Meditation requires sitting in comfortable stillness. In stillness, one is able to detach from the sensory and motor channels of experience and direct the awareness to the deeper levels of consciousness.
Movement provokes unneeded stimulus thus causing the mind to wander and to break concentration. Vrittis or waves are formed in absence of stillness that causes fluctuations in the body-mind complex, making meditation a difficult practice.
To attain the state of stillness, one can train the body and mind through asanas and pranayam. The preparatory practices allow one to slip into the state of deep meditative relaxation. In sage Patanjali’s yogsutra that mentions eight limbs or steps of yoga; asanas and pranayam form the third and the fourth component, precursor elements to the meditation which occupies the seventh place.
Mind, body and breath
The body, mind and breath are connected. This is noticeable by witnessing the breath at different emotional and mental states that you go through during your waking hours. How is your breath when you are nervous or anxious? How is it when you are relaxed or in the state of contentment? Move from the breath and witness the bodily changes when you are angry, excited or crying. Also, note how your body and mind respond when you become aware of your emotions and thoughts.
Awareness is the key to the self. It unlocks you. For awareness, self-observation is necessary. Are you aware that while reading this article, you are also breathing?
Asanas are done with awareness and in the rhythm of the breathing cycle. As one can easily notice, any muscular tension in the body changes the rate and rhythm of the breath. You, your body, your mind, your breath are all connected. Doing asanas slowly and comfortably brings the energy flow to the internal organs, glands and muscles to relax the organs and the nerves. Asanas or postural patterns integrate the mind and body. Asanas release mental tensions dealing with them at physical level through body to the mind and vice versa.
Pran is the cosmic life force or the vital energy. It is more than the literal translation of ‘breath’, breath control or infusion of oxygen in the body. Pranayam techniques activates and regulates the life force to attain higher state of awareness. Pranayam practices energise the nadi system or the subtle energy channels, purifying, regulating and amplifying the life force. This induces physical and mental stability promoting the state of required stillness for meditation.
Breathing techniques help one to get rid of several mind-body ailments as well. More often than not, there is a tendency to breathe incorrectly and use only a small part of the lung capacity. This is due to lack of awareness of the breathing process. Incorrect breathing causes dis-ease in the body.
In pranayam, with awareness, one engages in rhythmic, deep and slow inhalation-exhalation, thereby stimulating a calm and content state of mind. And a calm mind in turn, stimulates a deep and long respiration. As the natural rhythms of the mind and body are restored, dis-eases are eliminated, when ease returns.
When asanas and pranayam are done with conscious awareness, it establishes a connection between the conscious and subconscious mind. This is when positive affirmations are most effective and this is the state when self-healing is possible.
As articulated earlier, the mind-body complex is one. Every physical, muscular knot has a corresponding mental or emotional knot. Stiffness in the body is due to blocked pran and accumulation of the impurities of thoughts and emotions. When the body is infused with energy or pran, the impurities are removed. Pran is visible on the physical plane as motion and action, and on the mental plane as thought (Swami Sivananda).
So, when the thoughts and actions are purified, tranquillity is attained and this allows meditation to become an easy, effortless and joyous practice.
Disclaimer: Urmila Rao is a chakra balancing meditation coach, Theta Healer and a sound therapist. All the ideas expressed herein are her own and not professional advice or medical prescription. She can be reached at: email@example.com.