Skip to Main Content »

Pranamaya

The Best in Yoga DVDs.

Posts Tagged ‘Meditation’

10 Steps to Staying Inspired and Manifesting Your Intentions by Tracee Stanley

Posted on January 19th, 2015 by Both comments and pings are currently closed.

moody_girl

Staying inspired isn’t always easy. Sometimes just completing our daily mundane tasks- taking care of our kids, going to work or school- can seem like a grind. So how do we stay inspired to attain the goals and dreams that we have set for ourselves?

1. Imagine:
It is said that “Imagination leads to experience” and it is one of the first steps to begin to shift our positive thoughts and aspirations into form. Creating a vision board is an excellent way to begin to shape what sprouts from our imagination into being. A vision board is a picture collage of all the things you would like to manifest. Be as specific as you can about what those things are. If you want a new car, find the actual make model and color of the car you want. If you are dreaming of an exotic vacation find pictures of the hotel you’d like to stay in and the things you’d like to do while you are there. If you desire a loving relationship find photo’s or words that invoke this for you. Place the board in a place where you can see it everyday. Take a moment each day to look at what you’ve created, knowing that you have the ability to make it happen. Pay attention to synchronicities in your life, it may be the universe conspiring to help you!

2. Be Grateful:
Gratitude is central to being a happy and inspired person. We all have something to be grateful for, even if at this very moment the only thing that you can think of is the breath you are breathing right now. Create a gratitude journal. Every night before you go to bed make a list of 5 things that you are grateful for.

3. The Company You Keep:
Sometimes you need to let go of relationships that don’t serve you. You are not being served if you consistently feel drained after being around certain people. In your friendships and relationships are you always giving more energy than you receive? Do you feel valued? Are you in a circle of friends that thrives on drama and gossip? Who are the people you look up to? Spend more time with them. It is said that you are the average of the 5 people that you spend the most time with. Sit with that for a moment and think about whether you need to make any changes. Surrounding yourself with people who are positive, proactive and uplifting will help you to stay connected to your own goals. Who are those people in your life? If you don’t have any, find some!

4. Make an Action List:
List five things at the beginning of the week that you can complete to move closer to your goals. Don’t be afraid to do things that seem big- like making a cold call or sending an email to someone you don’t know. List 3 things you can stop doing this week that waste time and resources i.e. internet, channel surfing, spending too much or gossiping.

5. Meditate:
Set the tone and foundation for your day by spending at least 5 minutes meditating upon waking. The practice of consistent mediation has cumulative effects and allows you to develop the ability to remain centered in the midst of turmoil.

6. Daily Exercise:
No matter what your preferred movement form is. Get out there and do it 30 minutes a day! I prefer yoga and meditation because it brings awareness to your thoughts and can reveal mental constructs that may be blocking you from moving forward. If you are new to yoga you can try a free Yin Yoga class for beginners with Sarah Powers: http://www.pranamaya.com/online-courses/introduction-to-insight-yoga.html

7. Mindful Eating:
Be mindful of not only what you eat (hopefully 60% organic), but how you eat. Do you offer a blessing for your food? Are you talking on the phone or watching TV while you eat? Are you rushing through your meal? Do you eat too late at night ? You are not only what you eat, but HOW you eat. Incoproating the science of Ayurveda can be an eye opening way to use food as medicine and practice daily self care rituals.

8. Thirty Minutes of Silence Before Bed:
How often during the day are we ever really silent? We are constantly barraged with images, information, distractions, sound bites, feedback etc. Take time to decompress from it all and just be silent, write in your journal, meditate, make a cup of tea and just BE. In order to be truly happy we must cultivate the ability to be alone with ourselves and our thoughts- with no distractions.

9. Deep Relaxation:
It is important for us to be able to deeply relax. We mostly think of that as sleeping, but there are a few exercises that we can do that bring us into a state of deep relaxation. The practice of yoga nidra is done lying on your back, on your bed or on the floor. Your eyes remain closed as you remain perfectly still and are guided though an exercise. This is a wonderful exercise for anyone who has trouble sleeping. It can be done any time of day and is deeply restoring. And because it is so deeply relaxing it is a great place to plant an intention. All of your internal resistances soften and you now have fertile ground to manifest your dreams from. I have used this method many times to achieve goals and it is very effective.

10. Commitment
Make a commitment to yourself. If you can’t commit to yourself, it’ll be hard for anyone to commit to you in any capacity. Challenge yourself to incorporate the nine steps into your life for 41 days. If you slip, start from day one. I guarantee you’ll see changes by day 42.

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

What is Yin Yoga? by Paul Grilley

Posted on July 11th, 2014 by Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

Conventional yoga wisdom holds that nothing prepares your body for hours of seated meditation as well as regular asana practice. But when I began to explore more intensive meditation sessions, I discovered to my chagrin that years of sweaty vinyasa and mastery of fairly advanced poses hadn’t made me immune to the creaky knees, sore back, and aching hips that can accompany long hours of sitting practice.

Fortunately, by the time I got serious about meditation, I’d already been introduced to the concepts of Taoist Yoga, which helped me understand my difficulties in sitting. I found that with some simple additions to my yoga practice, I could sit in meditation with ease, free from physical distractions. Taoist Yoga also helped me see that we can combine Western scientific thought with ancient Indian and Chinese energy maps of the body to gain deeper understanding of how and why yoga works.

The Tao of Yoga

Through deep meditation, the ancient spiritual adepts won insight into the energy system of the body. In India, yogis called this energy prana and its pathways nadis; in China, the Taoists called it qi (pronounced chee) and founded the science of acupuncture, which describes the flow of qi through pathways called meridians. The exercises of tai chi chuan and qi gong were developed to harmonize this qi flow; the Indian yogis developed their system of bodily postures to do the same.

Western medicine has been skeptical about the traditional energy maps of acupuncture, tai chi, and yoga, since no one had ever found physical evidence of nadis and meridians. But in recent years researchers, led by Dr. Hiroshi Motoyama in Japan and Dr. James Oschman in the United States, have explored the possibility that the connective tissue running throughout the body provides pathways for the energy flows described by the ancients.

Drawing on Motoyama’s research, Taoist Yoga weds the insights gained by thousands of years of acupuncture practice to the wisdom of yoga. To understand this marriage—and to use it to help us sit with more ease in meditation—we must familiarize ourselves with the concepts of yin and yang. Opposing forces in taoist thought, the terms yin and yang can describe any phenomenon. Yin is the stable, unmoving, hidden aspect of things; yang is the changing, moving, revealing aspect. Other yin-yang polarities include cold-hot, down-up, calm-excited.

Yin and yang are relative terms, not absolutes; any phenomenon can only be yin or yang by comparison with something else. We can’t point to the moon and say, “The moon is yin.” Compared to the sun, the moon is yin: It’s cooler and less bright. But compared to the Earth (at least from our perspective), the moon is yang: brighter, higher, and more mobile. In addition to being relative, a yin-yang comparison of any two objects depends on the trait being compared. For example, when considering location, the heart is yin compared to the breastbone because the heart is more hidden. But when considering substance, the heart is yang compared to the breastbone because the heart is softer, more mobile, more elastic.

Analyzing various yoga techniques from the perspective of yin and yang, the most relevant aspect is the elasticity of the tissues involved. Yang tissues like muscles are more fluid-filled, soft, and elastic; yin tissues like connective tissue (ligaments, tendons, and fascia) and bones are dryer, harder, and stiffer. By extension, exercise that focuses on muscle tissue is yang; exercise that focuses on connective tissue is yin.

It’s certainly true that whenever we move and bend our joints in yoga postures, both muscle and connective tissues are challenged. But from a Taoist perspective, much of the yoga now practiced in the West is yang practice—active practice that primarily focuses on movement and muscular contraction. Many yoga students like to warm up with asanas that infuse the muscles with blood, like standing poses, Sun Salutations, or inversions. This strategy makes sense for stretching and strengthening muscles; much like a sponge, the elasticity of a muscle varies dramatically with its fluid content. If a sponge is dry, it may not stretch at all without tearing, but if a sponge is wet, it can twist and stretch a great deal. Similarly, once the muscles fill with blood, they become much easier to stretch.

Yang yoga provides enormous benefits for physical and emotional health, especially for those living a sedentary modern lifestyle. Taoists would say yang practice removes qi stagnation as it cleanses and strengthens our bodies and our minds. But the practice of yang yoga, by itself, may not adequately prepare the body for a yin activity such as seated meditation. Seated meditation is a yin activity, not just because it is still but because it depends on the flexibility of the connective tissue.

The Joint Stretch

The idea of stretching connective tissue around the joints seems at odds with virtually all the rules of modern exercise. Whether we’re lifting weights, skiing, or doing aerobics or yoga, we’re taught that safety in movement primarily means to move so you don’t strain your joints. And this is sage counsel. If you stretch connective tissue back and forth at the edge of its range of motion or if you suddenly apply a lot of force, sooner or later you will hurt yourself.

So why would Yin Yoga advocate stretching connective tissue? Because the principle of all exercise is to stress tissue so the body will respond by strengthening it. Moderately stressing the joints does not injure them any more than lifting a barbell injures muscles. Both forms of training can be done recklessly, but neither one is innately wrong. We must remember that connective tissue is different from muscle and needs to be exercised differently. Instead of the rhythmiccontraction and release that best stretches muscle, connective tissue responds best to a slow, steady load. If you gently stretch connective tissue by holding a yin pose for a long time, the body will respond by making them a little longer and stronger—which is exactly what you want.

Although connective tissue is found in every bone, muscle, and organ, it’s most concentrated at the joints. In fact, if you don’t use your full range of joint flexibility, the connective tissue will slowly shorten to the minimum length needed to accommodate your activities. If you try to flex your knees or arch your back after years of underuse, you’ll discover that your joints have been “shrink-wrapped” by shortened connective tissue.

When most people are introduced to the ideas of Yin Yoga, they shudder at the thought of stretching connective tissue. That’s no surprise: Most of us have been aware of our connective tissues only when we’ve sprained an ankle, strained our lower backs, or blown out a knee. But yin practice isn’t a call to stretch all connective tissue or strain vulnerable joints. Yin Yoga, for example, would never stretch the knee side to side; it simply isn’t designed to bend that way. Although yin work with the knee would seek full flexion and extension (bending and straightening), it would never aggressively stretch this extremely vulnerable joint. In general, a yin approach works to promote flexibility in areas often perceived as nonmalleable, especially the hips, pelvis, and lower spine.

Of course, you can overdo yin practice, just as you can overdo any exercise. Since yin practice is new to many yogis, the indications of overwork may also be unfamiliar. Because yin practice isn’t muscularly strenuous, it seldom leads to sore muscles. If you’ve really pushed too far, a joint may feel sensitive or even mildly sprained. More subtle signals include muscular gripping or spasm or a sense of soreness or misalignment—in chiropractic terms, being out of adjustment—especially in your neck or sacroiliac joints. If a pose causes symptoms like these, stop practicing it for a while. Or, at the very least, back way out of your maximum stretch and focus on developing sensitivity to much more subtle cues. Proceed cautiously, only gradually extending the depth of poses and the length of time you spend in them.

The Yin Difference

There are two principles that differentiate yin practice from more yang approaches to yoga: holding poses for at least several minutes and stretching the connective tissue around a joint. To do the latter, the overlying muscles must be relaxed. If the muscles are tense, the connective tissue won’t receive the proper stress. You can demonstrate this by gently pulling on your right middle finger, first with your right hand tensed and then with the hand relaxed. When the hand is relaxed, you will feel a stretch in the joint where the finger joins the palm; the connective tissue that knits the bones together is stretching. When the hand is tensed, there will be little or no movement across this joint, but you will feel the muscles straining against the pull.

It’s not necessary—or even possible—for all the muscles to be relaxed when you’re doing some Yin Yoga postures. In a seated forward bend, for example, you can gently pull with your arms to increase the stretch on the connective tissues of your spine. But in order for these connective tissues to be affected, you must relax the muscles around the spine itself. Because Yin Yoga requires that the muscles be relaxed around the connective tissue you want to stretch, not all yoga poses can be done effectively—or safely—as yin poses.

Standing poses, arm balances, and inversions—poses that require muscular action to protect the structural integrity of the body—can’t be done as yin poses. Also, although many yin poses are based on classic yoga asanas, the emphasis on releasing muscles rather than on contracting them means that the shape of poses and the techniques employed in them may be slightly different than you’re accustomed to. To help my students keep these distinctions in mind, I usually refer to yin poses by different names than their more familiar yang cousins.

The One Seat

All seated meditation postures aim at one thing: holding the back upright without strain or slouching so that energy can run freely up and down the spine. The fundamental factor that affects this upright posture is the tilt of the sacrum and pelvis. When you sink back in a chair so that the lower spine rounds, the pelvis tilts back. When you “sit up straight,” you are bringing the pelvis to a vertical alignment or a slight forward tilt. This alignment is what you want for seated meditation. The placement of the upper body takes care of itself if the pelvis is properly adjusted.

A basic yin practice to facilitate seated meditation should incorporate forward bends, hip openers, backbends, and twists. Forward bends include not just the basic two-legged seated forward bend but also poses that combine forward bending and hip opening, like Butterfly (a yin version of Baddha Konasana), Half Butterfly (a yin version of Janu Sirsasana), Half Frog Pose (a yin adaptation of Trianga Mukhaikapada Paschimottanasana), Dragonfly (a yin version of Upavistha Konasana), and Snail (a yin version of Halasana). All of the forward bends stretch the ligaments along the back side of the spine and help decompress the lower spinal discs. The straight-legged forward bends stretch the fascia and muscles along the backs of the legs.

This is the pathway of the bladder meridians in Chinese medicine, which Motoyama has identified with the ida and pingala nadis so important in yogic anatomy. Snail Pose also stretches the whole back body but places more emphasis on the upper spine and neck. Poses like Butterfly, Half Butterfly, Half Frog, and Dragonfly stretch not only the back of the spine but also the groins and the fascia that crosses the ilio-sacral region. Shoelace Pose (a yin forward bend in the Gomukhasana leg position) and Square Pose (a yin forward bend in the Sukhasana leg position) stretch the tensor fascie latae, the thick bands of connective tissue that run up the outer thighs, and Sleeping Swan (a yin forward-bending version of Eka Pada Rajakapotasana) stretches all the tissues that can interfere with the external thigh rotation you need for cross-legged sitting postures.

To balance these forward bends, use poses like Seal (a yin Bhujangasana), Dragon (a yin Runner’s Lunge), and Saddle (a yin variation of Supta Vajrasana or Supta Virasana). Saddle Pose is the most effective way I know to realign the sacrum and lower spine, re-establishing the natural lumbar curve that gets lost through years of sitting in chairs. Seal also helps re-establish this curve. Dragon, a somewhat more yang pose, stretches the ilio-psoas muscles of the front hip and thigh and helps prepare you to sit by establishing an easy forward tilt to the pelvis. Before Savasana (Corpse Pose), it’s good to round out your practice with a Cross-Legged Reclining Spinal Twist, a yin version of Jathara Parivartanasana which stretches the ligaments and muscles of the hips and lower spine and provides an effective counterpose for both backbends and forward bends.

The Flow of Qi

Even if you only spend a few minutes a couple times a week practicing several of these poses, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how different you feel when you sit to meditate. But that improved ease may not be the only or even the most important benefit of Yin Yoga. If Hiroshi Motoyama and other researchers are right—if the network of connective tissue does correspond with the meridians of acupuncture and the nadis of yoga—strengthening and stretching connective tissue may be critical for your long-term health.

Chinese medical practitioners and yogis have insisted that blocks to the flow of vital energy throughout our body eventually manifest in physical problems that would seem, on the surface, to have nothing to do with weak knees or a stiff back. Much research is still needed to explore the possibility that science can confirm the insights of yoga and Traditional Chinese Medicine. But if yoga postures really do help us reach down into the body and gently stimulate the flow of qi and prana through the connective tissue, Yin Yoga serves as a unique tool for helping you get the greatest possible benefit from yoga practice.

Read more about Paul Grilley and his Yin Yoga and Anatomy of Yoga DVD’s and online courses: http://www.pranamaya.com/teachers/paul-grilley
This post was originally posted on yogajournal.com

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

How to Meditate If You are a Hatha Yogi by Eric Shaw

Posted on July 10th, 2014 by Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

It’s my experience that people who are tied to movement need unmoving mediation even more than others. We all have strengths and weaknesses, and commonly our strengths and weaknesses are two sides of the same coin.

If you are very strong in movement, and it is wise to exploit that, but it is also wise to explore it’s opposite.

What sitting meditation does, that no other practice does, is island the mind. It takes the attention away from any hypnotic crutches–music, movement, chant, etc. and offers us the challenge of seeing our thought-habits in their nakedness and working from there. It is always a challenge. It is often frustrating. It commonly reveals to us who we really are, and that can be discomfiting.

For all of these reasons, meditative practice is called Raja Yoga. It is the king (raja) of transformational practices, the one that gives the greatest boons, and–although it is simplest–is often the most difficult.

Make your Raja Yoga simple. Do it first thing in morning. Set your alarm. Sit until the alarm goes off. Set the alarm again. Write gratitude thoughts to fill the (somewhat!) emptied mind with nutrition, until the alarm goes off again. Wa-lah! You have completed your meditation for the day.

This blog post originally appeared on http://www.prasanayoga.com thank you to Eric Shaw.
Photo by Lesa Amoore

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

To Make A Killing on Wall Street Start Meditating

Posted on June 19th, 2014 by Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

iStock_000008977014XSmall

By Katherine Burton and Anthony Effinger

When stock and bond markets took a dive in late January, hedge-fund manager David Ford kept his cool.

Ford watched emerging markets melt down and read warnings that the U.S. economy could crater too. As prices dropped, he overcame the impulse to flee with the rest of the herd and, instead, bought more corporate bonds, Bloomberg Pursuits will report in its Summer 2014 issue.

After two decades as a trader, Ford credits his serenity to experience — and to the 20 minutes he spends in his pajamas each morning repeating a meaningless mantra bestowed on him by a teacher of Transcendental Meditation two years ago.

“I react to volatile markets much more calmly now,” Ford, 48, says. “I have more patience.”

He also has more money. Latigo Partners LP, his event-driven credit fund, climbed 24 percent last year. He almost beat the surging stock market with a bond fund. Ford is part of a growing number of Wall Street traders, including A-list hedge-fund managers Ray Dalio, Paul Tudor Jones and Michael Novogratz, who are fine-tuning their brains — and upping their games — with meditation. Billionaire investor Daniel Loeb, who once likened a chief executive officer to a drug addict during one of his frequent public rants, in February praised meditation while sharing a stage with the Dalai Lama in Washington, D.C.

The idea that Type-A traders are seeking profit with the same tool that Buddhist monks use to achieve enlightenment might seem like sacrilege. Yet most people misunderstand meditation, says Jay Michaelson, author of “Evolving Dharma: Meditation, Buddhism, and the Next Generation of Enlightenment.”

Samurai Practice

“Meditation used to have this reputation as a hippie thing for people who speak in a particularly soft tone of voice,” Michaelson says. Not so. “Samurai practiced meditation to become more effective killers,” he says. So too did kamikaze pilots. “It’s value neutral,” Michaelson says.

Workers at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) are folding into the lotus position in droves, says Elizabeth Sudler, an instructor the firm retains. Classes where students breathe and monitor their wandering minds have waiting lists several hundred long, Goldman spokesman David Wells says. One trader there gets a twinge in his gut when he senses a move in the markets, Sudler says. Meditating gives him an edge, he told her, by tuning into that sensation more reliably. Others report downshifting more easily after work and sleeping better at night.

“Goldman employees are under a lot of pressure to produce,” Sudler says. “No one wants to be left behind.”

Anxiety, Psoriasis

Meditation is going mainstream in part because science is substantiating what heretofore had been taken on faith. Up until 1983, only three peer-reviewed studies on meditation had ever been published, Michaelson says. By last year, there were more than 1,300 studies showing an almost absurd number of benefits, from alleviating anxiety, depression and insomnia to reducing heart disease and speeding recovery from psoriasis.

A 2005 study published by Harvard Medical School neuroscientist Sara Lazar showed that meditating enhances the prefrontal cortex, likely creating more connections between neurons and enlarging blood vessels. Among other functions, the prefrontal cortex processes sensory information, handles rational decisions and regulates the amygdala, the structure that feeds our fight-or-flight instinct. A tame amygdala may be why David Ford bought bonds amid the panic — a prescient move as markets rebounded.

‘Brain Hacking’

Michaelson calls meditation “brain hacking,” because it exploits the elastic nature of our gray matter, altering its makeup, as Lazar and other scientists have proved. As such, it may be the ultimate disruptive technology, he says. That kind of talk gets the attention of traders, says Jeff Walker, former head of JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s private-equity unit and a longtime meditator.

“These guys are saying, ‘There’s an edge here that I need,’” Walker says.

Humans have been meditating in some form for millennia. Hindu texts from 1500 BC describe the practice, which hit the big time when a Hindu prince named Siddhartha Gautama became disenchanted with the empty opulence of the day and took up residence beneath a fig tree to contemplate the causes of human suffering. (Hint: Desire is a key culprit.) Through the teachings of Siddhartha — who sat down a prince and, after 49 days, arose the Buddha — mindful meditation radiated out into the world.

Inhaling, Exhaling

There are many forms of meditation. Vipassana, for example, starts with concentrating on one thing, such as the breath. If a dog barks, you might register it before quickly refocusing on inhaling and exhaling. Mental intrusions are treated the same way: Thoughts such as “book NetJets” or “offload bitcoins” quickly pass like leaves floating on a stream.

Jon Kabat-Zinn, founding executive director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, defines mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment and nonjudgmentally.” The aim is to become more aware of the present and avoid getting hijacked by the past or the future. Central to Buddhism are the unsettling notions that everything we know is impermanent and that all we have is the here and now.

Transcendental Meditation uses a mantra — the repetition of a single sound — to settle the mind into its least-excited state. The TM folks, through the years, have consistently asserted their superiority over other disciplines.

Wellness Benefits

The website of the nonprofit Maharishi Foundation USA, for example, has variously claimed that “only TM has been found in hundreds of studies to produce immediate and long-term wellness benefits of mind and body” and that “no other program for personal development has received this level of attention and respect from the scientific community.”

Transcendental Meditation was developed by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (née Mahesh Prasad Varma). Born near Jabalpur, India, around 1918, the Maharishi, or Great Seer, started teaching his method in 1955 and became a guru to the Beatles, who famously traveled to Rishikesh, India, in 1968 to study with him.

Despite Transcendental Meditation’s claims of superiority, John Denninger, director of research at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, isn’t so sure.

“I’m not convinced that any difference in outcome is big enough to say you need to do one type of meditation over another,” Denninger says. “Getting people to do it in the first place is what matters.”

Perceptive Monks

Some of the most-striking research has come from the University of California at Davis. Clifford Saron, a neuroscientist there who speaks with the slow, gentle tone of a holy man, went to the foothills of the Himalayas in the 1990s to study Buddhist monks. Their serene focus inspired him to organize the Shamatha Project. With his friend and former monk B. Alan Wallace, Saron selected 60 people and tested their attention and cognition. Thirty of them then attended a meditation retreat in Colorado. (The other 30 went later.)

After three months, Saron re-examined the initial group and discovered any number of striking changes. For one, the meditators were literally more perceptive: They could discern smaller differences between long and short lines flashed on a screen.

“How much does an infant learn when it is alert and relaxed?” Saron asks rhetorically. “That works for us, as well.”

Lower Cortisol

Some of Saron’s subjects also exhibited lowered levels of cortisol, the hormone produced by the adrenal gland to help us deal with stressful situations, such as getting chased by a water buffalo — or watching a stock holding get crushed after an unfavorable earnings report. (Cortisol is also associated with increased belly fat and diminished cognitive performance; in other words, it makes us fat and stupid.)

Perhaps most surprising: Levels of telomerase, an enzyme that protects genetic material during cell division and delays cell death, were higher in the retreat group. By boosting telomerase, meditation could possibly extend life.

Skeptics, including some who’ve logged countless hours of silent sitting, say that the promise of meditation sometimes exceeds what’s practical. Tony Schwartz, author of “Be Excellent at Anything: The Four Keys to Transforming the Way We Work and Live,” says he’s meditated for hundreds of hours, starting 25 years ago.

Lotus Position

“But the more time I spent meditating, the less value I derived from it,” he wrote in a January column in the New York Times. Nor has he seen evidence that the practice makes people happier or leads to better behavior. “Don’t expect more than it can deliver,” he wrote.

Meditation’s arrival on Wall Street closes a circle of sorts. Whereas Siddhartha Gautama took to the lotus position out of frustration with his riches, traders are hitting the mat to obtain them. Dalio, for example, runs the largest hedge-fund firm in the world and is worth $14 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. He’s also the most vocal proponent of meditation in finance and claims the practice has been the single biggest factor in his success.

Dalio, 64, discovered Transcendental Meditation through the Beatles. He’s been at it for 42 years, sitting for 20 minutes, twice on most days, he says. He’s so convinced of its benefits that he pays half the cost of Transcendental Meditation instruction for the employees at his Westport, Connecticut–based Bridgewater Associates LP.

‘Like a Ninja’

A competitive edge, not enlightenment, seems to be driving Dalio. “I feel like a ninja in a fight,” Dalio said of his professional equanimity, during a February panel discussion in New York on the benefits of meditation. “When it comes at you, it seems like slow motion.”

Tudor Jones is another hedge-fund billionaire on a quest for inner peace and profit. A PBS documentary from 1987 shows him trading in the most agitated, un-Buddhalike manner imaginable. Twenty-five years later, he and his wife, Sonia, an Ashtanga yoga enthusiast, gave $12 million to create the Contemplative Sciences Center at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Jones’s alma mater.

David Mick teaches an undergraduate business school course there called “Cultivating Wisdom and Well-Being for Personal and Professional Growth.” He recommends meditation and takes each semester’s students on a field trip to Yogaville, a nearby ashram. “You can’t be a wiser person if you can’t discipline your mind,” says Mick, who meditates every morning.

‘Powerful Drug’

Willoughby Britton, a neuroscientist at Brown University, warns that neophytes should proceed with caution. Spending hours contemplating impermanence can foster anxiety and sadness. She has seen people experience psychotic episodes on meditation retreats, convincing themselves, for example, that the teacher is evil and must be killed. “This is a powerful drug; it’s not a hot bath,” Britton says, adding that the risks are worth the rewards.

Unlike some other Western practitioners, Joan Halifax, a roshi, or revered teacher, at the Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico, says she’s concerned the lords of finance are using meditation for unjust ends, ignoring the moral principles embodied in Buddhism.

“You can train people with meditation to be sharpshooters,” she says. “Are they trying to get smarter so they can exploit more people? Or are they interested in creating a more just financial system?”

Dalio, for one, has agreed to give most of his fortune to charity under the Giving Pledge program started by Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, a move that would probably have impressed the Buddha himself, who lived by daana, or a spirit of generosity.

Before you give that fortune away, though, you have to earn it. Some of the brightest minds in finance are betting that meditation will help them do just that.

This article was originally posted on Bloomberg.com Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

Q&A: Sri Dharma Mittra on Ahimsa and Vegetarianism

Posted on December 27th, 2011 by Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

Sri DharmaSri Dharma Mittra has devoted much of his life to service and teaching. In 1967, he founded the Yoga Asana Center in New York City, which is known today as the Dharma Yoga Center, and he’s been teaching weekly classes and offering his wisdom there ever since. The Sacred Cow talked to Dharma this month about ahimsa and vegetarianism. Read More »»

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

Q&A: Teja Bell On the Intersection Between Aikido, Qigong, and Yoga

Posted on August 23rd, 2011 by Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

Teja BellTeja Bell has been steeped in martial arts for more than 40 years. He is a 5th degree black belt in Aikido, and teaches Qigong and Aikido throughout the world. He also teaches Buddhist meditation, and is an ordained Rinzai Zen Priest. He talked with The Sacred Cow about the intersection between yoga, qigong, and Buddhist meditation—and how the practices can serve each other. Read More »»

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

Is Asana Enough?

Posted on August 16th, 2011 by Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

asanasI read an article once in a magazine that had this headline: “Is Asana Enough?” The article was about whether or not practicing yoga was enough for someone to stay in prime physical shape. But that’s not what this piece is about. I’m wondering if asana is all one needs for a yoga practice. Read More »»

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

Q&A: Nischala Joy Devi Offers a Woman’s Perspective on the Yoga Sutras

Posted on May 17th, 2011 by Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

yoga teacher femaleNischala Joy Devi is a master yoga teacher and healer. She has developed many yoga programs that serve those with life-challenging illnesses, and her teachings emphasize the practice of compassion. She authored two books: The Healing Path of Yoga (on yoga therapy) and The Secret Power of Yoga (a female-centered interpretation of the Yoga Sutras, also made into a CD). She talked to The Sacred Cow about the importance of including a heart-centered—and female—perspective in one’s yoga studies.  Read More »»

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

What Is the Right Time to Practice?

Posted on April 14th, 2011 by Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

yoga time

It’s often said that the best time for practice is just before dawn. This is because the mind and the body are fresh, and because the planet (and the home) is still calm and quiet. Some believe that the electromagnetic waves of the sun create obstacles to practice by raising the energetic currents in the environment, and that this is also a good reason to practice before the sun comes up. One of my teachers, Jamie Lindsay, used to say that practicing yoga in the morning is more like preventative medicine, whereas practicing in the evening is more curative. (I loved that way of thinking.) The Kundalini, Ashtanga, and Shadow Yoga communities all deem early morning asana as an important element of a complete practice.

But getting up before dawn can be hard to do. The large majority of yoga practitioners that I know do not practice early in the morning on a regular basis either because their schedules or lack of discipline get in the way. Not everyone has a lifestyle in which they can get to bed early enough to rise with the sun. And even if you do, it can be easy to hit the snooze button in your sleepy haze and convince your still-dreamy brain that another half hour of sleep will be much better for you than getting up to practice yoga.

But is early morning practice really better for everyone? I do enjoy it, but also find that I am a lot more open (and even more clear-minded) in the evenings. Others I know have said they prefer evening practice because they are stiff or tired in the morning, or worried about the things they need to do that day. Of course, it’s also been said that sunset is a beneficial  time to practice, but because our work schedules don’t change (for most of us) with the seasons, practicing consistently at sunset is tricky for most people. And evening practice takes a different kind of discipline: You might be tired from a full day’s work or simply tempted to socialize with friends.

Do you have a favorite time to practice? Do you practice the same time every day? What feels different to you about morning, afternoon, and evening practice? Write in and tell us what you think!

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

Does Buddhism Belong in Yoga?

Posted on April 1st, 2011 by Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

Yoga classI recently wrote an article for a yoga magazine where I inadvertently used a Buddhist term to describe what I thought was a yogic concept.  The editor pointed this out to me (and said we couldn’t use the word or the concept in the article).  At first, I was a bit embarrassed: How could I have gotten my traditions confused? But it also got me thinking about how often Buddhist terms do find their way into yoga classrooms these days, and how much our yoga path has become influenced by Buddhism.  Read More »»

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post