Tom Becka: Hello and welcome to another episode of tombecka.com. Thanks for spreading the word about this. The show which keeps on growing and growing, it is exciting to be a part of this new podcasting.
You have an opportunity to meet some of the people that I have had a chance to meet. Stefanie Monge is a woman that I met about a month or so ago, at a business breakfast where she spoke about doing yoga and meditation, for corporations.
She goes into businesses and they take time off, they put down the yoga mats, they exercise, they meditate, and it helps productivity. I’m not the most physically fit person in the world. I’m also not the most calm person in the world.
The very idea of yoga and meditation, it fascinated me because it’s a foreign concept, not that I’m proud of that, I wanted to learn here from Stefanie.
We had a great conversation a matter of fact, if you are driving while listening to this, be careful towards the end because towards the end, Stefanie and I meditate.
It is very relaxing and I would hate to see you be driving down the road and get too wrapped up, in it. If you do, you have been warned. I bare no responsibility you get an accident, while meditating.
There you go. I promise the conversation will be fascinating. You ought to hear at tombecka.com. Personally you do yoga and meditation, right?
Stefanie Monge: Yes that is correct.
Tom: Are they necessary combined or two things you are interested in?
Stefanie: In yoga, most people in the West don’t realize that I learned when I was doing my yoga teaching training, in India.
Is that, the whole point of the physical practice of yoga is to make the body strong and comfortable enough, so that you can sit comfortably in meditation for long periods of time.
We think about the end game of yoga as being more fit or flexible or strong. We tend not to take it that extra step in realizing we want to be fit and flexible and strong, so we can sit still.
Tom: I am afraid if I was doing yoga, I would spend the whole time meditating on, “I am never going to be able to get up.” [laughs] .
Stefanie: No. With yoga, we are more concerned with the process than the outcome.
It is about meeting you where you are today at this moment and recognizing that, even when you have practiced for a very long time, your abilities are different from day to day, depending on other things that are happening in your life.
Emotionally or the level of physical activity you have had, before your practice.
If you have a good yoga teacher, then they are able to help you modify, so that you are comfortable in what you are doing.
One thing in a yoga class as a student — especially when we start out — we think that you are going and you need to look like the teacher, or you need to make you body look like the students around you.
There are mirrors and we look around. It is such an individualized practice. There are so many different variables, even with our own bodies. It is not necessary to look like the teacher or to look like the other people around you.
Tom: It is funny you say that, there is a thing I wanted to address with you on this, in that; I have heard good things about yoga. I know people that do it. You are right. I don’t see a bunch of old, fat, white guys, doing yoga.
What I see are younger men. If they are doing it and I see fit women and everybody is fit and wearing their yoga pants and stuff like that. I don’t see a lot of out of shape people, doing that. Is it difficult to get people that are out of shape to even try it?
Stefanie: It depends, a lot of times my client’s who I work with, who are a little bit older or older like 50 or 60 plus. People who are working on weight loss, they a lot of times, they will start as private clients.
I meet with people individually. I have gentlemen right now who is in his mid 60, had never tried yoga before. His doctor had told him, she thought it would be good for him.
We meet at a barbeque and he happened to mention it. I told him I can help you. We have done our first three sessions, one on one.
Tomorrow he is coming into his first gentle yoga class, to see how he like it in a class environment [inaudible 04:36] .
Stefanie: There are classes that are like gentle yoga or classes that are more welcoming to people, of different of shapes and sizes. Again, a lot of it has to do with the teacher.
Who is the person who is talking to you about? Trying to get you to come into a class, and how comfortable you feel with that.
Tom: If you want to get in to yoga, you should shop around and find the right teacher.
Stephanie: Yes. I liken it to a hair dresser, because you find a hair dresser that you like, and no matter where they go to different salons. You follow them. You know they do a great job cutting your hair, you are happy with the result.
Weirdly I have found, as I moved around, even that I am more surprised when people follow me. It’s because we have that personal connection, especially someone who’s like a beginner or trying it out.
Tom: You mentioned gentle yoga. I assume that is the beginning class, right?
Stefanie: Yes. A beginner’s yoga or else like restorative or Yen yoga. Those are things you can look for, in a class schedule. Where you know there’re going to be low-key, a lot more stretching and relaxation focused.
Tom: Who goes to those?
Stefanie: A wide variety of people. I love those type of classes, because I’m on my feet teaching all day, so I’m tired. When I go to practice yoga, I’m not looking for a power class, or fast vigorous class.
I’m using it to relax and chill out. It’s a huge array of people, who would be in those restorative classes.
Tom: You said, the one gentleman that you’re teaching. His doctor said it would benefit him?
Tom: Every doctor says, “Hey, you got to lose weight, exercise,” all that stuff. Why yoga? As opposed to going on a treadmill, or going to the gym?
Stefanie: I don’t know that people are necessarily looking towards yoga, as a weight loss solution. With this gentleman, I’m certain that his goal isn’t weight loss. It’s strength training, he wants to get stronger. He wants be more flexible.
Also too…stress reduction. There’re studies that have shown that, over time it can lower your blood pressure, and other health effects like that.
Tom: That’s other issues and weight loss, or what you might think about a traditional gym doing?
Stefanie: Exactly, it’s very different.
Tom: What about then, the different types, I heard the term, was it Bikram?
Stefanie: Yes. Bikram.
Tom: What is that?
Stefanie: That’s a specific type of heart yoga. A lot of times…
Tom: OK, wait. Before you go to that then…
Tom: Let’s start with the broad [inaudible 07:10] thing [inaudible 07:10] about heart yoga next. I didn’t know that heart yoga was the broader spectrum. What is heart yoga?
Stefanie: It means that they turn the heat up in the room.
Stefanie: Because of Bikram, in my opinion, because when people saw that happening with Bikram, they wanted to practice in a hot room. They’re feeling more detoxed, when they’re sweaty.
Two, those people who want a vigorous practice, or they’re runners. They’re used to high impact workouts. They’re used to being sweaty, when they’re done.
But Bikram, the difference there is it’s a specific sequence. It’s a specific sequence of posses, that’s the same every single class all the time. With heart yoga it was…in my opinion and this is speculation.
People who wanted to go beyond that sequence, or wanted more variety, but liked how it felt to be in a hot environment, doing it.
Tom: How is it different doing it on a hot environment, as opposed to doing it regularly?
Stefanie: You sweat more.
Tom: That’s it right?
Stefanie: I don’t know. That’s what…In India, living there in April and May, and it was pretty hot. It was all hot yoga, because there is no air-conditioning.
Tom: Did you go to India to practice yoga and meditation? Were you in India and from being in India, you learned about yoga and meditation?
Stefanie: No. I went to India specifically, to learn about yoga. I had before that, been in Nepal learning about meditation. I’d done a 10-day silent meditation, at a Vipassana center outside of Kathmandu.
It would have been better to do it, the opposite way. Because the things I learned, even in India about anatomy. How I can sit comfortably.
Things that I can do in my body. Even in my seated position, to be more comfortable in meditation. Would have been helpful, before I did it for a hundred hours.
Tom: Could you have got that same education here in the States?
Stefanie: Definitely, yes. You can become a yoga teacher in the United States. You can become a yoga teacher, that’s accredited by the same body that has accredited, the school that I attended in India.
Short answer, yes. You can become certified in the US.
Tom: There’s a little bit more panache to it. If you say that, “I studied yoga in India?”
Stefanie: Definitely, my background is marketing, so I understood that piece of it. If you do an intense teacher training in the US, the once that I’m familiar with.
They’re typically a one-month long program, and they’re not necessarily residential. You’re there Monday through Friday, from 9:00 in the morning to 4:00 in the afternoon. Then you go home, and you have some weekend things as well.
In India, I was there. The training, instead of one month it was six weeks and it was residential. Our training started at 5:00 in the morning, and lasted until 8:00 at night. It was, in my opinion, much more vigorous.
Tom: What do you learn in that? The different positions and stuff? What do you learn?
Stefanie: There are a bunch of different pieces, there’s a specific criteria in order to be a yoga teacher who’s accredited by Yoga Alliance — which is the accrediting body for yoga in America, but also they’re recognized internationally.
There is so much history, there’s so many hours of philosophy. There’s so many hours of asana, which is the physical, the poses, there’s the meditation piece.
There’s a pranayama piece, which is using your breath in different ways to produce different outcomes, either calming down or feeling more invigorated, or expanding your lung capacity.
There are lots of different pieces. We would start in the morning with chanting, mantras, we would chant mantras and then we would meditate. Then we would have tea. Then we would practice yoga and we would have the physical, the asana practice.
We would do anatomy and physiology. Then we would do philosophy, with some breaks in between. Then we would go back to meditating and practice asana again, and then doing more pranayama and mantra.
Tom: If I go to a Beginners Yoga class, how much philosophy is involved in that?
Stefanie: Not very much. I want to say zero, but that’s not even that accurate. Not very much.
Tom: At what point, does philosophy become part of the yoga experience?
Stefanie: In America, it doesn’t, in my opinion.
Tom: Americans. You go on your lunch-hour, you work out, you do the yoga thing, you wear the pants and you tell your friends, “Hey!” you’re under yoga, and they all think you’re cool.
Stefanie: I say that. In that, it’s based on my experience in classes that I’ve attended. I haven’t attended every yoga school in Omaha, so in no way can I say at all that I have comprehensive knowledge of what happens in yoga schools here.
It depends on the studio, it depends on the teacher and how much they value it. Also, that’s dictated by what their students want.
At the end of the say, it’s a business too. If your students are coming and they want to get fit and that’s how you keep your classes full, It makes sense for you to keep doing that.
Tom: You mentioned that your background was in marketing, and you mentioned that yoga is business. Did you go to India to put together your business?
In other words, is this you say, “Hey, yeah! Yoga is trendy thing right now. I’m in marketing, I’ll go to India, I’ll study, I’ll learn how to do yoga, it’d be a nice little business”?
Is it more of a spiritual quest that you went on?
Stefanie: It was somewhere in between. I expected I would come out a yoga teacher on the other end, but I didn’t necessarily anticipate that’s how I would make a living, because that isn’t realistic.
I was lucky enough to find a niche with corporate yoga and working with businesses. I was lucky enough to be coming back to Omaha at the right time, where there was nobody who was dominating that niche or that market.
I started my career as my business-journalist at the World Herald, so I was very well connected in the business community.
Then went into working in marketing for a start-up, then traveled for a few years. I didn’t think that it would be something that I would make a living off of, that idea came later.
Before I had traveled, one of my yoga teachers suggested that I would think about being a yoga teacher, at some point. I had never thought about that because, you never think, “Oh, yeah! I’m good enough at this thing that I could teach it.”
The thing that hooked me in with that is she said, “You can travel around the world and teach and lead retreats.” It was travel part that hooked me, but it was a year and a half into traveling all around the world, before I made it to India and did a teacher-training.
The first place I taught yoga was in England at a bodybuilder’s gym, on outside of London.
Tom: I recall yoga being this big of a deal, years and years ago. Was I naïve, or is this an uptrend now where it is catching momentum, and more and more people are doing yoga?
Stefanie: That’s it. Honestly, in the last five years, even the yoga environment in Omaha from the time I left at the very beginning of 2011, and then returning two years later, it was amazing to me in the number of yoga studios that had popped up. It’s too…
Tom: They’re all over the place.
Stefanie: The teacher-trainings, that’s the thing, everyone’s turning out new yoga teachers, but I don’t know where they’re going to go and who’s going to pay them.
Tom: More and more people, if the demand is there.
Stefanie: I don’t know. We’re a little bit saturated in Omaha, right now. If it’s something that you’re passionate about and you love it and you want to share, it’s a great second-part-time job for the most part. It’s too hard.
If you’re working at a studio or working for the YMCA, you could never teach enough classes in a week to live on, because of what you get paid per class. It’s not feasible.
Tom: Is this my perception that not only Omaha, but nationwide, the people doing yoga, I’m guessing 95 percent female? Would that be a fair estimation?
Stefanie: I don’t think so. My classes are a little bit different, because I work in a corporate setting, where there are more men in those classes, but not really.
My classes that I teach at the studio where I rent from and also my community classes, I would say I have 40 percent male students.
It’s about finding a class where they feel comfortable, sometimes it has to do with the music, sometimes it has to do with the environment, sometimes it has to do with the teacher.
95 percent is of huge overestimation, but I do think it is majority women. I don’t know what the percentage would be, but it’s lower.
Tom: You mentioned corporate work. Do companies hire you then to go their office and say, “All right, guys, everybody’s taking an hour break. Now we’re going to do yoga,” or how’s that work?
Stefanie: It depends, sometimes it works that way. With my business, I work with companies coming onsite to do ongoing classes, six weeks at a time.
They hire me for sessions, I come at the same time and day, and we do either yoga or meditation or a combination of both, depending on what the clients are looking for.
Otherwise I do one-time workshops or retreats, and do a lot of work with stress relief or helping people learn how to incorporate different techniques, from yoga and meditation into their daily life, and into their work life.
Things that are practical and easy, that’s the key, especially in the corporate setting.
Tom: I’m going to get into meditation in a minute or two, but a few more questions about yoga. We talked about Hot Yoga and Bikram Yoga and the Beginners Yoga. What other kinds are there?
Stefanie: Too many to name.
Stefanie: In dozens, it’s not more than a hundred.
Tom: Is there a Wet Yoga, is there…?
Stefanie: There’s Naked Yoga.
Stefanie: Vinyasa is a form of yoga where it’s flowing, very fluid. Hatha is the type of yoga that I was trained in, Hatha is the standard yoga. It’s the base, and then things branch out from there.
There’s Acro Yoga where it’s using acrobatics and hanging from ribbons and other things, or using partners to do crazy, awesome things.
Honestly, there are too many to name. They’re dozens, if not more.
Tom: How do you know what kind of yoga you want to do? Is it the thing where you go in and get into it a little bit and say, “I like that. I’ll try the acrobatic yoga now”?
Then you do that for a while and say, “OK, I’ll do the Naked Yoga now.” Is that the thing, or do people go and get the pamphlet and start going through all the different types and decide what they want?
Stefanie: I don’t think most people do it that way. From experience, a lot of my students, they come as a guest of someone else or they’ve heard about me from someone else.
A lot if it is word of mouth, and again, a lot of it is the attraction to the teacher or the actual studio, more than the type of yoga.
Once you practice it a little bit more, you become curious about other types. It’s as likely you find that place you like, and then that’s your style of yoga, because you love the environment or the teacher or the class or whatever it is.
Tom: It’s a thing lot of it is social?
Stefanie: Sure, in the west it’s a lot more social than…
Tom: …”It’s time for our yoga class, let’s all go,” and they go and figure it out.
Stefanie: In India it’s definitely, I would say, more of an individualized journey in your teacher-training. Of course, everyone talks and hangs out and we do stuff together, but ideally there’s a little bit less chatter, more time to reflect and be in silence — because we don’t give ourselves that time, ever.
In Omaha, like I said, I don’t know. I can only speak to some of the places that I’ve been to, I’m not sure.
Tom: Your own comment on Omaha versus so many other places, so you’re saying this is an American thing or we don’t…?
Stefanie: When I say Omaha, generally I mean practicing yoga in the west. It’s more social, but it’s OK. The thing that my teachers in India talked about was, people have a certain level of understanding.
Whatever the reason is that they come to yoga, they’ll develop the reason that they stay.
Initially it is social, but after you practice, you can’t help but feel these other benefits or noticing that you’re using breath work, or controlling your breath to help calm down, when you’re in a stressful situation during the day, or other things like that.
There is some philosophy that can be weaved into classes, at the beginning setting an intention or at the end or a little bit throughout.
Teachers do sneak some of that stuff in there, in a way that the students don’t even necessarily realize, but it does soak in over time.
Tom: One last question on the yoga, then we’ll get to the meditation. I’ve been to nude beaches. You go to a nude beach, there’s people that aren’t [inaudible 21:42] people you want to see naked.
The same thing toward Naked Yoga. Is that something you threw out there, or are there a lot of classes over that sort of thing?
Stefanie: I am not aware of any Naked Yoga classes in Omaha, I know there are Naked Yoga studios in New York City. I have never been to a Naked Yoga class, so I am not sure at all who shows up.
Stefanie: The same way a nude beach is regular people naked, Nude Yoga is still regular people naked, would be my guess.
Tom: It’s a gimmick, [inaudible 22:12] …
Tom: …Is it a gimmick or there’s a spiritual aspect to it?
Stefanie: I don’t know what the reason is.
If I would completely guess about the reason, it has something to do with being free and uninhibited, or comfortable enough with yourself or loving yourself enough that you could be in that vulnerable position, where you would do it naked in front of other people.
Something like that, I don’t know. [laughs]
Tom: I’d be too nervous that I might sit on my balls, and that would… [laughs]
Stefanie: Oh my God, I think too. It would be a big distraction. It’s hard enough to keep people focused, with their clothes on.
Stefanie: That’s my thought, I don’t know, you could not be distracted by everything.
Tom: So much for the relaxing part of it. Let’s talk about the meditation. At least people in my generation, first we became aware of meditation through the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Transcendental Meditation. The Beatles were all that stuff. There’s a lot of…
Stefanie: I lived two blocks from there in India.
Tom: Did you?
Stefanie: The Beatles Ashram they call it now, but where the Maharishi was. It’s totally abandoned at this point.
Tom: The Beatles Ashram, they were only there for about a week or two, weren’t they?
Stefanie: Yes, they had falling-out.
Tom: Now there in India, it’s all pretty empty in that part as far as the ashram goes?
Stefanie: That ashram. Right now, the land is owned by the Indian government. There are some people who guard it, and for a dollar they’ll let you in, walk you around and give you a tour.
Tom: “Hey, here’s where Mia Farrow was!”
Stefanie: Who knows if it’s true or not, I don’t know. They’ll tell you, “This was the meditation hut where John Lennon was,” or whoever. It’s interesting because you go and lots of people will go there, and will meditate in their little buildings.
The energy there is amazing, whether it is that collective energy from all the people who have come there and believed that, that’s where John Lennon was sleeping or whether, it’s because John Lennon was sleeping there or whether, it’s a combination of both. It’s a interesting place.
There’s a documentary on YouTube, when we were there. There was a project to paint a big mural in one of the old meditation halls, or something.
There’s this beautiful mural that I took pride in helping paint, and there’s a documentary on YouTube. It was a bunch of people from all over the world, doing it.
Tom: Painting in mural in India about the John Lennon…?
Stefanie: In the ashram, the Maharishi’s ashram.
Tom: I’ve to check that out. In college I had a couple of friends who went and got a little a Transcendental Meditation, went and got the TM.
After they got into it, they mocked it. It was, “Ooh! We’re looking for constant bliss,” and the whole thing if you meditated enough, you could float and all of that stuff.
They got to a point where they were mocking it, although they wouldn’t tell me what their mantra was. It’s, “No, we can’t tell you the mantra! If we do, gods will come and strike us down.”
It was a different time, but what is different with that Transcendental Meditation and the meditation that’s…I met you at a business breakfast, and you did a brief little mediation session. That wasn’t TM, was it?
Stefanie: No. Like yoga, there are so many different types of mediation as well. Meditation at its root is mindfulness, paying attention to what you’re doing, that awareness.
We spend so much time multitasking, trying to do a billion things at once, but when we focus on one activity at the time, in fact we’re starting to meditate.
The type of meditation I teach frequently is a form of meditation, where you use the breath as a tool to help stay present.
It’s an observation of the breath without trying to control it, or do anything to deepen it or change it. Mediation is about observing without reacting.
When we can sit and practice that observation without reaction that has benefits, in the rest of our life.
When that person cuts us off in traffic, or we have the worst server ever or things that are much worse happen to us and we get upset, instead of blindly reacting and getting mad, we can take a moment and be, “You know what?
“This isn’t the end of the world. I can sit here for a couple more minutes, and this is going to be done with and I can choose not to freak out.”
Tom: It’s so much more fun to flip somebody off, in traffic.
Stefanie: I used to think that too. I worked in a newsroom, then I worked at a tech start-up. I worked in high-stress environments, I worked in a newspaper industry, when things were very uncertain and many people were losing their jobs.
Freaking out was my favorite thing ever. [laughs] There was something very satisfying about being mad or upset or angry.
After years of practicing yoga, of practicing meditation, gradually I recognized the change in myself, realizing it isn’t going to be that satisfying to freak out or, “What’s going to happen afterwards? What kind of damage control, am I going to have to do?”
I used to felt I had to speak my truth all the time and tell people how it was, even if they didn’t like it. Now I’ve developed this compassion where I realized, “There’s a better way to it,” or there are times when it doesn’t need to be said.
Tom: Does that come with meditation, or does that come with good judgment with age?
Stefanie: My favorite thing would be to say about people, “Act like an adult!” but how many people do we know who are 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, who are still flying off the handle, being totally unreasonable, throwing tantrums?
It isn’t an age thing, I don’t think that’s limited by age. There are so many studies that have shown that increased compassion is a huge by-product, of meditation — which is interesting and unexpected and not something that I could have understood before.
Now as I understand it a little bit more, it has to do with not reacting, being able to, “Wait a second,” and contemplate things a little bit more, and realize, “You know what, that person is yelling at me, because they’re mad about something else happening.”
In fact, a lot of times when other people are upset with us or when we’re upset with them, it’s not what’s happening right there. There’s something bigger, there’s something deeper.
With meditation, that’s when we start to…By being still, by trying not to react, by breathing, you start to develop that awareness.
Honestly, we all have that awareness in us, but there’s all these other things that muddy it or make it complicated, our experiences, the way people have treated us before, all these other things that we get so wrapped up in and hold on to.
The more we hold on to them, more it shapes our experiences and the way we treat people moving forward.
Mediation is almost that chance to undo those knots, undo those things.
Tom: When you started becoming more mellow, I imagine your friends noticed a change in you. Do you think you lost some friends because of it?
In other words, there are people out there — we all know them — that live off the drama, they live off the energy, they live off of that, and then you become more of a, “Whatever happens” sort of a person, does that bother some people?
Stefanie: I don’t know. That’s a hard question to answer, because a lot of that initial transformation was happening when I wasn’t in Omaha, because I spent two years in Australia and Asia and in the UK and then moved back to Omaha, at the end of all of that.
My relationships were different, because I’d been gone for two years.
I lost some drinking buddies.
Stefanie: I still will go out and enjoy a cocktail now, but not the way I did before, because now I’m busy teaching at night.
I have fewer relationships now than I did before, but they’re so much richer. I did spend a lot of time mourning the loss of those relationships, and then I realized that the people who had come into my life since then, are the people who are still there.
Our relationships were so much richer and deeper than they ever were, before that. Although I have a smaller circle, it’s so much more fulfilling.
Which is good because starting a business, it was hard. It was so hard. I was lucky to have a good support system.
Tom: I read a quote one time with Robin Williams. He made the comment, he says, “On your 20th birthday, you want to be surrounded by 8,000 friends.
On your 50th birthday, you want to be surrounded by three.” That is true in general, as you grow and develop as a person.
With meditation, do I need to go and have lessons in meditation? Because, I know for myself, I have a tough day at work, sometimes I’ll get in the car and I’ll go for a drive.
I’ll go for a drive and I’ll have the radio off and drive, or I’ll have the radio on cranked up and drive.
I’ll look at the horizon and the sunset, and I come back relaxed and refreshed.
Stefanie: Exactly, because you’re focused on that one activity. No, you don’t need lessons to start meditating at all.
I argue you don’t need any resources, and you can’t start, like you said with a drive, or with a run or even a yoga practice is a moving meditation.
A bike ride, or mowing the lawn, or gardening, or whatever it is that is one thing that you can focus on, that you enjoy doing.
With meditation, you can start with two minutes a day. It is not something where you need to sit for one hour or two hours.
If you don’t have that time, you may as well not try. Like the exercise we did at the breakfast, that was three minutes. That was three minutes long.
It doesn’t take long. I would say if you want to start meditating, set a timer and start setting a timer for two or three minutes.
A few minutes, but make sure you set the timer because otherwise, you open your eyes, you’re like, “Oh, how long has it been?” Especially when you start. It’s too tempting.
Then close your eyes, for sure, always. It helps if you meditate in the same place, so find a place in your home or wherever it’s going to be, that you decide you are going to meditate and you have a blanket or some cushion that you use.
Have it be the same place and the same thing that you sit on, because it starts to build your energy and build the routine, and eventually will make it easier to get into meditation.
You can start closing your eyes, observing your breath, for a few minutes a day. Right when you wake up in the morning, right before bed, or any time when you feel you need to recharge, and then extend the time as you feel more comfortable.
Tom: I don’t need a mantra, per se.
Stefanie: No. Yeah, one way that you could meditate would be using a mantra, so either a mantra you come up with, a mantra you get from somewhere else, a mantra that’s in Sanskrit like “Om.”
Some people use music. You can meditate on sound, you can meditate on sensations, you can meditate observing the sensations in your body, with your eyes closed, you’re scanning your body looking for any sensations.
Again without judgment or expectation, observing what’s happening and moving on, knowing that it’s not permanent.
Tom: Prayer, another one. I was raised Catholic, and doing the rosary, the constant repetition of, “Hail Mary, [inaudible 35:01] … [mumbles]” You would do it and there would be a calming effect on it, while you’re repeating the same thing.
If you look at the rosary and compare it to other cultures, they all have the prayer beads or something similar to that, don’t they.
Stefanie: That’s exactly right. Amala is typically, what it would be called in Hindu or in Buddhism. This bracelet, these are meditation beads. I worked with some girls from Girls Inc yesterday and we made them.
Definitely. With that, the way that I use meditation beads to meditate, is I take one bead between my index finger and my thumb and I close my eyes and I do one inhale and exhale on that bead, and then I move to the next bead, one inhale, one exhale.
Otherwise, you could go through and have a mantra and say the mantra, and go through. It’s very similar.
Tom: I know that I should relax more than I do.
Stefanie: We all should.
Tom: Being in broadcasting, I have that same [inaudible 36:05] you were talking about in the newspaper. Kind of thrive on the deadline. Right now in the situation where quite honestly, things are going rather well, but there’s not a lot of drama.
There’s part of me that misses that. Part of me that misses that, that misses that constant…You can’t keep on living with that confrontation and that sort of thing, but at the same time, there is an adrenaline rush to that.
How do you turn that off and get to enjoy the peace, enjoy the silence?
Stefanie: Practice. That’s it. Practice, so much practice. At the end of your yoga class, always there’s shavasana. It’s a final relaxation. It’s a time where you lay down, and you do nothing with your eyes closed.
For me, it was three years before I could keep my eyes closed for the full three or five minutes, at the end of class. Because my eyes would be open, I was looking around, sussing things out, seeing if anybody else’s eyes are open. To be silent and to be still was so difficult.
It’s a practice. Meditation is a practice, yoga is a practice. It’s something that you come to over and over again, but you have to try to let go of the expectations.
That is the biggest part with yoga or with meditation. We’re trying to embrace the journey, without thinking too much about the outcome.
Because, then our attention isn’t in the present moment. We’re putting it out to the future and imagining these things, creating them in our minds, but they’re not necessarily going to happen. They’re not real. [laughs]
They’re not real. The only thing that’s real is what’s happening right now.
Tom: I agree with that in theory. [laughs] I understand what you’re saying, because you’re right. All we have is right now.
We don’t know what those people at 9/11, they were, had that moment in the elevator and then all of a sudden, boom. That’s all we have, and I understand that.
You also can’t do anything about the past, and all of that, which also looks good on paper. In reality, it’s tough to let the past go or to not worry about the future.
Stefanie: It’s super hard. I know. It’s so hard. When did I say this was easy work? I didn’t, ever. I didn’t.
Stefanie: This, it’s not easy. It isn’t easy. It isn’t. This hasn’t been an easy journey for me, but it’s been worth it and it’s been rewarding.
[laughs] I don’t…It’s not always fun, for sure. Sometimes we’re better than others, and even with my yoga practice, I would be consistent for a few years, and then I would fall off for six months.
You come back to it, and that’s it. You keep coming back.
Tom: When things get too tense, go and do a little…You say about a minute or two. Let’s do a minute or two of meditation, right now. For somebody that doesn’t know what you’re talking about, let’s do a minute or two of what we did that first time that I mentioned.
Tom: What do we do?
Stefanie: You go ahead and start sitting up nice and tall. Finding that place where your spine is long, the crown of your head is moving up away from your tailbone, but you’re not over-exaggerating the lift in your chest. You’re feeling tall, but you’re feeling supported.
Then closing your eyes, starting to bring your awareness to the breath. Observing the breath as you breath in and out of the nose.
Not trying to change the breath, necessarily, but observing what happens.
Stefanie: Starting to let go of the thoughts that are coming into your head. As they come through, imagining that they’re like clouds floating through the sky. They’re passing through, no need to hold on to them.
As your mind starts to stray from the breath, gently guide that awareness back to the inhale and exhale.
Starting to scan your body for any areas of tension or tightness. Bringing your awareness to the crown of your head and then letting the awareness move down over your face, to your neck and shoulders.
When you come across any of these areas of tension or tightness, use the breath. Use the exhale to imagine that you’re letting it go.
Stefanie: Whenever the mind strays, you can bring the attention back to the breath. Observing the flow of air through the nostrils, the back of your throat. Observing the rise and the fall of the lungs, with each breath.
We’ll take one final deep breath, breathing in through the nose, and with an exhale you can sigh out through the mouth.
Tom: Couple of questions about that, which I wanted to interrupt you in the middle of it and ask that questions, but I didn’t.
Stefanie: Good job not doing that.
Tom: Two things. Number one, why in through the nose and out through the mouth?
Stefanie: I use that as a release. I only use that breath…Typically in yoga, you’re breathing in and out of the nose. Using pranayama, some of the breathing exercises that changes, but for the most part doing your practice you breath in and out of the nose.
When you breath out of the mouth…I instruct students to do that, as a final release. It can help people to visualize that when you’re breathing out, you’re releasing the tension. It’s leaving your body.
Even sometimes I ask people to visualize that they’re breathing out, a dark cloud. I don’t know. Students find it helpful. They seem to like it.
Tom: Then another thing is that, I did a podcast with a hypnotist. What you were doing, is the same thing he was doing.
Tom: That same sort of, “Relax, let your mind…Concentrate on your breath, be thinking these thoughts,” that sort of a thing. The same cadence and the same tone in your voice that he was using, during hypnosis.
Stefanie: That’s interesting. Some of what I was using is a technique called yoga nidra. It’s also referred to as yogic sleep. It’s a deep relaxation technique.
When you practice yoga nidra, you lay down on the ground in corpse pose, like you’re in your final relaxation pose, and you scan your awareness over different parts of your body.
A lot of times a teacher will lead you through it. They’ll say, “Bring your awareness to your forehead, to your chin, to your cheeks, to your nose.” They have you move your awareness all over.
You do go into this hypnotic state. It does put you in a trance. Depending on what happens in shavasana, that final relaxation, if someone’s talking you through it…
I do try to use my voice, to get people to relax a little bit more. Or else, the final relaxation is totally silent, or there’ll be music playing.
Sometimes I find people are less distracted when I talk to them, because it gives them something to focus on, that isn’t all the thoughts that are coming into their brain.
Tom: We did one for about a minute, two minutes or so, and you’ve said that a few times. Two or three minutes a day.
Is there an optimum amount of time to meditate? In other words, if I want to meditate for an hour, is that too much?
Stefanie: No, my yoga teacher in India told me to come back when I could meditate for three hours, and that he would teach me some of the higher spiritual things.
In my meditation course in Nepal, we were instructed to meditate for two hours a day. One hour in the morning and one hour in the evening.
I don’t do that. I don’t. I totally don’t, and it sounds cliché to say I don’t have time as a business owner.
Because, I use meditation…I emergency meditate if I need to. If I’m feeling stressed and have a bunch of stuff to do and I’m not sure how I’m going to prioritize things, I’ll take 10 minutes, sit down and meditate.
Pretty much 100 percent of the time, when I come out I’m like, “OK, boom. This is how I’m going to tackle this.”
I meditate for 30 minutes at a time. I only meditate one time a day, unless I’m teaching a meditation class or have a chance to meditate with my students, sometime later in the day.
As an individual I shoot for 15 to 30 minutes a day, and it doesn’t even happen every day.
Tom: Last question. As someone that now has worked on yoga and being calm and meditation and everything, in your relationships, if you get angry, does the person have to look at you and say, “Now, Stefanie, now…” Like, you can’t afford to get angry.
Do they look at you and say, “Now, come on. Do your meditation, calm down,” when sometimes you want to yell.
Stefanie: This is a great question, and my husband may or may not appreciate the answer.
Stefanie: He is the number one person who puts me in check, when I’m getting angry about something and will remind me. Generally, that angry is directed at him and that’s why he’s reminding me in those instances.
I’m a human. I have been called a hypocrite, if I’ve been totally upset about something, but it’s like, “No, I am a human like you are. I’m not perfect.” I do yoga and I do meditation. That doesn’t make me perfect.
Tom: The reason I ask that question as a radio talk show host, there have been times that I’ve gotten into an argument and a heavy duty discussion with the woman I’m dating, and she looks at me and says, “Shut up. You’re not on your program now, there’s no…”
It’s like, “OK, you got me beat, OK.” I lose the argument on that.
Tom: Right. We’re not human, we’re all trying to get better and that’s what this is. Yoga and meditation is a way help you get better.
Stefanie: Yeah, exactly. Be better at life.
Tom: Is your husband also into yoga and meditation?
Stefanie: Oh my gosh. Not meditation as much, but yoga, yeah. He was one of my first yoga students. Now, his physical practice has surpassed my physical practice.
His inversions and the things he can do upside down are much more impressive than the things I can do upside down.
Yeah, he loves it. He wants to become a yoga teacher as well.
Tom: I doubt I’m going to be doing anything upside down any time soon, but I may give yoga a try. Give that a try. I have been using some of her meditation techniques to try to relax a bit more, to focus a bit more.
I know, old habits die hard, but I’m trying. I’m learning, I’m trying to…That’s what all this is about. These podcasts are about learning and finding out about people and things and places.
Thank you for joining us once again, and being part of this community.
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Till we do it again, take care and bye, you all.