Monday, November 9, 2015

Ujjayi breath while meditating - bad idea?

Recently I have signed up for a mindfulness-based stress reduction course, offered by my university to its staff, for free! What a treat! It's a shame though that only 10 people signed up even though there are 15 spots, and all 10 of us are female. It also seems like most of us already have some experience with meditation and/or yoga, so nobody is brand new to the concept meditation.

We go through a lot of basic exercises, sitting meditation, lying meditation, basic stretches, standing meditation, etc. This is an evidence-based course, taught by a postdoctoral researcher who is doing clinical research on meditation, so you can say it's kind of "dry", not much discussions about buddhism or spirituality, no warm and comforting languages, just a lot of exercises and discussions.

To sign up for this course, the instructor told us that we must do a 45min homework every day. It's a guided body scan meditation - basically focus attention on each individual body part until we mentally go through the whole body. Geesh, who has time to do such a thing every day? Plus, every time I did this exercise, I would fall asleep part way though and miss parts of the instructions.

Tonight, while I was having one of my insomnias, I decided to do the body scan exercise to help me fall asleep. One of the first body parts we are supposed to focus on are my left toes. We are supposed to stay as still as possible throughout the whole meditation, but I wiggle like a worm whenever I'm not asleep (except maybe after an invigorating power/ashtanga yoga class).

Anyways, I can't feel my toes without wiggling them. What should I do? Well, I decided to send my breath to the toes. Lo and behold, I can feel some tingling there! Awesome, so I continued to breath victoriously (ujjayi?) into every body part the guided instructions told me to focus on. It worked great for each leg, up to the abdomen, then into my back, and then... it felt like a low-voltage electric fence surrounding my whole body lit up, similar to how I felt when I first started practicing yoga (where we are taught to do ujjayi breaths throughout the practice) and when I took a pranayama course. So, while getting very excited by this experience, it now became difficult to focus on single body parts again since the whole body  is tingling. It was difficult to calm down but my breaths and the electrifying sensation managed to calm down towards the end of the guided meditation.

By the way, whether I fall asleep or get electrified, so far this meditation always makes me feel calm and relaxed after I completed it, so I highly recommend it! I think this youtube video is likely super similar to the one I'm using. Give it a try!

So now this exercise just went from sleep inducing to super interesting. I can't wait to experiment with it again tomorrow, maybe with quieter breathing, to see if I can still feel my toes with non ujjayi breath. Also, I will try again with ujjayi to see if I can induce the same sensations again.




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