Even for those who meditate on a regular basis, a peaceful frame of mind can be disrupted when there is a near-miss incident in traffic, a loved one has a crisis, or 50 percent of your retirement savings has been lost in the stock market.
Daily life has many ups and downs that can affect your equanimity and balance. It is important to acknowledge and experience your feelings without denying them, otherwise they go “underground” in your body and can lead to physical illnesses such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), headaches and other stress-related disorders.
Bringing awareness to how our bodies are responding moment to moment each day is a good way to track what we are feeling on a subtle level. If you notice tightness in the jaw, for example, you may want to ask yourself if you are feeling angry about something. Tightness in the belly can indicate hidden fear or anxiety. Muscle pain in the shoulders may indicate you are taking on too much responsibility. Focus on breathing deeply and relaxing those specific muscles that are tight.
Step back from whatever situation you are experiencing and observe it from a non-judgmental, neutral-but-kind state of higher intuition. If you practice doing this, you probably will begin to see that you or others are caught up in “ego” needs of clinging to how we think life should be, instead of accepting reality as it presents itself to us in the moment.
Here are some simple steps for sampling meditation. It’s easier than you may think! Start out by trying this for just a minute a day, then add minutes to your practice when you feel comfortable going longer. Soon, you’ll be meditating for 15 minutes or more a day, and reaping the rewards.
Step 1: Visualization is a pleasant practice to help you prepare for meditation. Visualizing being in a safe, relaxing place can be very helpful. A tense state and a relaxed state cannot happen at the same time. Visualize, for example, sitting comfortably on a beautiful beach in the warm sun, with a wonderful breeze, the sound of the waves gently rolling in and out, the feel of the warm sand under your feet, and gazing at the vast blue sky. You feel peaceful and happy with your self and the world around you. Notice how your tension melts away.
Step 2: Sit comfortably in a quiet place the same time every day and bring your attention to the flow of your breath. Allow your body to relax and feelings, thoughts and sensations to rise and fall away without carrying you away. If they do, bring your attention back to the flow of your breath with compassion (not struggle or judgment).
The breath is like an anchor to the present moment as you let all else flow through you without resistance, clinging or pushing away. Practicing meditation daily in the same place at the same time helps develop more ease, healing and rejuvenation to your mind, body and life in general.
These practices can take a few seconds throughout the day, or you can extend them into 10 to 20 minutes or more.
Breathing—it’s the first thing we do when we come into this world, and it is the last thing we do when we leave it. During our life, breathing becomes automatic, and we don’t take the time to focus on it to realize its full value or potential. Breathing is essential to the assistance of movement. Breath is energy. The movement of breath through our bodies is the movement of energy through our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual selves. Joseph Pilates created his wildly successful fitness training system not because he was searching for a better way to train the physical body, but because he had asthma. He was unable to breathe, and so was unable to exercise. So, he studied yoga to learn how to breathe. From there he studied bodybuilding and boxing. He then went on to become a nurse. It was from this combination of Eastern and Western philosophies and medicine that he created his wellness system, which he called Contology. Today we call it Pilates in his honor. Pilates practitioners will tell you that the combination of breathing, movement and concentration creates a strong, lean and flexible body and provides the added bonus of stress relief.
—Rebecca M. Silvey, owner, Alpha Pilates, Alpharetta, www.alphapilates.com
The Brain Wave Vibration Technique
Dahn Yoga’s Brain Education programs offer an effective but amazingly simple meditation technique to release the “fight or flight” stress response and tap into the full potential of the brain and its healing effect on the body: Brain Wave Vibration (BWV).
BWV focuses on the brain stem, the part of the brain that controls breathing, heart rate, stress response and the body’s other autonomic functions. If we give our brain and body the same loving treatment that we use to soothe a stressed and crying baby: rocking, gently shaking and vibrating, or rubbing and tapping with our hands, we can soothe and regulate our brain and nervous system and help our body “rest and digest.”
In other words, your brain stem becomes the master of your body and starts to talk with your body once again, saying, “Hey, body, relax! We don’t need that headache or stomachache. It’s OK to fall asleep. Lose that tightness, shoulders, neck and jaw. And smile more! Let’s be healthy, happy and peaceful!”
Experiencing the brain through BWV is a way to bring practice out of yoga class and into everyday living. By learning to become the master of your brain, you can become the master of your life.
To learn more about BWV or try a class at one of Atlanta’s eight Dahn Yoga centers, visit www.dahnyoga.com. You can also visit www.brainwavevibration.com to see how-to videos and check out the book Brain Wave Vibration by Ilchi Lee, creator of the Brain Education and Dahn Yoga programs.
—Penny Costanzo, Brain Education trainer and Dahn Yoga instructor