Yoga in Practice

Meditation and the Monkey Mind?

Some find the term, “monkey mind”, upsetting, derogatory, and insulting. This is a shame, as the point is lost, the ego is involved, and a natural human defense goes up. After all, we are supposed to be the “king of the primates,” aren’t we?

The first time I heard the expression, “monkey mind,” in regard to meditation, I thought of Swayambhunath Stupa, in Kathmandu, Nepal. Sometimes, this is named, the “monkey temple,” and it made me laugh inside, as monkeys need supervision in human settings. The picture of unsupervised monkeys got into my head, and I was suppressing laughter during a serious conversation.

Monkeys can be nuisances, when allowed to roam without some guidance, and it is the same with the untrained mind that runs from topic to topic, without getting much accomplished. So please don’t waste time being offended by the term, and try to look at the comical side.

When you allow yourself to enjoy life, and try not to take anything too seriously, you can see that monkeys don’t have it so bad after all. Very often, the human mind spends too much time defending, worrying, posturing, influencing, fearing, and feeling embarrassed, to enjoy life to its fullest potential.

In fact, you are not your mind. You are responsible for your actions, but many things happen in the thought process before you do take action. For example: when you think, images and options are created. As a result of those images, you get a physical feeling somewhere around your heart.

Whether the feeling is, good or bad, you process it into action, or treat it as a fleeting thought that passes and may be forgotten. So if you have a fleeting evil thought and it passes – should you waste time feeling guilty about it? The natural safeguard for ethical behavior is your heart or “gut feeling.” This is the best indicator of wrong or right.

Mankind has the ability to influence the universe, and create different realities, but separating what is sacred, from what is evil, has been a dilemma for thousands of years. The disconnection from your inner self, nature, and God, has led to excessive confusion.

Thank God for meditation, it allows you to harness the power of the mind, settle down, and focus, on one subject at a time. If you take the time for a daily meditation practice, your decision-making process will be much more controlled and clear. The end result will be to look at the monkey with much more respect, appreciation, and a bit of humor.

Yoga Teacher Training Question of the Month

Q: Since completing my yoga certification course, I’ve had no problem will enrollment, but more than 95% of our members are women. I’m happy with the crowd, but wanted some tips for gaining a mail presence in our studio. Our studio is in the US Bible belt.

A: Yoga teacher training might not prepare us for the gender gap in classes. It is likely that the males you attended yoga certification with are very comfortable in a crowd of women. This is not the case with all men. Teaching yoga to western men is relatively new. While some areas of North America, South America, and Europe have many male yoga students, there are areas where 5% or less of the class populations are males.

Peek into the history of yoga and you might be surprised to find a whole lot of men. Although modern day western yoga has appealed to masses of women in all shapes and sizes, men are often left out of the mix. Western men seem to gravitate towards contact sports, weightlifting and other “manly” types of workouts.

However, yoga training has a lot to offer to men if they give it a chance. It can accompany any of the previously mentioned workouts to provide a well-rounded fitness routine, or it can stand alone as a way to keep men feeling strong, balanced and healthy. Yoga instructors should be sensitive to the needs of men, in order to keep them coming back class after class.

Let them Sweat

Perhaps one of the reasons men avoid yoga is because they feel it isn’t a good enough workout. Given a class full of men, yoga instructors should incorporate a vigorous series of poses to get the men’s heart rates up and their muscles working. Flowing through a series of poses quickly can accomplish a more vigorous workout. Focus the end of yoga class on cooling down the body with deep stretches that will leave them feeling looser and leaner than ever before.

Accept Imperfections

Some men might feel threatened or insecure about yoga in the beginning. Instructors should always try to encourage them to work to the best of their own abilities and to avoid comparing their selves to others. It’s okay to correct improper form, but remember not to expect perfection. Give men the chance to gain experience with the postures and work out the kinks as they go. Encourage a non-competitive environment by asking them to do what feels best for them.

Provide a Gender Neutral Environment

Even when yoga classes are predominantly female, the general studio environment should appeal to both sexes. Yoga instructors should strive to create an environment that is open, friendly and gender-neutral. Perhaps the walls could display pictures of both male and female practitioners practicing asanas. Colors and other decor items should be neutral as well. We don’t want to turn men off the moment they step into the studio by making them uncomfortable.

Encourage Breathing – Pranayama

The type of workouts men are used to do not likely entail deep, deliberate breathing. Yoga instructors can show men the benefits of such breathing by demonstrating and encouraging them to incorporate it into other workouts and daily life.