If you’re into wellness trends, you’ve likely heard about alchemy meditation—and if you’re not, you might want to explore it anyway. That’s because alchemy meditation isn’t just a yoga studio favorite among celebs and their Malibu besties. It’s also a practice that actively tries to connect our bodies back to the planet. (Yay!)
To find out how alchemy meditation can work in real life (which is sometimes busy and messy!), we called Alex Sharry of Sky Ting Yoga. She’s an expert in the practice, and part of a growing group of fitness pros using breathwork and exercise to reconnect our bodies and emotions to the planet.
Here’s what Alex wants you to know about deep breaths, nature workouts, and why you should never be scared to bring your coffee to a workout.
PLANT YOURSELF. PHOTO BY CHELSIE STARLEY
Hi Alex! We keep hearing about alchemy meditation. What is it?
Well, alchemy is all about transformation through natural elements. And alchemy meditation uses a metaphor: Let’s say your body's a piece of paper. Through movement like yoga poses, you can fold your body—temporarily—into a paper cup, like the kind you make in origami.
But not literally. (Right? That sounds difficult.)
No, you’re not going to try and bend your body into a cup! It’s more through the act of movement, you transform your body into something that can hold energy in a more concentrated, intentional way. And then it’s time to fill your cup.
Through breathwork! When you connect back to your breath, it’s like filling your cup with the elixir of the universe. That’s because in breathwork, you engage with your imagination, your physical body, and your environment all at once. And once your cup is “full,” you “drink” it through meditation. You absorb the energy you’ve helped create, and connect back into your body, your mind, and the planet on a deeper and more positive level. And that’s alchemy meditation. You empower your body and mind to become the cup, the liquid, and the act of nourishing yourself all at once.
Why do you think people are connecting so deeply with alchemy meditation?
I think because it has an emotional component as well as an environmental one. You know, breathwork can bring up a lot of memories—some wonderful, some very hard. Through an active meditation, you can use those memories as a tailwind that can get us where we want to be, emotionally and physically, in our lives… It’s really powerful to take the feelings and memories already inside you, and use them—really alchemize them, through moving your body and interacting with the air—to help propel us where we want to be in life… Through that process, we can start to look back on hard things with gratitude rather than the same old edge or angle of pain. It’s extremely empowering!
This sounds so cool, and also intimidating—especially if you don’t think you’re very “good” at yoga or meditation. How do you get over that block and just try it?
First of all, I am a certified yoga practitioner, and I need you to know that you do not have to be flexible to come to yoga. This is such a myth! If you can’t touch your toes, you still belong in yoga… And remember that nobody comes to yoga to stay the same. Everyone is here to change, and that change happens through small steps. Just start with the first step—move around a little and see how it goes.
What about people who are scared to meditate? (It’s me. I’m scared to meditate.)
It’s okay if you find it hard! Sometimes it is very hard. So I like to start by moving your body. Just by way of moving your body, you're going to leave feeling different having a transformative experience in the mind, because the mind and the body are inherently connected.
BIG STRETCH! PHOTO BY CHELSIE STARLEY
How does nature play a role in your wellness practice?
The practice I teach, Katonah Yoga, has roots in Taoism, which is aligned with the seasons. And what’s amazing about seasons is that they change.
Yeah, that’s their whole deal.
So no matter where you are whether it’s a creative process, an emotional process, a professional experience, or even in the middle of a yoga pose, you know that after winter comes spring. Things will get easier, lighter, more un-stuck… Likewise, if you’re experiencing exhaustion, you can think about how after summer comes fall—we begin to let go, shed some weight, take a rest. You will too. By using seasons as a guideline for mapping our personal experiences, they can feel less arbitrary, random, and out of control… Things grow. Things fade. Things die. Things return… Nature shows us that path to acceptance and resilience again and again.
Can I bring a latte to my yoga class?
Yeah, sure! You know, something I despise is the idea that “wellness” means perfection. That’s not true! The original yogis were fierce counter-culturalists who could honestly give a sh*t about being perfect… When you get stuck on that idea of perfection, you freeze. You can’t change. You set yourself up to fail. Come on… People are like, “My body is a temple,” but I believe that’s a mistake. In Katonah Yoga, your body is your house. You can’t live in a house and not touch anything. You have to get comfortable to fully live somewhere, and life is messy sometimes. If you want Starbucks before class, do it.