In this post, we learn how to meditate, the yoga poses that will help in meditation, pranayama before we start to meditate, meditation Benefits and even what is meditation.
Today every man is suffering from despair, sadness, and frustration. The man himself is responsible for the pitiable state that he is in. All his efforts are aimed to achieve material success and see the irony that the same material prosperity has brought along with it frustrations, despair, mental tensions and lot of diseases. Many years ago, Sage Kapila formulated the system of Samkhya yoga, to bring happiness to the neurotic and the confused. Sage Patanjali later modified Kapila’s philosophy and his Yoga Sutras define yoga as the science of mental control, and of control over all patterns of personality and behavior.
Though the present time is different from that time, nothing much has changed in man’s thinking. He needs treatment of his thinking or in a broader prospect, his mind. And meditation is the best answer to all his despair.
What is Meditation And How To Do It
Meditation is that technique in Yoga, through which we are able to view our problems in proper perspective. Through this technique, we are able to realize that our disappointments, our unhappiness, and other problems are internal, self-made. Through meditation, we learn to discover our inner self, to achieve inner harmony.
Sage Patanjali has put meditation as that state of mind “when it becomes free from the awareness of subjective and objective experience”. This is the highest state of meditation and is meant for the spiritual aspirant. But in the present format, where it is used as a technique of relaxation and also in therapeutic applications, several techniques of meditation are used for the purpose.
How different paths of Yoga play role in meditation
To enter into the realms of meditation, one should first practice Hatha Yoga, so that the body can be strengthened. Then the practice of Karma Yoga is essential to purify the mind and free it from the effects of Samskaras. By practicing Bhaktiyog, especially by chanting mantras and singing kirtan in the praise of Lord, the stability of mind can be achieved. These steps form the base of meditation.
How To Do Meditation
The best time to practice meditation is either during early morning (morning meditation) hours or at the time when the sun is setting. In the morning, the body is stiff because of the deep rest and continuous sleep during the night. In the evening or at night, when we come after doing the day’s work, the body and mind are strained. In such conditions, the flow of Pranas is blocked. The practice of three asanas can help regulate the supply of the Pranas throughout the body.
Asanas Before Meditation
Tadasana opens up joints and stretches each part of the body. Tiryak Tadasana contract one side of the body, and at the same time stretches the other side. This result in proper blood circulation in both the sides of the body. Kati Chakrasana squeezes the body in general, removing the obstructions in the supply of pure blood throughout the body.
Pranayama Before Meditation
After practicing the three asanas, the practice of three pranayamas will help in preparing mind ready for meditation. The three pranayama are –
Kapalbhati sharpens the brain and removes lethargy from the mind. The imbalance of the nervous system is the biggest obstacle in the practice of meditation, and by removing this obstacle by Nadi Shodhana pranayama, a balance is brought in the nervous system. Bhramari Pranayama gives relaxation to the body, brain, senses and nervous system. It makes the mind introverted. The three pranayama increases concentration and brings peace to the mind.
After control over the restlessness of body and mind has been achieved by the above practice, next step should be to separate and isolate the mind from the external disturbances. Here Pratyahara comes into the picture. Pratyahara tackles the problems of stress right at the very sense organs which are the source of external disturbances. It is through the sense organs that our mind is bombarded with a continuous flow of ‘data’ from the outside world.
Kaya Sthairyam Meaning
Kayasthairyam is one such practice of Pratyahara. Kayasthairyam means physical stability and is one of the preparatory practices of Meditation.
Sit in any meditation posture, preferably Padmasana or Ardh-Padmasana or even Sukhasana. Become aware of the external environment. Become aware of all the surrounding sounds one by one, without getting involved in any of them. Maintain a detached awareness while doing so. Next become aware of the entire body, all parts of the body in a sequential manner. If any part of the body moves, may be for any reason, simply become aware of it. The attitude should be that I am fully aware of my body. Even if some part of my body moves, I am fully aware of this fact too. After some time, the movement stops. The consciousness enters deep into the body. It becomes aware of every subtle process taking place inside the body e.g. blood circulation, heartbeats, vibration in the nerves etc.
So, first by becoming aware of the external environment, the obstructions of the external environment are removed and then by becoming aware of the physical and subtle processes of the body, the obstruction of these processes is removed.
Some other practices of pratyahara are Japa, Ajapa Japa, and Antar Mouna.
For Japa, a mantra is the first requirement. A mantra is a grouping of sound vibrations which have an effect on the mental and psychic consciousness of man. It is important to know that the Mantras that are suggested for Japa have not been written by any sage or saint, but these are the sound vibrations which were heard by them in their higher state of consciousness. In Japa, the Sadhaka or the practitioner has to chant the mantra unabated. The mind becomes concentrated and relaxed, which bring all the physical and mental faculties of man to their most efficient working state.
In general, Japa becomes Ajapa (spontaneous) Japa when the mantra automatically repeats itself without conscious effort. There is a practice prescribed by Yogis for Ajapa Japa. The practice of Ajapa Japa will eventually bring all hidden desires, fears, and complexes of the mind to the mental surface. Ajapa Japa relieves the mind of all tensions, which in turn removes the root cause of most physical and mental ailments.
The practice of Ajapa Japa
Sit in any meditation posture. Keep the spine erect, close the eyes and relax. Become aware of the natural and spontaneous breathing process. Try to develop total awareness towards the flow of breath. Combine the Mantra with the flow of breath. On every inhalation, both the Mantra and consciousness also goes in with the breath. On every exhalation, both the Mantra and consciousness also comes out with the breath. It is not necessary that one Mantra should be completed in one breath. Whether it is finished before the breath or unfinished in a breath, continue chanting it with the breath. Once the mind gets absorbed in the Mantra, then the practice of Ajapa Japa is established.
Whenever a Japa is practiced, a symbol is required to stabilize and fix the mind and stop it from wandering. But the practice of Ajapa Japa does not require any symbol, as the natural and spontaneous breathing process itself become a base for the practice.
Pratyahara is followed by Dharna, which means higher concentration. Many thought schools put Ajapa Japa itself as one of the practices of Dharna. Many put trataka, visualization, psychic symbol, Chidakasha Dharana, nada yoga, prana vidya, Tattwa Shuddhi, as a practice of Dharna, all of which lead to one-pointed concentration
After the practice of Pratyahara, the practice of Dharana leads to a higher level of concentration of mind. This higher level of concentration opens the door to meditation. At this level, one more aspect which remains to be dealt with is the working of the rational and irrational mind, which works in the form of thought, will or desire. The practice of Antar Mouna should be done here.
Antar Mouna is practiced in five different stages –
- The first stage involves the awareness of all outside sounds as well as other sensory perceptions such as smell or touch.
- In the second stage, we withdraw ourselves from all outside stimuli and become aware only of the workings of our mind: what it is thinking, how it is reacting, and what images are surfacing from the subconscious.
- In the third stage, it is the conscious development of a particular thought or image at will.
- In the fourth stage, we develop spontaneous thoughts.
- In the fifth stage, we suppress or remove all thoughts to become aware of the inner silence.
This stage is followed by the state of Dharana or one-pointed concentration. The practice of Dharana then leads to a state of mind where a state of vacuum is reached in mind.
And then starts the real meditation.
Meditation and Metabolism
One of the changes that take place in the body during meditation is the slowing down of the metabolism, i.e. the rate of breaking down and building up the body. There is a sharp reduction in the oxygen consumption and the carbon dioxide output. Up to 20% decrease in oxygen consumption during meditation have been measured because the respiration rate is slower. The reduced metabolic rate is due to the control over the involuntary nervous system which has been developed through meditation.
Meditation and Blood Pressure
Meditation also influences the blood pressure, which drops much lower than normal, both during and after meditation. Meditation is the perfect method of reducing the lactate level and, consequently, of reducing blood pressure and also anxiety levels. Medical tests show that the level of lactate is higher during stress, anxiety, and neuroses than when the individual is calm and tranquil.
Meditation and Heart Rate
During mediation, the heart rate slows down, while the blood flow increases. The Sympathetic nervous system plays its role by constricting blood vessels, which in turn reduces the blood flow. During meditation, the activities of the sympathetic nervous system are reduced, and the constriction of the blood vessels is automatically decreased, resulting in a greater flow of blood.
Meditation and Relaxation
The stressful, competitive, modern way of life is such that an individual is always tense, in a state of fear, liable to large mood fluctuations and dissatisfied. This causes prolonged stimulation of adrenal gland and sympathetic nervous system and can lead to high blood pressure, diabetes, coronary thrombosis, peptic ulcer or a host of other ailments. The sure method to prevent or cure these ailments is to completely relax the whole body and mind through meditation.
It Is A Holistic Treatment For Stress
The deep state of relaxation achieved through meditation helps the body processes recuperate to their normal level of activity.
Thus one can say that the aim of the meditation is to break down existing complexes, phobia, and prejudice-riddled mental program and replace it with a purified mental program.