Meditation is not a new practice by any stretch; the earliest record of people sitting in meditation dates back to 5000 - 3500 BCE. However, the popularity of cultivating a daily practice has surged within the mainstream wellness conversation and with good reason.
Research suggests that meditation practice may improve universal human conditions such as anxiety, depression, pain, stress, and mental suffering. Further, many well-known business people, celebrities and athletes have attributed some of their success and well-being to meditation practice.
If all of this sounds amazing, but you have yet to give meditation a try, you will be happy to know that Miami has a robust - and growing - meditation community. You can find a meditation teacher who has received deep mindfulness training just around your palm tree-lined corner.
I recently caught up with 3 of Miami’s top meditation instructors to get their point of view on how a beginner can approach a new meditation practice.
Jasmyn Russell, Founding Teacher Modern Ōm
Jasmyn Russell is a former army private-turned one of Miami’s favorite yogis. Russell studied at the Bihar School of Yoga in Munger India and also completed a 200hr RYT in Miami and a 500hr RYT in Lima, Peru. Her guided meditations are a blend of Vedic and tantric practices. Russell teaches meditation at Modern Ōm and meditation and yoga at Green Monkey Yoga.
- Russell suggests that if you are new to meditation, you may want to release your preconceptions about the practice. “Beginners tend to think meditation is sitting down and blanking out your mind, but you don’t actually want to do this," says Russell.
- She tells me that meditation is more about being aware of your thoughts than blanking them out. Russell likens developing a meditation practice to training for a marathon. “You wouldn’t just jump right in and run 26 miles, you’d start slow and with short distances and progress from there.”
- Russell says that a brief daily practice is a good place to start your meditation journey. Simply find a time that is convenient for you, as frequently as possible, say 3-7 days a week. Then, set a timer for 5 minutes and sit comfortably with your eyes closed in stillness for this period.
- She also notes that practicing in a group setting can be helpful in building towards a longer practice.
Irina Vlada, Co-Owner Innergy Meditation
Irina Vlada is an awareness coach, leadership consultant, and meditation instructor. Vlada studied at Sattva Yoga Academy in Rishikesh, India. She teaches at and is a part-owner of Innergy Meditation.
- People come to Vlada saying “ I don’t do yoga.” “Do you breathe?” she often responds. According to Vlada, yoga isn’t just about asanas, yoga is about being aware, being present, and breathing.
- Vlada recommends that beginners approach meditation by becoming an observer of what is happening within and without. "You can begin by developing a consistent practice of just 1, 5 or 10 minutes," she says. "Dedicate this time to becoming fully present with yourself, your breath, and your surroundings." She recommends not to analyze your practice, just let it be what it is.
Michael Stasko, Meditation Teacher, Ahana Yoga
Michael Stasko is a Miami native who spent 3 years as an aerospace engineer in LA and 10 years studying under Sri Karunamayi at the Penusila Kshetram Ashram in the South Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. He returned to Miami happy to find a thriving mindfulness community last year. Stasko teaches meditation at Ahana Yoga, Modern Ōm, Atmananda Yoga, and Dharma Yoga.
- If you are new to meditation, Stasko recommends taking full advantage of the growing mindfulness community in our city. He suggests trying out a few teachers, and not forming too many opinions about the practice while doing so. “
- Meditation is like a huge ocean,” he says. "Everyone has their own slice of beachfront where they enter into the water.”
- Testing the waters can help you find a teacher who resonates with you.
A 5-minute, at-home meditation to cultivate attention from Stasko:
“Attention is the currency of life. Your attention is a very valuable thing." - Michael Stasko
- Find a quiet space where you feel physically, socially, and emotionally comfortable.
- Sit quietly with closed eyes and a straight spine.
- Consciously begin to relax the muscles of the face. Soften the abdominal muscles and relax the shoulders.
- Inhale deeply through the nose while expanding the belly and exhale slowly out of the mouth.
- Repeat the above for a total of three breaths, and then breathe naturally.
- Observe your breathing; sit quietly for 5 minutes or longer as the sensation of each inhale and exhale gently guide you into a deeper state of relaxation.
Another great way to begin meditating would be to sit with these practitioners for a meditation class at their local studios. Don’t be afraid to ask them for guidance on your own practice while you’re there.