of anxiety in my past. So, if I’m around people—that’s my hardest thing to do, to interact with individuals. I’m good at working by myself. But around people I may start people-pleasing and I’ll get really anxious if I have multiple things to do during the day. Like, if I have to meet someone for coffee, if I have to discuss a website, have to meet another person to interview, if I have to teach a yoga class and so-on.
…And Help Tame Overwhelming Thoughts
And with that overwhelm meditation, I’m visualizing the box I mentioned before. Once I finally identified my tendency to blow things out of proportion, I go through the practice of meditation. I remember the box. I can visualize writing down the fear or worry, and placing it in the box. By acknowledging it I can remove it energetically from my being. Then I can close the box and make the box disappear. That process helps separate me from that negative energy from all of those things. I can do it for one, or I can do it for all of them.
Creating an emotional cleansing tool allows me to move on
I don’t have to go through the meditation. Now that I’ve used this method a couple of times, the tool is now inside of me. So, I can be in the car and before I drive away, I can take a deep breath and remember that. I can kind of put those things in the box and go teach that class.
Meditation starts with a breath anyone can do it
Meditation starts with just being aware of how your breath changes when you feel differently. When our nervous system responds a specific way to influences, it directly effects our breath. And that breath is also tied to differences with our digestive system, circulatory system, nervous system… We can reverse that by managing our breath.
My blood vessels are constricting when my breath is becoming rapid and shallow. My eyes become dilated and my energy moves from my frontal cortex to my limbic system… I’m in this fight or flight reactionary mode because I feel threatened, I feel anxiety, I can recognize it.
It’s like, “Okay. I can manage my breath. I can’t control anything else, but I can manage my breath and I can consciously take a deeper breath into the belly and then exhale slowly, maybe lengthening the exhale twice as much as the inhale.” The body often revolts at first because it recognizes this isn’t what it’s used to doing.
We need to train our nervous system with our breath. And if you start there, almost anything is possible.Andrew Santry
Do it a couple of times and everything starts to soften because the breath can also control the nervous system. Although, the nervous system will generally control the breath unless we train it.