Mediation & Relaxation……
When was the last time you took time from your tight schedule to notice how your body was feeling? When thinking about this question, discount any instance you may have noticed a headache coming on, or any instance you may have ‘felt’ tired. Having discounted the above, how many times in a day would you say you notice your body or its inner functionality? Are you noticing how your mind and body feels right now, while you are sitting, lying down, or standing?
Buddhists compare the mind to a monkey swinging uncontrollably from one branch to the other; indeed, our mind tends to swing from plan to memory, sight to sound, thought to emotion; without ever calming or settling down at one place. In our day-to-day life, we often experience sudden stress or threats. Our bodies respond to these stresses and potential threats with the “fight or flight” response by releasing epinephrine and norepinephrine from the adrenal glands, causing an increase in pulse rate, blood pressure, faster breathing and an increase of blood flow to the body muscles. Whenever your body activates the “fight or flight” response in instances that pose zero-danger or non-life-threatening situations, you experience a false alarm. Persistent ‘false alarms’ can lead to stress related disorders such as high blood pressure, insomnia, heart disease, headaches, and sexual dysfunction.
Practising meditation helps control daily stress, decrease anxiety, boost your cardiovascular health, and attain a greater level of relaxation. The nature of our ‘monkey mind’ and the insistent triggers of our flight or fight responses especially in instances that don’t call for it can often times tax, and stress or body. When the body is in a state of stress, the mind and cannot achieve symbiosis. The state of mind and body makes it extremely difficult to quiet insistent worry. Therefore, relaxation, before, and during meditation is essential to a successful practice. Unfortunately, the state of relaxation before and during meditation is elusive. This doesn’t mean that it is impossible to achieve a state of relaxation. So how do you do it?
Meditation: How to Relax Before, and During Meditation
For millennia, sages and yogis have been emphasizing that your mind, body, and heart are one seamless and indivisible whole. The more your thoughts leap from worry to worry, the more your body responds by tensing and tightening; particularly, in key places such as the heart, the belly, the solar plexus, and the throat. At a very intense level, this tension and tightening manifests as emotions of anger, fear, or sadness. The ability to relax is synonymous with the act of meditating. Indeed, meditation will relax your body and mind. Unfortunately, many instances may make relaxing before and during mediation a struggle for many. To achieve relaxation before, during, and after meditation…
Before If you’re having trouble relaxing before your meditation session, do the following:
Visualize a Relaxing Shower: Visualize taking a warm shower. As the water flows across your body and down to your legs, imagine it carries with it all the stress and discomfort within your body, leaving you invigorated and refreshed.
Honey Treatment: Visualize a mound of warm honey being perched around your head. As it melts, it runs down your head, face and neck covering your chest, shoulders, arms and gradually enveloping your entire body including your toes. Feel the sumptuous wave of warm fluid draining away all the stress and tension and leaving you completely renewed and relaxed.
Peaceful place: Visualize being in a safe, peaceful, and protected place. This can be a forest, a sandy beach or a meadow. Use all your senses to familiarize yourself with your chosen place fully. As you notice how relaxed and calm you feel, allow that feeling to infuse with every cell in your body.
Body Scan: Starting from your head, scan your body from the top to the bottom. When you reach to an area you feel some tension or discomfort, slowly allow it to open and soften; then move on.
Relaxation Response: Choose a brief phrase, a word, or a prayer that has deep significance to you. Then close your eyes and keep on repeating that sound softly repeatedly. The above visual exercises should help you to ease all tension within your body and allow you to feel relaxed before entering the state of meditation.
When you’ve exercised any of the above exercises for 4-5 minutes, try the following deep relaxation techniques that should relax your body more and allow you to go deeper into the state of meditation.
How to Relax During Meditation: Deep Relaxation Exercises
These meditation techniques will leave you refreshed, relaxed and totally in touch with yourself.
1: Body Scan Meditation: Body scan meditation works on tensing and relaxing your body muscles. You can practice this technique either by, lying down, or by sitting on a comfortable spot. The main key to nailing this deep relaxation exercise is taking deep breathes first, then proceeding to tense and relax every muscle in a methodical order.
Sit in a comfortable, relaxed, and supported position. Close your eyes and rest as you pay attention to your natural rhythm of breathing. Once you have settled your mind and body, be aware of your body as a whole. Notice your body resting and supported by the chair, floor or pillow. Focus your attention on various parts of your body. You can start with your toes, feet, legs, abdomen, back, all the way to your chest, arms, down to your fingers, shoulders, neck, face (all parts of face) and head. In every part of your body, linger for a while and be aware of the different sensations as you focus. When you notice your mind wandering, refocus your attention back a part of the body.
2: Deep Breathing Meditation: The idea behind deep breathing meditation is to breathe deeply from your abdomen, getting as much air as you can in your lungs. When you breathe deeply from your abdomen instead of your upper chest, you inhale more oxygen; the more oxygen you inhale, the less tense and anxious you feel.
Find a quiet place and sit comfortably with your back straight. Place one hand on the chest and other on your belly. Inhale through your nose, making sure that the hand on your chest is rising and the hand on your belly is making very small movements. Breath out through your mouth, pushing out as much air as possible while your abdominal muscles contract. Ensure that the hand on your belly is moving while the other one moves very little. Continue to inhale through your nose while you exhale through your mouth. Breathe in such a way that your abdomen raises and falls. Slowly count as you breathe out. In case you find it hard to breathe from your abdomen while sited, lay on the floor and exercise with a book on your stomach, so you can see it rise while inhaling and fall while exhaling.
3: Visualization Meditation Technique: Visualization (guided imagery) is a meditation technique requiring you to apply visual sense and your senses of smell, touch, hearing, and taste. As a relaxation technique, it works better when you involve imagination of a scene that makes you feel at peace and free to let go of all anxiety and tension.
In a quiet and relaxed place, close your eyes and allow your worries to drift away. visualize your restful place by vividly picturing it as much as you can; see, smell, hear, feel and taste everything. Tip: Visualization technique works best when you incorporate at least three sensory details of your senses. Choose imagery that appeals to you; avoid selecting images just because you think they are appealing. Instead, let them appear to you automatically. For instance, if you are visualizing a dock on a calm lake:
Walk around the dock noticing all the colors and textures around you. Take your time to explore all your senses. See the sun rays setting on the water. Hear the voice of the birds chirping on top of pine trees Smell the leaves of pine trees Feel how cool the water is on your bare foot. Taste the fresh, oceanic air. Enjoy the feeling of deep relaxation enveloping you as you gently explore your place of rest. After your meditation session, open your eyes slowly and bring yourself back to the present.
4: Mantra Meditation: Mantra meditation is a meditation technique designed to elicit a state of a deep relaxation, where blood pressure, breathing, metabolism, and pulse rate are decreased. Daily practice of mantra meditation can lead to lowered blood pressure, enhanced mood, and a reduction of stress.
Choose a word or phrase you are going to focus on. This can be a sound such as “OM”, “hum”, “yum”, a word like “one”, “peace” or any word with a special meaning to you. Find a quiet place free from distraction and sit in a comfortable position. With your eyes closed, relax your muscles progressively from your legs, thighs, calves, abdomen, shoulders, neck and head.
Taking slow and natural breathes, say your word of focus, phrase, prayer, or sound while you exhale. Dismiss any intruding thoughts or worries by focusing on the vibrations of your repetition. Practice at least for 10-20 minutes. You can open your eyes slowly to look at a clock but don’t set an alarm. When you are done, remain seated with your eyes closed for some minutes and then with your eyes open. Steadily allow your thoughts to re-focus on your daily life.
5: Mindfulness Meditation: Mindfulness is the potential to remain aware of how you are feeling in this instance (right now) both externally and internally. Thinking about your past while blaming and judging yourself, or getting worried about your future can foster unease, anxiety, and stress. When you practice staying calm and focused on the present moment, you can cultivate balance in your nervous system. Mindfulness meditation can fit into various undertakings such as eating, walking, etc.
Choose any secluded place in your office, home, or outdoors; choose a place where you can relax without interruptions or distractions. Get into a comfortable position on either a chair or the floor with your spine straight. Find a point of focus. This can be internal with your eyes closed or external with your eyes open. Your point can be flame, word/phrase, feeling or an imaginary scene. Take a deep breath and focus on your object without worrying about distracting thoughts that run through your mind. If thoughts arise during your relaxation session, let them flow without fighting them, and gently turn your concentration back to your point of focus.