When you live a few blocks away from a donation-based yoga studio, it feels like a crime not to at least take a couple of classes. I heard about an active meditation class offered at my local , I happily attended, thinking that I would mostly be doing breathing exercises with a few poses sprinkled in. It wasn’t until I was handed a blindfold that I realized I had no idea what I was getting into.
Active meditation, also called dynamic meditation, has been around in some form in different cultures for centuries, but it has seen a great revival due to its compatibility with today’s modern lifestyle. After a hectic and stressful day at work, it’s hard to immediately go from 100 to 0 and pause the noise in your body and mind. Nowadays, access to meditation is as easy as downloading an app, but people are often put off by the misconception that they’re doing it wrong.
Inhibitions are normal during meditation, but they can be a little distracting if they are at the front of your thoughts. For someone who’s new to meditation, or maybe a little on edge, active is the way to go.
The process is usually an hour long, and it consists of multiple stages that might differ depending on the studio you go to. But the end result is similar; the experience will leave your body in the correct physical and mental state to achieve true zen.
Okay, I know what you’re thinking. The idea of dancing, breathing, and singing like a maniac was enough for me to strongly consider booking it out of the class. But hear me out.
To create a blank state, you need to tire out your body, but more importantly your mind. The fact that you are instructed to be chaotic and have no rhythm makes things a little easier. After the first couple minutes of absolute emotional agony, your nerves begin to dissipate as you become more conscious of the situation you’re in. You will hear the chaotic chanting, stomping, and maybe feel and accidental shove from someone around you (at least in my experience at a crowded studio). Everyone is shamelessly focused on their own experience, and you will begin the fall into the same mindset.
The next step has more of a set structure, and things get a little intense. You will jump up and down on the flats of your feet, with your hands in the air, and repeatedly chant “Hoo!” or “Ha!” with as much force and release of breath that you can. It’s going to hurt, and you’re going to be exhausted, but the point is to allow your sex center to move up and create heat to “burn” the stale energy that keeps you from leaving refreshed and reborn.
Being completely still is one of the most difficult parts of standard meditation, but the exhaustion of the last phase of its active version will leave you more than prepared to stop and chill. You quite literally have to freeze: same position, hands in the air, eyes closed. This stone-like state will allow you to figuratively exit your body and observe yourself from the outside.
It’s time to rejoice! Now, your movement is meant to be ecstatic instead of chaotic. The sudden burst of movement after stillness will suck you right back into your body, and you are meant to be completely present without ego. You have completed a strenuous and difficult process, and are finally reaping the giant reward.
Feature Image via Victoria Morris