What I Learned from Going to a Meditation Studio
You get your flow on in yoga. You channel that om off the mat into a daily practice of reading inspirational quotes, or even unwinding with tea and a spa hack or two for a relaxing shower. But there’s an even cooler, totally ancient way to zen out and channel all that energy into something even bigger than yourself: meditation. The age-old practice seems to be popping up everywhere, whether through handy meditation apps or one of the next-level meditation studios opening up around the country. We tapped Ellie Burrows and Lodro Rinzler, co-founders of the meditation studio MNDFL, for lessons everyone can learn from taking a meditation studio class.
1. Leave your agenda and judgments at home. “If you think meditation is going to turn off your brain, you’re going to be disappointed,” says Ellie. “Meditation is a dynamic practice that uses the brain to bring your mind to a single thing, like the breath or a mantra.”
2. Consider what you need in the present moment. Are you stressed about a work project your boss threw on you at the last minute? Annoyed with a roommate who never does the dishes? Sad about how a sib treated you at a recent family gathering?
“We’re often encountering things throughout our day that make us feel stressed or ungrounded, whether a fight with a lover or an angry email from a boss,” states Ellie. “Setting aside time to bring your mind to something as simple as the breath can be enormously helpful to deal with discomfort and recenter yourself. If you don’t have a meditation practice, you can simply take three deep breaths — in through the nose, out through the mouth — to calm [your] nervous system. The breath is an anchor for calm.”
3. Dress comfortably. It’s harder to channel zen in an itchy sweater or too-tight leggings. “‘What do I wear?’ That’s the question we get asked most often. Here’s the answer: Wear something you’re comfortable sitting in. For some, that’s jeans or yoga pants, for others a dress or skirt (we probably wouldn’t recommend the mini kind!),” offers Ellie.
4. Take a moment to relax into your body. “Elongate your spine, extending your body upward. Drop your hands at your side. Then, picking them up from the elbows, drop them palms-down on your thighs. Your head rests at the top of your spine, and you can tuck in your chin very slightly. In shamatha (calm-abiding) meditation, the object of our focus is the breath. We are learning to be present with the breath, so that later we can be more present with the rest of our lives,” shares Lodro.
5. Have a soothing tea or refreshing glass of water. Before you start meditating, a nice ritual to slink into an easier state of mind is sipping on a caffeine-free tea or indulging in an infused water (cucumber-mint H2O, anyone?). It will help you shift your focus away from the day’s happenings and go into a more reflective zone.
“We always offer tea and water on the house. [If you’re meditating at a studio], feel free to arrive early to gently settle into the space. Meditation is gentle — New York City isn’t — so we want to make sure the transition in and out of our space is as smooth as possible,” says Ellie.
6. Tune in to the natural cycle of your breathing. “When you notice that a large thought has distracted you, exercise gentleness by silently saying ‘thinking’ to yourself. Use this word as a reminder that what you really want to do is be with the breath. Then return to your breathing and the present moment,” suggests Lodro.
(Photos via Getty)