Thursday, May 29, 2014

Meditation: For relaxation, Health and other Benefits...My Musings

A common question is put by my Yoga Students. The Question is:  What they should expect from Yoga?

In order not to thrust my views on them, I put a counter question : As a Student and a Yoga enthusiast, what health benefits you want from Yoga and what body limitations (Health conditions) you consider as obstacles ?

In short, I try to probe my students' understanding of Yoga, and their expectation with yoga?

9 out of 10 of my students want relaxation and health from yoga. That apart, their basic understanding of Yoga limits at Asana practice only. That's when they say Yoga, they visualize themselves as doing some difficult Yoga asanas or Yoga Postures.

They are not very wrong. But they're not very correct either.

Yoga is not the union of mere body parts. It's much beyond that. Yoga is the science of bringing mind, intellect and Body in line with higher consciousness (What ever one wants to call it). And one way to achieve this is meditation.

There are various aspects of yoga. Meditation for instance, is taught to be for the mind. When the fact of the matter is, it's the science of bringing mind, body, awareness in line to the higher consciousness. When mind is peaceful and focussed , a visible result of meditation , the General Well being is enhanced as well. The ancient Indian yogis and sages knew this link between mind and matter for physical well being.

In recent years, an increasing number of people have started accepting that mind can influence the mechanical body functions and the chemical balance of the body. The vital indicators of a sound body. If the mind is not at peace, or is in negative state/disturbed the body can't be healthy. As a matter of fact, the body is reflecting the state of mind. An imbalance in the state of mind can cause the imbalance in the body. In Ayurveda this is known as sickness. The very definition of Sickness by Ayurveda may seem simple, but as a Yoga teacher for close to two decades, I can say that, this definition is complete. According to ayurveda, an alternative medicine system,  imbalance in dosha/energy is the  root cause of diseases. Don't worry, I can vouch for this definition!

Tension,worry,anxiety are mainly responsible for restricting the free flow of energy within our bodies. Any dis-ease to the body affects the mind and this affects the Energy cycles. In Ayurveda , this causes sickness as the free flow of prana(vital force) throughout body is restricted . Note that the sickness (nausea, stiffness,pain etc.) are just the physical manifestation of the restriction in Energy Cycles.

Meditation (a key component of yoga) has been found to be highly effective as a complementary therapy in balancing the body energy system. It helps to create balance between right and left hemispheres of the brain which relate to the emotional and intellectual processes respectively.

That apart the link of Mind to Energy Cycles with in body, also means that meditation also enhances Body's defence against pathogens, or Body's immune system. A heightened immune system means the body's ability to restore itself all by itself.

According to the Covers Story in Times magazine August 2003 issue,

“Not only do studies shows that meditation is boosting immune system, but brain scans suggest that it may be rewiring their brains to reduce stress...Meditation is being recommended by more and more physicians as a way to prevent, slow or at least control the pain of chronic diseases like heart conditions,aids,cancer,infertility...scientific studies are beginning to show its works ,particular for stress related conditions.”

Not so visible Benefits of Meditation 

The moment you start meditating, the right way, you will instantly feel a sense of peace and harmony. But if that much is not enough for you. And if you want some real benefits of meditation, the one's which are less visible in the initial days, then here are they. Meditation has various biological benefits including regulation of blood pressure, stimulation of blood circulation, reduction in pain, and release in muscles tension, and even regulation of hormonal levels in body and blood. No wonder, Meditation is often vouched as the way to health.

The other benefits of meditation are improved concentration ,self confidence, increased energy level, self discipline, improved personal performance in one's profession , be it some day job, sports, business, art etc. In addition, the entire outlook towards the Life changes. The approach towards life becomes positive.

Why You must meditate?

Meditation practice brings relaxation. But comparing meditation with any traditional form of relaxation is not right. Meditation brings far greater benefits than simple relaxation . That said, you must start meditating, as meditation can be your road to personal efficiency, productivity and Success. Success in life and Success in any endeavor you take on. Meditation is all about having the ability to channel one's energies in a focused manner on things one wants to accomplish.

Some myths about Meditation:

1. No need to renounce one's beliefs:

It's often believed that in order to meditate, one has to renounce his/her held beliefs. This is a myth. You do not need to renounce your own beliefs. If you can focus on something, you can meditate. Hence any one can start meditating and reap the benefits of meditation.

2. Meditation is Time Consuming 

Learning how to meditate properly takes time , and there are no doubts about it. But Meditation itself is not time consuming. If a person can take out 10 minutes of peace for himself/herself, he/she can meditate. Meditation needs cooperation of  body and mind.

In order to prepare your body and mind for meditation, one has always the option to include some Yoga asanas and pranayama practice (Breathing Asanas), in the meditation regimen. Regular practice of asanas and breathing exercise remove toxins from the body and this helps in having better focus during meditation. Remember, an often ignored health indicator, a clear non-constipated body can have a big difference in the quality of meditation.

3. You need an Expert or Yoga Teacher to start meditating. 

Although, learning meditation from an expert is always better; but that doesn't mean you can't start meditation on you own. Meditation is the art of teaching the brain to remain fully occupied or focussed on one thing. If you successfully learn this focus , even for 10 minutes a day, you will start seeing a heightened focus in any task you do. While meditating, you have to sit in a relaxed posture and focus on something, such as some word.

According to scriptures Dawn and dusk are the best times for meditation but if it is not possible you can meditate any time and stick to the schedule.

Meditation brings with it truck loads of benefits. It's offers you exactly what you want. As my students say : Relaxation and Health.

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