Kathy Brim is our resident yogini, having been practicing yoga for years and recently earning her teaching certification. She is passionate about yoga and has taken a moment to reflect on how it relates to her legal practice.
Although I’ve always found it difficult to get into the habit of meditating, I’ve realized that my yoga practice brings the balance and mental clarity I hoped to find through meditation. I believe the physical practice of yoga can do the same for other attorneys who struggle with finding a traditional meditation practice.
By now, we’ve probably all heard about the benefits of meditation, about how, if we could just sit cross-legged in a quiet room for a little while every day and think about nothing, we’d be much better off. In fact, we would. In his article “The Mindful Lawyer,” attorney Robert Zeglovitch highlights factors inherent in legal practice which make meditation a particularly useful discipline for attorneys. He writes that attorneys’ tendencies to suffer from stress-related health conditions and to be goal-oriented, driven by time, and judgmental, as well as their training to think their way out of problems, make them well-suited for meditation. Meditation forms a useful counterbalance for lawyers because it reduces stress, has no expected outcome, is focused only on the present moment, encourages the acceptance of things as they are, and emphasizes awareness as opposed to language-oriented thinking.
When someone suggests that they meditate, however, many attorneys probably think, “Yeah, right. Maybe in my next life.” Meditation seems esoteric and out of reach. Attending a yoga class or just doing a few yoga poses at home, however, is probably much more familiar. Yoga is a widely-accepted part of America’s fitness culture, and many attorneys are drawn to the physical benefits of working up a sweat in yoga class. But the benefits of yoga go far beyond those of ordinary exercise; they can be identical to those of meditation. When we view yoga as merely physical exercise, we miss the point of yoga, and we miss out on its true value. Perhaps the most important thing to understand about yoga is that it’s not a work-out in the traditional sense—it is a moving meditation.
The Yoga-Sutra, an ancient collection of aphorisms on yoga, defines yoga as the “restraint of the modifications of the mind-stuff,” or, put more simply, the calming of the thoughts that cloud our minds. I’ve heard others define it as the expansion of the space between our thoughts. As in meditation, in yoga we’re trying deliberately not to get caught up in our thoughts. The physical postures are an integral part of yoga, but they’re only a means to an end. The stilling of the mind is the goal of yoga. In fact, “asana,” a term commonly used for the physical yoga practice, literally means “to sit oneself.” Yoga postures prepare the body for sitting comfortably in meditation.
So how does one learn to meditate in yoga? Concentration on the rhythm of the physical postures helps still the mind. If sitting down and not thinking may seem strange or altogether impossible, especially if you’re in the middle of drafting a difficult motion or preparing for trial, go to a yoga class and simply concentrate on breathing in and out as you move through the poses. See if you can match one movement with one breath throughout your practice. Whenever your thoughts stray to work, notice them and then shift your focus back to your breath. You may be surprised to find that you did spend time not thinking about your case, and the next time someone tells you that you should try meditating, you can tell them you already do.
To view Robert Zeglovitch’s full article detailing the benefits of meditation for attorneys and providing useful resources for starting a meditation practice, go to: