Meditation is really hard for me, but I’ve found a way…

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Meditation has always been really hard for me. But an amazing yoga class helped me discover the power of moving meditation.
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Summer Sides, Heavily Meditated

What is Meditation??

 This is a question I’ve pondered a lot over the years. But now, in 2021 it seems super relevant to me.

After an insane 2020 in which …..

  • My professional life was thrown for a loop (I was the proud owner of a yoga studio for a whole 18-days before we shut down for covid-19).
  • My personal world was rocked when my Dad passed away in May.
  • And the world exploded!

It was no surprise that I ended the year with a lot of overwhelm and confusion about where to go next. 

As a strong mental health advocate, I realized this needed to be my year to focus on my mental health. (If you’ve ever read my experience with overtraining syndrome, you know that I’m no stranger to deep moments of depression, anxiety, and overwhelm.) 

I knew it was time to regain control over the year that had been, and look forward in a way that meant getting out of bed before 1:00 pm and not just binge-watching The Profit all day (but seriously, if you haven’t watched it, you must!).

 So on January 1st, 2021 my year of mental health awareness and mindfulness began!

 The first thing my therapist asked when I told her this was “does that mean you’re going to meditate daily” 

My response….🤦🤦🤦.

 The truth is though, for years I’ve tried to meditate.

I was told it would help calm my squirrel brain (a therapist may call it anxiety or ADHD, I call it my squirrel friend brain)!

It was suggested to help me sleep (something that I like, but struggle to get).

I’ve read numerous studies that discuss the benefits (even Harvard boosts its benefits). 

With all these amazing claims and suggestions from doctors, therapists, chiropractors, and even a physical therapist, I couldn’t NOT try it! 

So I’ve…

  1. Bought books
  2. Tried apps (looking at you Calm and Headspace)
  3. Gone to classes

But it just never seemed to work for me. 

The books would confuse me. The apps would bore me. And the classes would make me feel like I wasn’t good enough (I mean, look at all those amazing people around me meditating with calm and peace…)

It just seemed like none of the traditional means and methods of meditation worked on my brain.

I would get discouraged because I would talk to people about how meditation has changed their lives and how I just need to try it again and more. True yogis (you know the people I’m talking about) would look at me in disbelief when I would say I struggled to find this sense of inner peace while sitting on a cushion. They often made me feel inadequate and judged (yea, not cool yoga world). 

I wondered…am I totally alone in my challenges and struggles?

 

And like any good researcher and professor, I started to ponder this concept of meditation even deeper. 

I thought about the world today versus the ancient world monks and yogis came from (they didn’t know what it was like to have a crazy person ruling their country or be connected 24/7/365 to the world around us).

I questioned many of the assumptions and beliefs we have around what meditation looks and feels like (I mean not all healthy foods look the same, and we all workout in different ways…)

And I started to think that maybe I wasn’t alone in my challenges of sitting on a pillow and trying to meditate in total silence (as I write this I’m listening to Shinedown, Carrie Underwood, and some great Broadway hits – my brain likes music and sound!).

But all this questioning and research still didn’t help me in my quest to actually practice meditation in a way that helped my brain.

 

So I just stopped trying…

But then one day back in 2016, as part of my regular yoga practice, I wandered into this amazing yoga class. 

It was filled with dynamic movement. Amazing music (with words!). Beautiful stories that had us laugh and cry and smile. And a time to connect within and let go of things I’d been holding on to.

Those 75-minutes changed my life! Not only was it an amazing rollercoaster of emotions, but it also made me realize the idea of moving meditations.

It made me realize that all my miles logged during my years as an endurance runner and cyclist had been my own moving meditation (the runner’s high is a real thing – and really just another way to say meditation).

I stopped chasing the idea that meditation had to be done on a pillow in a quiet room to be done right

And with that, the world of meditation totally opened up for me!!!

I still have the Calm and Headspace apps, but instead of trying to get the daily calm in, I use their reminders as a moment to slow down and breathe. I am inspired by their quotes and use them in my yoga practices. And I’ve stopped sitting in dark, cold, and silent rooms to achieve nirvana.

Now, by no means am I perfect (because who is)? But I believe the first step in change is awareness, and reminding myself of the true power of moving meditation is a huge part of my quest towards mental health and mindfulness in 2021.

Meditation is really hard for me, but I've found a way... 1
Because life should be fun, even when you might mess up a little!

Creating a better meditation practice in 2021

So if you’re scratching your head now thinking ‘but Summer, I thought you wanted to get deeper into your meditation practice in 2021….don’t you already do yoga?’, don’t worry…I won’t leave you hanging!

When I said to myself on January 1st that I wanted to focus more on my mental health and focus more on my meditation practice, part of that also meant being more open and sharing my story. 

Just like when I first shared struggles with overtraining in 2014 and my health challenges of 2015, I know sharing can help me and others (it’s been amazing to connect with others over the years dealing with overtraining syndrome).

And while I may not have it all figured out (because who does), I do know that the time is now! It’s time to finally share with others what my amazing instructor shared with me in 2016. It’s time to help us all discover moving meditations, emotional fitness, and the true next dimension of fitness. 

Because when we realize we’re not alone, we can move through and connect deeper. So here we go! 

This is why I’m beyond thrilled to present CounterFlow Yoga at the ACSM Health & Fitness Summit in April.

CounterFlow Yoga is our signature program at GXunited, and one with a true mission to help counter the body positions and mental challenges we face as 21st century Americans. With a solid base in modern exercise science, we use many of the principles of yoga and meditation to take you on a journey of discovering CURIOSITY, CREATIVITY, & COURAGE.

This is a dynamic, standing practice that connects movement, music, and mindset for an empowering journey of discovery. You’ll improve your balance, posture, and strength all while connecting within. 

It’s the journey my teacher took me on back in 2016, and now I’ve developed it into a class that we can all experience together.

(I’m also super stoked to be offering CounterFlow Yoga as part of our Yoga for Athletes program (February 16 – April 8), so if you’re an athlete or HIIT lover who needs a bit of calm and yoga in your life, join me for this program).

I’m just getting started!

I know that I still have a lifetime of learning and practice to ensure that my mind stays at ease and that I don’t let overwhelm overcome me, but I at least think I’ve started to gain the tools to get myself there (as long as 2021 is a bit quieter than 2020 was!). 

These tools and methods change regularly, but if you want to know what some of my favorites, then make sure you’re following both me and GXunited over on Instagram because all through February I’ll be posting my favorite apps, videos, books, and tricks!

And Remember….

When we allow ourselves to shift our mind from what something ‘should’ look like, to what it could look like, all of a sudden we can experience something we never knew possible. ✨

Now tell me now, what does meditation mean to you??

Head over to Instagram and drop your insights on this post! Let’s continue to chat and empower each other.

Happy Moving!

Summer N. Sides (MS, CSCS, RYT-200)
Summer N. Sides, M.S.

Summer N. Sides, M.S.

Summer N. Sides (MS, RYT-200, CSCS) is the Founder of GXunited, an educational resource hub dedicated to group fitness and the owner of Greensboro Downtown Yoga. For almost 20 years, she’s helped participants ‘stand taller, move easier, and perform better’ through science backed mindful movement experiences. She’s worked with companies such as NETA, Les Mills, IGNITE360 (a division of IMG Performance), and ACE as a national presenter, assessor, curriculum/program developer, and freelance writer. As a former Lecturer of Exercise Science, she aims to elevate the next generation of fitness professionals through fun and creative educational experiences.

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