Yoga is an ancient science that aims to create a balance between the body, mind and spirit, thereby curing physical mental and spiritual disorders that are caused by this imbalance. In common language, yoga means union; it’s a union of the individual consciousness with the super-consciousness. To be exact, yoga aims at reminding us of this union that already exists and has merely been forgotten. To put it simply, yoga is experiencing and knowing what already exists, not inventing anything new.
At the physical level, yoga can create a balance and harmony among the various organs and systems of the body, allowing the healing powers inherent in the body to work and cure physical ailments. At the mental level, yoga is the harmony between mind, heart and hands or between thought, speech and action. At the spiritual level, yoga aims to destroy the individual ego that stands between the individual and the cosmos, thus attaining the ultimate truth.
Yoga is essentially a set of systematically devised physical exercises that place emphasis on balance and posture. Combined with breathing exercises they have the capacity to cure almost any ailment of the body and mind. The underlying concept of yoga is to create the situation in which the human body can function at optimum capacity.
Yoga asanas or poses are simple and effective body movements that massage the muscles lubricate the joints and tone the whole body. Yoga poses help to keep the body healthy and the mind peaceful. Asanas exercise the nerves, glands, ligaments, and muscles. These exercises increase flexibility and balance in the body. Yoga poses refer to the sequence of exercises which is extremely important to get the best results. They are scientifically graded to move from the simple to the complex, to cure the body first and then move on to mental and spiritual goals.
Although you can start a yoga practice under the guidance of a yoga teacher, you can also learn to practice at home with the help of yoga videos online. Once you have learned the basic poses you can make yoga a part of your daily routine. It’s best to have a regular time and place for practicing yoga so that you can reap the benefits from it. After some time you will see a change in yourself. Your body will become strong, more flexible and healthy; you will have a positive attitude and your worldview on life will become beautiful; thus creating unification between mind, body, and spirit.
Most human problems and every stumbling block along the path to spiritual fulfillment are the result of one thing: clinging to attachments. For example, rather than seeing anger as a simple temporary feeling that will pass, we cling to it and don’t let go. It can quickly consume our entire lives, blocking the way to any type of peace or enlightenment. We consider desire to be an internal desire that must be acted upon, rather than seeing it as a simple feeling or thought that will pass if we only let it go. All of our thoughts and reactions to feelings become serious burdens, and we wrap ourselves totally up in those things, in essence making them part of ourselves. When we can't let go of these attachments, we become them.
In order to achieve spiritual freedom, you muѕt let go of everything that you consider to be part of yourself, especially the negative things. One of the greatest benefits of non-clinging is that even early in your path, you will recognize partial results and accomplishments. Learning not to internally identify with just a few emotions or thoughts will allow you to experience a little bit of lightness of foot, more joy and freedom walking through your life. Non-clinging will soon become its own reward, when you realize the benefits it affords.
However, be careful not to confuse non-attachment with detachment. Non-attachment is the opposite of detachment, because you muѕt consciously focus on a thought or emotion in order to release the attachment you have to it. Through non-attachment you can be free to love others, to be completely engaged in your life, your friends, your family, and your career. Through non-attachment you can detach yourself from the barriers in place that separate you from others and from the things that will complete you and fulfill you. By comparison, detachment serves to strengthen the cold, unfeeling barriers that separate you from your life.
If you feel hurt or slighted in some way, an entire army of emotions and negative thoughts may arise and persist for hours or even days. If you stop and observe your reactions to those thoughts, you will quickly see how you cling to them and how they affect your life. Through that observation you will be able to release the hold your reactions have on you by releasing your grip on them, and then they will go away all on their own. You will breathe easier, and you will feel free to respond or not respond do the situation that led to the thoughts in the first place. Your energies will be saved for more productive uses, such as seeking joy and nurturing mindfulness.
According to the Buddha, non-clinging is very valuable to all stages of achieving spiritual depth - the beginning, the middle, and the end of the path. The single price you have to pay to be fully unconditioned, open to the presence of God, is to give up all the things we are clinging to. We may actually catch a glimpse, if even for a moment, of the Divine power that can complete uѕ - if we are able to relinquish our attachments to things that do not matter.
"In the process of letting go, you will lose many things from the past, but you will find yourself." ~Deepak Chopra
Everything in life eventually ends. Our bodies, and the bodies of people we love, grow older, grow ill, slowly age, and eventually die. All of our material possessions are ultimately consumed by time. By the same token, passing emotions and situations that cause them will be entirely forgotten eventually. However, equanimity opens up our minds to timelessness, where there iѕ no death. Equanimity is created by our contact with the part of our soul that exists outside the time constraint. The peace that exists outside the world of time helps uѕ to embrace the world without the constraints of time.
Life itself can help you learn to release attachments and stop clinging. For example, when anger takes control of your mind, take the time to identify it, consider why you are angry, become aware of how much control it has over you, and simply let it go. Doing so can be extremely hard, and especially so when the anger iѕ great, but firmly taking control and releasing your hold on the emotion iѕ necessary if your goal is to free yourself and approach the Divine. Letting go of clinging to anger, fear, and greed iѕ an essential part of respecting yourself. Non-clinging is a spiritual practice that allows you to relax the ties that drag you down, relax your attitude, and release your grip on the bottom in order to reach for the top.
The word meditation refers to a range of techniques which control your thoughts, in order to strengthen your mind and improve your physical health. In order understand the misconceptions about meditation, and its numerous benefits, one has to understand how it works. There are different types of meditation techniques, each of which differ slightly from each other,, and have certain benefits of their own. Even though the techniques work on the mind of the person, the beneficial effects can be seen in the mind as well as the body.
How Meditation Works
A self-directed practice of relaxing the mind and body, meditation has been in practice for a long time. It works on a single principle that the mind is the key to overall health, therefore keeping the mind in control can ensure your overall well-being. While some forms of meditation involve focusing on a particular subject, others involve simple relaxation and allow the mind to do whatever it wants, without conscious efforts. While meditating, it’s important to have some degree of controlled breathing. Meditation teachers well versed with the concept suggest that meditation is not about finding solutions to a particular problem, but about changing our attitude towards them. The effects of meditation tend to differ from one individual to another. Below the effects оf meditation on our mind and body.
Effects on the Brain
Due to the changes in the breathing pattern, the supply of oxygen to the brain is reduced by 20 percent. The state of resting is something which we don’t attain when we sleep, as our brain continues to work when we are sleeping. Scientific studies have also revealed that meditating regularly can alter the way your brain is wired, and these alterations in turn helps to deal with a wide array of health problems, including stress and insomnia.
Effects on the Body
Meditation tends to decrease the activity of the nervous system, as the supply of oxygen is reduced. Many people want to know how how meditation reduces stress symptoms or how it helps with depression. These health problems are caused primarily by underlying factors associated with our mind. When we successfully treat these factors with the help of the meditation techniques for stress or depression, it indirectly helps in getting rid of the symptoms of these ailments. Regular meditation helps in curing a range of ailments, including insomnia, anxiety, etc. In fact, some recent studies even claim that this relaxation technique can help in keeping various ailments, including certain types of cancers, at bay.
These scientific explanations on the effects of meditation on our mind and body have helped in changing the popular belief that meditation is only associated with religion and spirituality. The scientifically backed health benefits of the practice have even prompted several medical practitioners to advise their patients to practice various techniques of meditation to maintain overall health. With all these benefits, meditation is undoubtedly one of the most effective tool of well-being - a necessity for us all in this fast paced world.
Note: The above article is for educational purposes only and should not take the place of your healthcare provider. If you or someone you know suffers from depression, insomnia, or any other ailments, seek the advice of a physician.
Yoga practice offers us the time to truly be with our breath. As we move through asanas (poses), our breath is there, offering the balance between breathing in and breathing out. Many times during yoga practice we are focused on our breathing, spending equal time and effort on the in-breath and the out-breath.
But the real question is, how can we focus on our breath off the mat too?
Breathing in signifies the doing that we have going on in our lives from work, school, taking care of our family, running errands; it’s our never-ending to-do list. When we are always doing (something), we are likely to feel stress. We can’t always handle the adrenaline in all this doing and not enough rest can become overwhelming for our bodies.
Breathing out represents the “being” in our lives: meditation, reading, spending time with a friend, napping, resting, taking a walk along the beach and so on. Breathing out is not only a reset for our body, but also the mind and spirit. Breathing out is when we can let go, and let in. Breathing out we do out of love, allowing us to care more deeply for ourselves.
Breathing in is busy.
Breathing out is quiet.
Breathing in is depleting.
Breathing out is nourishing.
According to yoga and Ayurveda, we need a balance in our lives between breathing in and out, just like our yoga practice. In fact, it is said that if we overemphasize breathing in in our lives, that we will eventually find that we are breathing out more and more in the form of sickness and disease. If we don’t stop to take a needed break, we may find we get that break whether we consciously want it or not.
Breathing out is more powerful when it is done consciously. While binge watching on Netflix may be enjoyable, it can numb rather than nourish. Breathing out activities reminds us of who we truly are. There is a sense of inner listening that defines breathing out. Do you like to write music or sing? Do you like to design or create art? Look towards those activities that replenish you, that feed you on a deeper level, where you become inspired and more yourself.
Here are some practices to consider:
Have a daily meditation practice
Practice Yoga Nidra
Write in a journal
Do a weekly oil massage (Abhyanga)
Go for a walk outside
Read that book you’ve been putting aside
Watch the sun rise or set
Spend more time with your spouse, significant other or friend
Om, or Aum, is the primordial sound of the universe or the vibration of creation. Om is both a sound and a symbol rich in religious meaning and depth. It is said to be both the sound of the creation of the universe, and the sound of silence. It represents both the highest level of divinity and the path to enlightenment. The chanting of this simple mantra can change your thoughts and emotions into a cohesive and graceful pattern. Traditional yoga says that the parts of the mantra Aum have a deep resonance that guides us to our essential natures. The rhythm of the sound works on a subconscious level to permeate the body’s inner rhythms. So whether or not you focus on the intellectual and metaphysical dimensions of Om, the vibration of the mantra can alter the dimensions of your meditation and yoga practice.
Om for Meditation
Patanjali, author of the yoga sutras, writes that chanting "om" while simultaneously contemplating its meaning guides the mind to one-pointed consciousness. This focused state of mind is considered ready for meditation. Author Richard Rosen suggests that chanting "om" may be the easiest way to touch the divine within yourself. Rosen also states that the om mantra actually consists of three letters: Aum. Aum can be chanted while focusing on the vibrations through the body. The resonance of the "a" can be felt in the abdomen, the "u" in the chest and finally the "m" vibrates in the head. By focusing on the physical vibrations in your body while chanting "om," you guide your mind to focus on one thing: the sound of "OM." The sensations in the body guide you through a simple meditation.
Om in yoga practice
Many yoga classes begin with the chanting of the sound of "Om." In this setting, it represents the beginning of the yoga practice and guides the students’ awareness not only to the external practice of yoga, but also the internal experience. When chanted before a yoga class, Om can guide the student to consider the practice as a moving meditation. The Om symbol is a popular icon for many yoga practitioners; the symbol is seen on T-shirts, yoga mats, jewelry, tattoos and various artwork. In Yogic tradition, many yoga teachers begin and end their classes by chanting Om in order to create harmony and unity between the students and teacher. Many believe that chanting Om in class or in private meditation aligns their own vibration with the sacred vibration of the universe, which provides a peaceful, calming effect and puts the practitioner in an peaceful frame of mind for yoga practice.
There are many opportunities in our everyday lives where we can add more yoga. Yoga is not just the physical practice on the mat, but it’s also who we are off the mat too! Here are 10 ways to incorporate the mental practice of yoga in your life:
1. Practice deep breathing when you’re on the train, stuck in traffic in your car, or doctor’s office. Place your hand on your lower stomach so you can connect deeper to your own breath and body, close your eyes and take deep breaths through the nose and into the belly. Breathe deeply.
2. Meditate on a plane, train or bus while travelling.
3. Practice peace, compassion and love; not only towards others, but to yourself as well. You can't be a loving, happy, healthy person if you don’t love yourself first. Be compassionate towards yourself even when you can’t quite accomplish that hard yoga pose (yet), practice one that feels right for your body and modify when needed!
4. When standing in line at the grocery store think of three things that you're grateful for. Express gratitude (whether verbally or mentally) before eating. Allow this to become a habit; it will help you cultivate gratitude in your life.
5. Practice Utthanasana (Standing Forward Fold) when you feel stressed. Utthanasana calms anxiety and brings more oxygen and nutrients to the brain.
6. Practice Viparita Karani (Legs Up the Wall pose) after exercise, work, or after sitting for extended periods. This pose has many benefits including regulating blood flow, calming anxiety, relieving head and back aches; just to name a few.
7. Eat for health, not for weight loss. Nourishing our bodies with healthy, wholesome food is essential for wellness and vitality. Incorporate more plant-based food in your diet like beans, lentils, nuts and grains. Eat lots of colorful fruits and vegetables along with healthy fats.
8. Counterbalance your daily activities. For example, do a chest opener after spending time on a computer, writing, or driving; most of our daily routines involve slumped shoulders and rounding of the back. Open your chest by practicing back-bends daily.
9. Practice inversions every day. Inversions are great for your health! Remember you don’t have to do fancy inversions like handstands, you can practice something as simple as Legs Up the Wall pose or even Child’s pose after a long day.
10. Be in the moment: turn off your phone, computer, or television and be open to the present moment. Spend some time (maybe a day) completely unplugged from the electronic world.
Meditation is a great way to unplug, take a break, and relieve stress and anxiety. It’s all about taking a break from everything: phone notifications, computer/tablet screens, talking, and even your own thoughts. Oftentimes, stress stems from over-thinking. Over-thinking can nag at you bringing upon worry that repeats itself over and over in your brain; which will thus cause anxiety. Meditation is one possible cure to this condition. For 5,10, 15, minutes, or more meditation helps put a healthy distance between you and all the problems swirling inside your head. Although it seems simple, meditation works. In fact, evidence shows that meditation is an effective tool against anxiety, stress, and panic disorder. Need more proof? Check out the above for more benefits of meditation.
A lot of people (including yogis) have questions on why they should meditate. Questions such as, Is meditation just another “fad”? Am I doing it the “right way”? or, what will I gain from practicing meditation?
We spend much of our days rethinking things we’ve already experienced or thought of or plan future scenarios that may or may not occur. We expend so much energy by allowing our brain and thinking mind to take over. In doing so, we lose connection with the source. Enter meditation. Meditation allows us to take the time quiet the brain. It allows us a time to reconnect with our higher selves and our higher purpose. We begin to stop allowing the caricature of life to play through our minds like a movie; we bring our focus to one thing only. That one thing is the present moment. By meditating, we not only connect with the Divine in ourselves and in the world, we make space for new, creative thoughts.
The first time you meditate, you likely will not experience any of that (you may, which is be great!). Instead, you will likely struggle with attempting to quiet the mind for perhaps the first time in your life. To help yourself, find a meditation instructor, use a guide to begin with, and follow these steps to lead yourself into meditation:
Go to a place dedicated to meditating where there are no other distractions. Begin with simple breathing exercises. Becoming aware of the breath is the fastest way to get yourself in the present moment.
Practice yoga asanas for 10 minutes to an hour to get your body relaxed and clear away any blockages or stale energy.
Sit in a “natural” position. This isn’t a straight spine as many believe. Feeling relaxed, yet sitting upward is key here.
Begin with a simple mantra meditation to keep your breath and mind focused. Only after you have become fully immersed in the one-pointedness of your meditation can you start to let go of the mantra and relax into your bliss.
Give thanks! to the Universe and to yourself, you did it!
You should meditate to give yourself the great gift of quiet, of connectedness and of peace. Even a few minutes a day will help bring your awareness to the non-thinking part of yourself. Ultimately, your meditation practice will give you not only the answers you seek, but also a calm and peaceful sense of just being..
“Dirty dishes, red lights, and traffic jams are spiritual friends on the path to “mindfulness”—the process of keeping our consciousness alive to our present experience and reality.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh
Mindfulness exercises come from thousands of years of traditions and Eastern practices of meditation. They have been devised to declutter the mind from its daily chores of mechanical living. By practicing mindfulness exercises, we can learn to focus our awareness/consciousness on the present moment without judging the thoughts that come in our mind. It's about letting the present become a reality in total consciousness and total awareness.
Exercises for Groups
According to researchers, meditation in groups is often very effective for beginners as the environment created in groups is perfect for everyone to meditate. Meditation is a mental activity that helps us to revitalize our minds. Just like exercise is necessary for our physical health, meditation is necessary for our mental health. Although meditation requires time and effort, its benefits are immense and they help our mind to be aware and focused in our daily lives.
Quieten the Mind:
Every passing second innumerable thoughts pass through our minds. By quietening the mind, one focuses all their attention away from daily problems and issues of life. Neither thoughts in the mind are resisted are they allowed to occupy the brain completely. One just witnesses the thoughts without judging them. Just letting the mind be still is the key for this exercise. Thoughts will arise, let them come in but don't let them interfere with your meditation. Just watch them pass like clouds in the sky; witnessing them. As you begin to distance yourself from these thoughts, they will slowly subside and you will experience serenity and peace of mind.
Focus on Your Breathing:
While watching the mind helps you to learn basic awareness skills, focusing on some object for a period of time helps to increase focus. Sitting quietly and relaxing your mind by breathing deeply. After some time, watch your breath with increased awareness while you inhale and exhale. As your awareness increases, your breathing system will be steady and you will be able to feel relaxed and focused.
Exercises for Kids
Since adults have benefited from clinical and medical observations of these exercises, children too can benefit from these exercises. Since training children can be difficult, they may get easily frustrated or distracted; therefore, it's best to teach these exercises in groups. Children should be encouraged to practice simple breathing exercises that will help them to establish а proper platform for further meditative practices.
Awareness About Breathing:
Children may not pay much attention to the most basic function their body, so it 's a good idea to start exercises that make them aware about their breathing patterns. Children should be taught to focus on their breath and not to change the rhythm, hold, nor inhale/exhale breath forcefully. Awareness should be the main focus. They can be asked to count 1, 2, 3... with every breath they inhale and exhale. This will keep them focused on the breath.
Awareness About Thoughts:
After children are aware about the present moment, their focus can be shifted to their thoughts and feelings. They can be asked to watch their rising thoughts and feelings without making any judgment or getting distracted by them.
Mindfulness exercises have gained popularity throughout the world and people have started practicing them for gaining more control with their emotional health. With regular practice, these exercises can be beneficial for those wishing to achieve holistic health.
It's a terrible feeling; you’re all tucked in bed, cozy, the room temperature is perfect, the lights are dimmed low, but you can’t seem to fall asleep no matter how hard you try! We’ve all experienced this at one time or another at bedtime. Nothing is more frustrating than that feeling. Many people experience this and end up groggy and lethargic the next morning. Whatever energy you have quickly diminishes throughout the day, and no matter how sleepy you are that night, you still have trouble sleeping. If you want to stay healthy, feel and look your best, consistent quality sleep is a necessity.
Thankfully, getting a good night’s sleep is easier than you think; and it doesn’t involve supplements or doctor visits. It is simply meditation techniques for sleep — an effective, natural solution for anyone who wants a more natural approach to achieve deep, rejuvenating sleep, and awaken feeling refreshed and recharged.
Effective Meditation Techniques for Sleep
The key to a good night’s sleep is relaxation. Meditation prior to bed is one of the best ways to relax your mind and body (those experiencing long term insomnia should consult their doctor if this persists). Below some techniques to try that may make falling asleep easier.
One of the simplest and most effective techniques is meditation music. Sleep comes easily if you listen to soft, soothing music just before bed. While listening to this music, perform simple breathing exercises to bring your breathing to а stable rhythm. This is great for stress relief as well as, making you more calm and relaxed. A suggestion would be to use а CD player with а remote control so that you can turn it off when you’re ready to sleep or plugging your earphones into your mobile phone and relaxing with a meditation app that offers music for sleep.
"BY [MEDITATING] EACH NIGHT, SLUMBER CAN BECOME A REALITY INSTEAD OF A ‘DREAM.’” —ORA NADRICH
This technique involves your imagination. To begin, get into а comfortable position in your bed. Once you’re comfortable, try a slow breathing exercise to relax your mind and body. A relaxed mind, devoid of thoughts, is capable of vivid imagination. Clear your mind and picture yourself in а place which represents peace and quiet to you. Continue to imagine yourself in this place, doing an activity that helps to keep you calm. This technique can also involve another person as a guide too. This person can guide you through your journey to this peaceful place. Keep in mind, the place that you imagine should be your own idea. Choosing to be in а place that someone else is imagining will not help you because what’s peaceful for person may not be for someone else.
This technique requires а fair amount of concentration. To begin, get in а relaxed position, this can be your bed or even a comfortable reclining chair. Close your eyes, and slowly begin to sense each part of your body (this is called full body scan). Start at the top of your head all the way down to your feet. While doing this, begin to feel the blood coursing through your veins. Feel the circulation. Now, slowly begin to feel your pulse in every part of your body. As you feel your pulse, recognize the warm sensation that is flowing throughout your entire body. As you recognize this you will feel а tingling sensation in every part that your mind is picturing. Once your entire body has been scanned, open your eyes. You should feel much more relaxed and ready for a good night’s sleep.
Muscle Contraction and Relaxation
This is yet another simple and effective technique for sleep. Begin with your toes, squeeze them for about ten seconds and then release. Feel the sensation. Repeat this technique, moving upwards in your body, alternatively squeezing and relaxing the muscles. This method helps to increase and improve blood circulation helping you to unwind from the day and thus aiding in sleep.
These were just some meditation techniques to help you relax and drift off to sleep. By trying one of these tonight you will see how refreshed you will feel tomorrow morning.
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