With meditation apps like Calm and Headspace gaining popularity, and companies like MNDFL creating a kind of a la carte meditation experience for busy New Yorkers, I decided to jump on this bandwagon on the road to mindful living and see what all the fuss is about. Some of the benefits of a regular mindfulness practice through meditation include greater focus, peace of mind and well-being, less stress and anxiety so I really couldn’t see the harm in trying. Now, this isn’t my first time on this road, I’ve dabbled here and there, though I can’t say that I’ve ever worked hard to maintain a regular practice.
In talking to some people that enjoy meditating and are actually capable of creating a routine and sticking to it, the name Alan Finger from ISHTA Yoga seemed to pop up quite often- I think the word guru was even thrown out there once. I couldn’t come up with a better place to start.
So, on a Thursday morning I filed into a packed room at the downtown location of ISHTA Yoga. Apparently, it wasn’t very crowded because of the holiday weekend, but I would hate to see what a normal day looks like. The girl behind me actually had her feet in my hair at one point. But I digress.
The first fifteen minutes of class were spent discussing a certain topic and on this day we talked about consciousness, or reaching a higher state of consciousness through meditation. I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not the best student and was often drifting off mid-sentence as Alan spoke, but he was always able to pull me back in to explore the topic further. It was like having your jolly old grandfather, who also kind of looks like Santa and has the most soothing voice, guide you through this new way of thinking on a path toward enlightenment. Or something like that. He spoke with such wisdom and authority, without ever making it feel like he was holier than thou, or like he was lecturing us. It was just me and forty of my closest friends, sitting on blankets and bolsters, having some new age story time. And he has a great sense of humor to boot.
We moved on to some movements to connect with our breath, some more breath work, and then it was time for the main event. We were going to meditate, y’all! It was so hard. My thoughts were racing, and ranged from “I’m hungry, so hungry” to “My left foot is falling asleep, oh crap, my arm is itchy”. I even peeked out into the room a few times to make sure everyone was still there and hadn’t left while my eyes were closed, which might be a residual fear from my childhood days. All of this is to say, I’m very much still a work in progress when it comes to sitting still and just being. I get the concept, it all sounds great in theory, it is just much more difficult without practice.
As much as I loved the persona of Alan Finger, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend the class for complete first-timers. There is no doubt that the 1 hour and 15 minute class time is sure to scare away meditation newbies to begin with, but I also felt there wasn’t enough guidance at times. I guess I just needed some more reassurance that what I was doing was right, or right for me. With so many people in the class, it might also be a bit intimidating. That being said, as long as you keep an open mind and come ready to give it your best shot, you might benefit and reach that higher state of consciousness that Alan kept describing. Or at least get a nice nap.
Want to give it a go? Details below. Don’t forget to let us know what you think.
Who: Alan Finger of ISHTA Yoga
Where: 56 East 11th Street, New York, NY
How much: $30 for a drop-in meditation class with Alan, $26 for other meditation classes