Monday night youth yoga, held at Open Spirit, 39 Edwards Street, Framingham, MA has been going strong now for two years. I really enjoy the class because with this group anything goes. We are all really happy to be together on Mondays, whether it is sunny or cold and damp…we all just want to be there.
For the past two months, coloring has been a really big thing for us. There is just something so relaxing and focusing about coloring, and friendship building, that we have found a nice rhythm coming to our mats, practicing our yoga with poses, breath and meditation, and then hunker down for some group coloring time. It started with pictures of bare trees and we wrote affirmations in the roots and branches, to fill our trees up with positive statements and observations. That moved onto focus wheels, with the center circle stating “I AM” and then the external circles embracing our qualities of goodness, trustworthiness, warmth etc. I then came across a nice coloring book of Mandalas and off we went, coloring mandalas. Relaxing in their overall affect.
This past Monday, I came in with a picture I had created that integrated the Chakras, the Prana Vayus, and the Koshas. We started class with an exercise that was inspired by Edna Reinhardt of Yoga Education Resource’s marble adventure (I had meant to bring my marbles but forgot them, but luckily I had all my colored markers with me). We started by all taking Baddha Konasana (butterfly pose), I dropped all the markers in the center of our mandala shape and we went to it, sorting the markers and adding them to open spaces that our feet had created. Releasing this pose, we then divvied up the markers in color families: green/grey/black, blue/purple, pink/brown and yellow/orange/red. We each created shapes with our markers, whatever inspired us. This led us to seeing that we each possessed certain colors that lead to a creation of an earth, grass, flower, sun & sky picture. Which then naturally led to the creation of a waterfall, complete with all our socks, which somehow were all greeny/bluey colored, as a water fall at the end of our rainbow.
This was such a nice focusing activity to start class. We then talked about different uses for breath and practiced using Ujjayi breath and also to feel the relaxation of our throats (I had them imagine they were yawning with their mouths closed to give them the effect of an open throat). I was able to then jump right into a series of poses, while at the same time taking about the Chakras and feeling our colors, with a special focus on the throat chakra-which is blue-and again noting that we were all dressed in variations of blue, so it seemed so appropriate to focus on this. In each pose I reminded them to pay attention to their throats, to allow the flow of energy there and to release the tension so as not to be constricted.
Class flowed beautifully, Savasana at the end with lovely lilac filled eye pillows. Soft flamenco music played throughout the class.
What is a Mandala?
The meaning of mandala comes from Sanskrit meaning “circle.” Mandalas are geometric designs symbolic of the universe that are used as an aid to meditation.
How to use a Mandala?
1.Set your intention for your practice/life (An intention is a promise you make to yourself and a way of putting logic and beliefs into action. One way to set your intention is to focus on something you are grateful for. You can also set it based on a quality you want: spontaneity, flexibility, peace of mind, inspiration, concentration…)
The design of the mandala is meant to attract the viewer visually, so much so that the mind becomes absorbed by it. The design’s hypnotic effect relaxes the mind. With a relaxed mind, the individual is able to focus his attention inwards rather than focusing on life’s usual distractions. In this state, imagination flows which in turn increases creativity, sympathy, and self respect.
2.Focus on the mandala. Let your eyes take in the radiance of its designs. Release your mind. Recognize when your mind wanders back to your list of choirs or your concerns and simply bring your attention back to the beauty of the mandala. Let the mandala absorb your attention. In time, you will begin to feel luminous and fresh and spontaneous thoughts may arise. Relax and allow these thoughts in. If at any time you begin to feel lost, uncomfortable or distracted, re-focus your attention back on the mandala. Everyone’s experience will be different but meditating with the mandala can be relaxing and you can come away with a clarity concerning the intention that you set at the beginning of your practice.