The Urban Yogi's Guide to Meditation
Yoga masters from our busiest cities share their secrets for getting centered anywhere — literally.
Sure you can feel Zen at a Balinese retreat or a Costa Rican hideaway, but it takes a true master to find balance on the bustling New York City streets or L.A. freeway. We asked five yoga pros from our most urban markets to share their secrets for meditating in any environment:
New York City
The Yogi: Stephanie Culen, has been teaching yoga exclusively for Equinox for over a decade and was named New York Magazine's best yoga instructor for two consectutive years.
The Philosophy: A little bit of meditation every day to clear and calm and nurture your spirit is ideal. It's okay if your meditation practice is very short. Over time and with practice, it will grow.
Meditation Tips: Meet your meditation practice as if you were meeting your lover and prepare for it as you would a special date with a special person. And end your meditation practice each day when you have the feeling that you could stay there forever. That will keep you coming back for more.
Meditation Musts: Put on something special to wear like a shawl, scent your skin with an essential oil, light a candle for softness and prepare a comfortable seat.
Meditation Guide: Elizabeth Lesser's A Seeker's Guide is chock full of goodies. And also check out The Knowledge Base for teachings and meditations and other sublime recordings and information mainly by Geshe Michael Roach.
The Yogi: Jennifer Pastiloff, Equinox instructor and creator of Manifestation Yoga and Karaoke Yoga, travels the world leading retreats and workshops and is currently writing her first book.
The Philosophy: Find a place that makes you feel happy and alive. Since I'm a writer, I love to be in libraries and book stores where I feel connected to my passion. I also find with constant travel I have begun to meditate on airplanes. With the white noise of the engine and being so high up and away from the hustle and bustle of city life, I can have a few moments alone to quiet my mind.
Meditation Tips: Find a phrase to repeat in your head on each breath, such as "Let Go." "Let" on the inhale and "Go" on the exhale. It helps me tune out my other thoughts and drop into a zone.
Meditation Musts: Nothing makes me happier than candles. My favorite to meditate with is Red Currant by Votivo. I also use incense such as MyZen or my favorite NOW lavender essential oil to calm my mind and body and create an environment. I sit or lie on my favorite bolster by Hugger Mugger.
Meditation Guide: Without a doubt, Wayne Dyer, is my teacher. His books Wishes Fulfilled and Meditations for Manifesting: Morning and Evening Meditations to Literally Create Your Heart's Desire are great tools.
The Yogi: Allison English is a senior Forrest Yoga Teacher and National Yoga Presenter.
The Philosophy: I practice mantra meditation daily for between 10 and 20 minutes. I repeat a specific mantra from my meditation teacher, Jim Kulackoski, to help focus my mind.
Meditation Tips: Start small! If you just started running, you wouldn't go out on day one and run a marathon. Your mind is the same way during meditation - it needs to be trained progressively and systematically. Start with 5 minutes a day. Trying to sit too long when you first start will turn you off to this amazing practice.
Meditation Musts: Dedicate a flat counter or bookcase or table space and place a brightly colored scarf over it. Select photos of inspirational teachers or ancestors, a candle or incense, flowers or any other objects you consider sacred. Let this space be set apart from the normal bustle of your day.
Meditation Guide: I love the guided meditations from Rod Stryker and the book A Path with Heart by Jack Kornfield
The Yogi: Equinox instructor Antonello Di Curzio, created a distinctive method called Raja Flow Yoga™.
The Philosophy: I’m rather fond of mantra meditation, that makes use of sound and leads to transcendence of the mind.
Meditation Tips: Find a quiet place and make yourself comfortable in a seated position. Begin by developing an awareness of your breath for a few minutes to center the mind, then gradually acknowledge thoughts and dissolve them one by one, eventually resting your mind in the acquired silence.
Meditation Musts: I use salt lamps, which are also great for purifying the air. I like to sit on a buckwheat bolster and rest my knees on a fleece blanket to minimize discomfort. I also use a Tibetan bowl I bought in India made with 7 metals, which is supposed to create good quality vibrations.
Meditation Guide: I’ve been lucky to see inspiring Dharma Mittra a few times when he visited London, although I hope to go and spend some time studying with him more thoroughly in NYC soon. He’s a great man and guide.
The Yogi: Equinox instructor Andrew Mcauley’s teaching style is an alchemical mixture of his life experience and years of study in Prana Flow®: Energetic Vinyasa, the Krama lineage of Tantracism, Massage Therapy, and Eastern Bodywork.
The Philosophy: K.I.S.S.(Keep It Supremely Simple) Start with an activity you already do everyday. The biggest mistake one can make is to think that an “enlightened” or meditative state is cultivated by practices other than what you already have access to.
Meditation Tips: Definitely don’t eat complex food prior to a meditation session. If you need sustenance, have a fresh juice. I have a morning juice that matches my feelings that day. For example, I’ll use a cooling juice with fresh fruits and juice if I feel overheated mentally or physically.
Meditation Musts: One of my favorite ways to meditate is while hiking. I often go to Roosevelt Island before sunrise, find a comfortable, secluded space and watch the city wake up. Afterwards, I often read from one of the poetry or philosophy books I pick up at Second Story Books in Dupont Circle. I also incorporate a mala, which is quite similar to a rosary, and is often used during meditation to support focus and attention.
Meditation Guide: Probably one of the most benevolent texts on yogic practices for meditation that I have found is called, Vijnana Bhairava Tantra. There is an awesome translation of this ancient text called, The Radiance Sutras by Lorin Roche. According to my teacher, Shiva Rea, “Reading one of these sutras is enough to change a life.”
Photography by Lexie Moreland