Moving the body, quietly, gently, rhythmically, in harmony with the universe, always makes you feel better. It not only makes the body more supple, it quiets the mind. If you have listened to your body, you should feel more centered. Now, with that mental quietude, we are going to go over the basics for entering into proper relaxation and meditation.
You may think it boring to have to keep hearing the same thing again and again. Please do not feel that simply because you have progressed to this level, you are so advanced that you have no need for a review of the basics. It is because you have progressed to this level that this review will benefit you. Have you ever read a story and left that you understood what the author was trying to say? And then, did you read the same story two, or three, or even four years later and say to yourself, “Gee, I didn’t see that the first time. “Why do you suppose that was? Well, the second time you read the story you were a different person, with greater experience, and probably, with greater understanding. Because of that, you saw something different than in your first reading. All of life is like that, including yoga, relaxation, and, certainly, meditation.
Relaxation or meditation can be done in any position that is comfortably for you. It may be sitting, lying down, standing, or walking; Whatever is comfortable for you at any given time. Some days you may feel like lying down, other days you may feel like doing a walking meditation. It will vary – just as you are different each day – so will you practice. However, for the purpose of this post, we will lie down for our relaxation or meditation.
How do we lie down? Do we just sort of collapse onto the mat? No. we need to align the body. Let’s start now. Gently lower yourself into a lying position, and close your eyes. Be sure your neck is comfortable, with the back of your head resting on the floor. Your arms are at your sides, shoulders are relaxed, not hunched up toward your ears. Your lower back is relaxed. Inhale and then exhale. Relax your back even more on the exhalation. Wiggle your hips, your knees, your ankles, and your feet. Do you feel that your body is aligned from top to toe? If not make any adjustments you feel you need to get this alignment.
There are you settled in? We talked earlier about proper breathing and how it can relax you. We also talked about concentration. Now, it’s time to practice these two; first, your breathing. Take a slow, deep inhalation. Feel your stomach pushing up and out as you lungs fell with all that wonderful prana energy. Hold this for a few seconds and then slowly let a full exhalation out through your nose. As you do this, your stomach will return to its normal position. Now, take your next slow, deep inhalation and feel your stomach automatically rise up and out, deeper, fuller that your first breath. Again, hold for a few seconds, and slowly exhale through your nose. With each inhalation feel your body getting lighter and lighter. With each exhalation feel all the stress, all the tension flow out as you breathe away all the cares or the day, feeling more and more free. Practice this for a few more breaths and then gradually let your breathing return to normal, yet slow and gentle.
Feel as light as the clouds floating along on the summer breeze. Feel free. Let go of all those things that seemed so important before you started this post.
Now, we will practice the concentration part. On your next slow inhalation, just pay attention to your breath. Feel it entering to your nostrils, watch it as it flows down and into your lungs. Feel yourself float for the split second before you inhalation becomes an exhalation. Pay attention as the exhalation takes over and the breath moves up through your nose. Feel it flow out of your body, into the universe. Again, concentrate on the breath as you inhale slowly. Follow it, watch it flow down and into your lungs, all of you very relaxed, very calm, very peaceful. Now, be aware of the change from inhalation to exhalation.
Follow your breath up, up, and out. Feel it flowing through your nose, out, out, released, and free. You do this all very slowly, very gently, very naturally. Concentrating on breath, you become one with breath, there is no separation. There is no ending of the inhalation, no starting of the exhalation. It is all one smooth, flowing process with no beginning and no end. Concentrate on it, follow it, watch it, be it!
Whenever you are ready, gently and softly move your attention to your inhalation. Let each inhalation become deeper and deeper. Feel your body filling with energy, becoming alive. You are here now, in this room, in this moment. Gently start to move your body. Do you need to stretch, to yawn? Listen to your body. What is it asking of you? Listen and it will tell you. Now, as you come back to awareness, give yourself that one final reminder, “My body is relaxed, my mind is peaceful.” Stay it again, and, mean it, feel it, realize it. And smile. The universe will return you smile ten-thousand-fold.
In aerobics class or other types of exercise classes, everyone is expended to perform the same exercise, the same number of times, equally vigorously, regardless of whether or not your body is able to perform at the same level of expertise as everyone else’s. When you come to yoga class, you’re treated as an individual because each body is different. Here is an outline you can follow in devising your own routine:
- Your routine should encompass a full spectrum of postures. Each session should include:
- A twist posture.
- A inverted posture.
- A tensing and releasing posture.
- A balanced position for the nerves.
On the day you’re feeling lazy, start your routine in a reclining position. On days when you’re ready to go and you need to calm down, start in a standing position and work your way down. On another day, start with a seated posture and work your way up. In other words, don’t get in a rut, don’t let your practice get boring and mechanical. Every day is new, and so is each moment and each experience of the postures you do.
For the maximum benefit, try to hold each position at least 30 seconds. Some days you may want to stay in the head stand for only a minute; other days you might want to do it for five minutes. Do not hold any posture if you are uncomfortable in it.
Try to do your posture each and every day. Yoga is one habit that is good for your body. It needs to be stretched and awakened. Your body will perform much better for you if you treat it that way. At the same time, your mind need to rest. You need to sit and just breathe. The postures become a lot easier and you will be more relaxed, have more energy, and you will certainly live longer. Take time to relax when you have finished your practice. Store that energy that you have created through the movement of the postures. Always think positively: “I can do it. I can do it.”
Some of our postures are fun, and if you feel like laughing at yourself lying on the floor and wiggling like a sleeping puppy when you do Dreaming Dog, then laugh! Laughter is a healer. I’ve always believed that you can be sincere without being serious. So, if we laugh it’s not because we are not serious about what we do. We are very serious. But laughter makes is to much better.
Doing postures early in the morning sets the peace for the day. By stretching the body awake, by starting the circulation moving we move more freely through the day. We have more energy. After your postures, it’s best if you can just sit for a moment or two – five, ten, fifteen minutes – to just sit and breathe, and bring yourself into your inner self. Give yourself a positive thought that your day will be good and that nothing will interfere with your calmness during that day. When it’s time to go to work or to whatever you have to do during the day, you will be better prepared for it, and the day will move better for you.
Now, we’ll start by reminding ourselves how to breathe. Sit with your eyes closed, try to keep your back fairly straight, ears above shoulders, nose above navel. Your back is straight but not stiff. Inhale very deeply, and your stomach pushes out. You want to fill yourself with energy, that wonderful prana energy, that oxygen. When you exhale, pull your stomach in. You will be doing this for a few moments to relax yourself, to get the stress out of your body, empty yourself of all extraneous thought. Then, your body will be ready to do the postures. After the postures, you can lie down relax. Let’s breathe.
Relaxation/Meditation: Leaf Visualization
The body likes movement, especially the gentle, flowing movement of yoga. It feels energized and, at the same time, it is calmed and relaxed, centered, and balanced. In movement, the mind is removed from the humdrum requirements of getting through the day, and it also becomes calm, quiet, and peaceful. Now, let’s see if we can deepen that peacefulness and learn to just be.
Let’s try to become one with nature, with the naturalness and oneness of all universality. Set your mind free to soar with the birds, float with the clouds, to be the leaf drifting down to earth, to be the lotus opening up to behold the sun, to be the tree reaching in mutual adoration to the heavens. Learn to become that which you already are!
How do you do this? How do you become the bird, the cloud, a single raindrop? How do you feel as the tree feels? Through the breath! It is the breath at allows you empty the mind, to put aside all the restrictions and limitations of ego that says to you, “Stay here, pay attention to me!”
Why does ego try to control us like this? When we are floating freely among the clouds, when we learn to set ourselves free, the ego becomes smaller and it loses control. The more we practice setting ego aside, the smaller and more insignificant it becomes. So, let’s prepare ourselves for this trip.
Lie down gently and quietly on the floor, arms at your sides, body comfortable. Check to see if you have done that properly. Start by asking yourself, “Do I feel comfortable? Is there any part of my body that needs adjusting?” If so, make that adjustment now. Is your lower back comfortable? If not, you might need to slightly raise your knees to correct this. Are your neck and shoulders relaxed? Give them a little wriggle and see. Is the back of your head on the floor or, is your head tipped backward? Adjust it now.
Take one long, slow inhalation, feeling your abdomen push upward. Then, slowly exhale, feel the abdomen return to its natural position. Another long inhalation and the abdomen pushes upward, automatically. This time, as you exhale, feel any remaining tension or stress gently float away on the breath out, out, out. Let it all go. Inhale gently and feel peacefulness and calmness enter your being, flowing through your whole body, flowing through your mind, softly calming, quieting. Exhale slowly. Feel your mind becoming more peaceful as you breathe away all thoughts. Feel it become empty. Feel it become still. Continue to breathe gently and slowly. Each inhalation and exhalation leaves you feeling quieter, more peaceful.