Archive for the ‘Yoga/Meditation’ Category
Practicing Yoga Actually Saves You Time
There’s been a lot in the media lately about the many benefits derived from yoga. They’re saying it helps reduce stress and even helps build flexibility, strength and endurance. Yes, you might be interested, but you can’t imagine adding yet another activity into your busy and often hectic schedule.
If you’re not getting as much sleep as you want and if you often awaken feeling unrefreshed, the last thing you probably need is putting something else on your plate.
But maybe there’s an angle you haven’t thought of: Yoga when appropriately practiced not only helps reduce the ravages of stress; it not only helps repair damage done by previous injury; it not only helps the body cope with ageing itself; but a 30-minute-a-day yoga practice can actually reduce the amount of sleep you need each night by up to twice the amount of time you spend doing it. There’s no magic why: Stress and trauma have an amazing affect upon the soft-tissue structures of your body. They cause it to contract.
Soft-tissue contraction is nature’s way of protecting us. Once your body is over-stressed (which is in itself a form of trauma), nature tries to make you limit your activities so that you don’t go out and worsen your condition. In other words, when you are traumatized, areas of your body stiffen up.
But wait. There’s more! Have you noticed when you’ve experienced more than your share of injuries, your body becomes increasingly stiffer with each and every “trauma.” Stress and injuries aside, have you noticed that normal ageing stiffens your body? Then add stress or trauma to the mix…and stiffness intensifies.
Trauma therefore, doesn’t have to be physical. Have you noticed that emotional stress also causes your body to tighten, especially in and around areas of previous injury?
As you continue to age, both physical and emotional stress produces the same contracting consequences; and in so doing, creates a double-whammy on your body.
Firstly, when soft-tissue contracts, your body’s transport system cannot adequately circulate nutrients and oxygen. The more contracted the tissue, the more additional resources are required beyond what your body normally needs.
Secondly, in order to compensate for reduced nutrients caused by soft-tissue contraction, your body automatically adjusts by making everything else work harder. This results in increased susceptibility to illness and increased fatigue.
Not withstanding previous and current injuries, it’s understandable that the older and stiffer you become, the more your body becomes exhausted by the end of the day. Its no wonder you need as much sleep as you do and why you often wake up feeling tired.
An appropriate yoga practice helps reduce soft-tissue stiffness while it enhances overall circulation. As circulation improves, your body no longer requires the same amount of sleep which was needed trying to mitigate the lack of resources caused by soft-tissue contraction. Consequently, as your body requires less energy output to get you through your day, you require less sleep and you’ll awaken feeling more refreshed.
Managing Negative Mental Health through Yoga
Mental health disorders are on the rise throughout the world. This results in anxieties, fears, depression, inferiority and similar emotions. Therefore, learning the management of negative mental health is a must for all of us.
Yoga offers comprehensive solutions for managing this negative mental health.
Before discussing how to manage, we must understand the genesis of negative conditions in the mind. According to yoga, all negative emotions take root from the matter present in the subconscious. But how does this matter enter the subconscious?
The basic cause of this is attachment. We humans develop attachments to persons, things or emotions. This attachment raises desires and expectations. These desires ultimately lead to tensions, frustrations and conflicts. This affects the ego, which feels insecure. As a defense mechanism, the ego represses such emotions into the subconscious so that the mind is peaceful again.
However, these repressions are not dead. They are after all repressed feelings. They remain active in the subconscious resulting in the negative emotions we talked of earlier – anxieties, depression, aggression and fear.
Therefore, the solution lies in preventing the build up of such repression in the subconscious and then also addressing the existing repressed garbage to gradually take it out of the system.
The yoga way
Yoga has techniques of ‘Pratyahara’ that work both as a preventive and a curative. ‘Pratyahara’ literally means dissociation or withdrawal of sensory awareness from the external world
In this, the practitioner is guided to become a ‘witness’ to the inputs and the workings of the mind. By sitting quietly or lying down, you are encouraged to internalize all your awareness to observe the happenings by detaching the ego or the ‘I’.
The specific ‘Pratyahara’ techniques include Antar Mouna, Yoga Nidra and Ajapa Japa. These techniques work both as a preventive and a curative.
At the preventive level, they interrupt the mechanism of repression and so restrict the rubbish that goes into the subconscious. By developing the witness attitude, the ego becomes detached, so it does not feel insecure. As a result, the need for repression goes away. Hence, the subconscious is not fed with the negative thoughts and this prevents build up of anxieties.
At the curative level, the mind is internalized and encouraged to play with its own contents. As the thoughts get provoked up into the conscious level, the deep repressed impressions come up. These are again witnessed without ego attachment. As a result ego does not feel insecure and the need to repress these impressions does not remain. As a result they are NOT sent back for recycling at a later date. Instead they are thrown out of the system for good.
As such impressions are progressively thrown out, the mind gradually becomes unburdened and forms a clean ground for fresh positive thoughts. This results in mental quietness and peace.
Understanding the meditation process
Meditation can be described as a continued, unbroken awareness of the mind in its raw state. It involves the overcoming of distractions and dissipated energies into a blissful awareness.
Let us look at it this way – at any point of time we are consumed with countless thoughts and emotional baggage at the conscious and subconscious level. This prevents us from experiences true, uninhibited bliss. Bliss will result from an expanded awareness of the happenings without any attachments and bondages whatsoever.
Meditation is a process which equips us with tools to experience this bliss. It shows us the path to live everyday life using these tools.
People who meditate realize that they experience a beautiful inner space as they disengage from the outside world and go deep into themselves. They get detached from their ego and the emotional bondage to experience this feeling. But as soon as they come out of it, they return to their ‘personality shapes’. These shapes are accompanied by learned patterns of behavior and thinking about who they are and what they can or cannot achieve.
We must strive to relate these two states – the higher meditative state and the daily conscious state. At any point of time, we should be aware of our ‘higher state’. Meditation is mind management and helps us do that.
What meditation does:
Meditation helps us overcome our manifold desires and distractions. It does so NOT by curbing desires – which will always be there – but by rendering them inconsequential in front of an unbroken and larger desire of existence. The more we can hold onto the memory of the meditation practice, the easier it is to pull yourself back from the endless desires.
Meditation teaches us to be a ‘witness’. While we are meditating, we are detached and enjoying the moment. But the moment we finish, we lose it and return to our distracted state. So, we need to develop a meditative lifestyle. This lifestyle will help us observe and understand why we oscillate between the calm meditative state and our daily state of mind. We then understand what patterns of our lifestyle disturb our calm, blissful state.
Important prerequisite for meditation:
For successful meditation, we must be ‘grounded’. Grounding is that anchor that helps us to be stable in the meditative process. Normally, grounding can be anchoring to your breath or your body movement while in the meditative state. It can happen that as you proceed in meditation, you reach a stage of unknown where you have no confidence to proceed further. At such a time, grounding is of great help as it provides a memory of where you are and what you are doing. It provides a stability to rest upon as energies start to change while proceeding in meditation.
How to use meditation:
In meditation, we should develop the capacity to use our energy to manipulate our mind and how we feel. We should be able to understand what is going on at our deeper levels. Only when we understand the issues can we tackle them and take them out as a distraction to our calm being.
In ‘Antar Mouna’ there are stages to do this. In stage 1 we witness the sensory information. In stage 2, we witness the spontaneous thoughts. In stage 3, we create thoughts that need to be tackled. Stage 4 deals with grappling with unconscious forces as they arise.
As you see, meditation is a time to work upon ourselves, to tackle issues that prevent us from being in a perpetual meditative state – one thatis without fear, anxiety, insecurity and desire.
Once we develop a meditative state we can see the strongest of emotions for what they are and deal with them in a calm confident manner.
Understanding the Power of Mantras
EVERY matter – from the tiniest DNA strand in us to the largest of continents – is in a state of constant vibration resulting in the emission of subtle sounds.
The great teachers of ancient times had the power to listen to the subtlest of these sounds. They discovered that specific sounds energized specific portions of the brain thereby awakening extraordinary powers (Siddhis). They used these sounds to form sacred words that are called Mantras.
Mantras have a profound impact upon us due to two reasons:
- The vibration effect of the sound; and
- The effect of the collective emotional energy behind that word due to constant repetition over time.
Benefits of Mantras
Mantras act upon our bodies by reprogramming the vibrations of the cells that have somehow gone askew. They restore the pattern of sounds at the heart of each and every cell, thus pushing the cells toward harmonious health.
Mantras affect not only our physical body but also our subtle body – our emotions, intellect and soul. They positively affect our aura – the energy shields surrounding our body.
Energy of a Mantra
We hear any word and have an emotional reaction to it. This is because we are conditioned by OUR experiences connected to that word AND the collective emotions that people have towards that word.
As an example, the word “mother” when spoken with deliberation, evokes an emotional energy realignment. Just imagine the power of sounds repeated billions of times, with great collective devotion and over centuries!
These sounds form the heart of Mantras and deeply influence the energy alignment within us.
Repetition of a Mantra is a powerful way of keeping us in the Present and stilling our “monkey mind”, which is forever jumping uncontrollably from one thought to another.
The moment we inculcate the practice of being “intensely” present – with neither any ‘baggage’ of the subconscious past nor the remotest anxiety of the future – we, then, automatically experience great peace, profound silence and supreme joy!
This, in fact, is the process and goal of meditation and using mantras is a very effective way to achieve it!
Using Japa Malas for Meditation
Repetition of a mantra is called Japa and a Japa Mala is a string of beads used to count the repetition of a mantra.
The act of turning the beads while recitation of the mantra is extremely effective in keeping you in the present. Equally important is that it keeps you ‘grounded’ as you advance in meditation and helps you continually gain from the material properties of the beads.
As you do Japa, you will invariably encounter wandering thoughts even as you repeat the Mantra mechanically. In such a case, gently refocus without getting agitated. The beauty of a Mantra is that EVEN a mechanical repetition exposes you to the benefits of the sacred sounds.
There are various Mantras and Japa mala beads that you can use to make your meditative journey relatively smooth. These mantras and malas depend upon your individual mind and body type. They are either provided by a Guru or can be selected by yourself depending upon your intuitive sense of what ‘feels right’ for you – which is often the best way.
In conclusion, Mantras are one of the most effective ways to experience supreme bliss and freedom from the bondage of the uncontrolled mind.