Fitness Challenge: Set goals and then meditate

Rachel Grunwell brings you the lowdown on a new form of exercise.

Yoga can stretch the mind as well as your muscles and is an excellent way to rid yourself of stress. Photo / Getty Images
Yoga can stretch the mind as well as your muscles and is an excellent way to rid yourself of stress. Photo / Getty Images

Meditation

What is it? I once thought this was just connected to religious traditions, but it can help anyone focus the mind.

What's needed? An open mind to try it.

The experience: You might wonder why I'm meditating for a fitness challenge? Well, some people use it to help focus the mind on goals.

And if you're thinking I've gone wacky, I'd argue that description fits already. Actually, I've read that meditation can also help calm us, ease anxiety, fight depression, raise awareness and possibly make us happier.

So I head to Golden Yogi, a yoga, meditation and natural medicine studio owned by sisters Kirsty and Erin O'Hara. Erin, 30, teaches meditation, yoga and run-and-stretch classes here as well as taking regular free run sessions at Takapuna's Lululemon store. She trained in Kundalini-style meditation while in LA where she was a professional triathlete, racing on the pro half-ironman circuit until three years ago.

For years, Erin often won podium spots.

If you want to see how fast she moves, watch out for her in the adidas Auckland Marathon on November 3. She's hoping for a top place in the half-marathon, while raising money for Starship Hospital.

Her racing prowess is even more impressive when you hear she was struck by a mystery illness at 17 and couldn't walk properly on her left foot - "I kept tripping over".

Brain scans and tests never explained why, but she slowly regained strength and could walk properly after six months.

When recovered, she was so grateful that she decided to run, following in her father's footsteps. She discovered yoga helped stretch out her sore muscles and meditation helped focus her mind to reach race goals as well as clear the mind of garbage.

I join her for meditation in her stylish studio, tucked down a driveway in Takapuna. The lights are dim, candles flicker and a small golden Buddha sits behind Erin as she teaches our class.

She begins the 20-minutes session with spinal warm-ups, rocking gently back and forth. We put our hands in prayer position in front of our hearts and she says things such as "honour your inner-self" and this healing meditation should feel "nice and light".

We then put our hands out and raise them, as if holding a platter, and close our eyes. Erin repeats an Indian chant: "ra, ma, da, sa, sa, say, so, hung". We say this over and over, in time with a woman's beautiful voice on a tape.

Erin says that sounding out words, rather than just listening to them, along with breathing, helps us better raise our consciousness.

At first, I'm a tad self-conscious, but after five minutes I don't care how I sound and enjoy taking "a moment in time" and being still.

I then stay on for Align and Flow, a dynamic yoga class which is a nice mix of movements I really like.

I tell Erin I enjoyed trying meditation, too and she tells me 40 days of it is even better and can help with deep transformation and change.

How much? Meditation: $5. Casual yoga: $20 or sign up for better-value pass options. If new to the studio, you can pay $25 for an unlimited pass for two weeks' classes.

Worth it? This is good to de-stress. Meditation is big with US celebrities and I agree with Erin that it will probably grow in popularity here.

Try it: Golden Yogi: Studio 2, 13 Barry's Point Rd, Takapuna, Auckland. goldenyogi.co.nz

Rating: 9/10

Rachel wears: adidas by Stella McCartney: "Stu Hood" $190; "ES SL 7/8 Tight" $100, "ES SL Straptank" $120. For stockists ph 0508 ADIDAS, adidas.co.nz/stella.

- Herald on Sunday

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