Friday, November 20, 2015

Meditation works -- even if you are only half trying

After the "success" last time when I managed to stay awake the entire 45 minutes using ujjayi breathing, sadly subsequent practices I went back to falling asleep or paying too much attention to my mental ramblings half way through the guided bodyscan meditation. However, even though 95% of the time I could only focus on my body in the beginning and the end of guided meditation, I still feel very refreshed when I complete the practice.

In my regular life, I notice that I am more able to "be mindful", ie. focus on what's around me rather than being lost in my thoughts. I think the weekly practice of focusing on my breath or body really helps noticeably reduce my negative thinking train of thoughts.

I think yoga is also a way to practice meditation, or at least release the tension in the body. However the meditation course helps me to practice release tension even if I cannot do a yoga sequence. It is actually harder than yoga. By exerting the muscles, or holding a balance, or performing a stretch, it gives me a strong sensation to focus on. Bodyscan while inactive makes it really difficult for me to "feel my toes".... there are no sensations going on in the inactive body parts.

Now that I have learned some skills to cope with the racing mind, I need to get back to exercising after the course finishes so I can strengthen my body too.


  1. Nice to hear that you are in different mood. Meditation is powerful practice. All the best. :-)

    1. Thanks Zee. I'm very lucky that this course appeared to me when I most needed it. I didn't expect it to start working so soon either (as I said in the blog post, I've been half-assed at practicing the meditation exercises).

  2. Hi Yogini,

    Nice and interesting posts about your experiences in yoga. Would love to hear about your experiences in pranayama (your link to "pranayama course" leads to other topic).
    As for your claim that meditation is harder than asana it probably means that you are absent minded in asana :). Here are some points of focus that you might find interesting: you can focus on ujjayi sound, on the form of the asana, on the energy of the asana, on visualization in asana(for example contemplate courage in Warriors), of course you can focus on body feelings, then on drishti(gazing, like on the tip of the finger), also on internal gazing like tip of the nose(maybe if the eyes closed but not in standing asanas, or maybe if alone you can focus on silence. I think that would be enough :).
    Bit of a warning about breathing: you have to know what is breathing frequency, minute ventilation, volume of breath, parts of your body you are breathing with, evenness of breath, effects of different types of breathing... This is first of all to prevent hyperventilation.

    Regards M

    1. Thank you for your comments M. I have only taken brief pranyama workshop courses so I cannot comment on their long term effects. For sure the practice calms down anxiety and frayed nerves in the short term and I have a feeling is that it would lead to improved energy in the long run.

      I would argue that while practicing asana, because of all the sensations in the body, it is easy for the mind to focus on the sensations and naturally the mind chatters fade away somewhat. In the body scan meditation where the whole body is relaxed, it is much more difficult to focus on the body sensations without any attempts to exert the body. For this particular practice, I found it tremendously helpful in every day life, since any agitation in the body (slight increase in heart rate, subtle shakes in limbs etc) are much more easily noticed in every day life. This is one particular benefit that I didn't get from yoga. Pranyama also produces quite strong sensations, which is why I've been choosing to back off from it, at least for my present practice.

      So yes, while the body feelings, ujjayi breathing and drishi are helpful for foucusing the mind, it is also useful to try to focus the mind when there is minimal input to the senses. If I ever find access to an isolation chamber I would for sure like to try it out :)

      I would say all forms of yoga, pranyama and meditation practice are beneficial in their own ways. I'm just greedy and like to try as many things as possible :)

    2. Hi Yogini,

      It seems that I wrongly assumed that you are absent-minded in asana, and that is because I teach yoga and my students often “confess” that they often think about their problems, relationships etc. during asana.
      That is why a lot of yoga and meditation teachers begin the class with something like: “please forget your daily worries and troubles, this is the time for calming down and being present”.

      Although there is a certain percent of people that can use asana among other benefits to get in touch with their body, there are more of them unable to feel their body at all  . (I often ask them what do they feel inside the pelvis or abdomen and they say “nothing”).

      So, for people like you, who are unable to feel senses in the body while inactive, it is important to know that that it is a process of learning, and that if you don’t feel a thing today doesn’t necessarily mean that you won’t feel a fireworks of feelings in a year.

      And sensing the body is the big thing in yoga. It is not only about the body, but about also the mind, the prana, the breathing.

      You probably made a wise decision about taking a pause on pranayama, because it is a very complex thing requiring a very experienced teacher. Nevertheless I can recommend a couple of books on pranayama and breathing, not because of pranayama, but because of breathing (in yoga , the way we breathe is more important than asana, pranayama and meditation), and not only breathing but general knowledge about yoga, food, breath, posture, anatomy, physiology, mind etc.

      For example, women often tend to be tight in the abdomen (sometime for esthetic reasons); that tightness makes them unable to breathe properly, the diaphragm cannot go down(thoracal breathing), so in order to compensate they increase the frequency of breathing, and that sometimes lead to hyperventilation, and that leads to anxiety also. So, the breathing absolutely can be a reason for anxiety, panic attacks…

      You can check your breathing frequency while sitting in a chair after at least 5 minutes of rest. If it is above 12 breaths per minute, it’s no good, the life expectancy and much more are better the frequency is closer to 10 for women, 8 for men.

      Andre van Lysebeth-Pranayama
      Gregor Meahle-Pranayama
      Robert Fried- Breathe well, be well
      Iyengar- Light on pranayama

      Had ton of stuff more to say but have to go.
      Cheers, M

    3. Thank you for your suggestions M. I will take them into consideration. Happy New Year!