Silent Mind Meditation Program: Yoga for Meditation
The goal of the physical work that you will do during weeks 1-4 is to help make the body transparent – invisible. For many of us the body is used to being the center of attention, the master or better said, it is used to being the spoilt child. During your meditation sessions you are going to hold physically still and the body is going to be mighty upset about being treated this way. Its not that the body minds being still, its that it does not want to lose its rank as commander-in-chief and be forced to do things your way. It has been used to getting its way, having every itch scratched and now that is no longer going to be the case. Expect a fight!
To help in achieving this surrendering of the body it is wise to help it regain some of the flexibility and suppleness that it inherently has. Thus, the first Yoga phase will focus on specific stretching exercises and postures that will ease the difficulty of sitting still and help manage the resistance that the body is going to put up. In addition, the postures and exercises are going to help strengthen and purify the body and mind at many levels. These benefits, along with cautions and modifications, are provided alongside each exercise illustrated and described in [Appendix 1: Yoga for Meditation Set]. This set takes about 40 minutes to complete and should be practiced daily for phase 1. The type of breathing that accompanies each exercise is also stated and these various breaths are described in the section below (Breath Work: Basic Pranayam).
Although developing your flexibility is going to go a long way in helping you to sit still, the body will nevertheless conjure up various minor physical disturbances to try to regain its rank as boss. The best antidote to this is simply to ignore the disturbance while in mediation. As you refuse firmly to submit to these demands the body will settle down and relinquish its desire for control. So the combination of the Yoga for Meditation practice along with the meditation work in phase 1 will help prevent the body from becoming an obstacle on your journey towards the Mastery of Mediation.
Breath Work: Basic Pranayam
Your first action when being born into life was to take a breath and now when you are about to begin the journey to be born into Reality, again breath is the place to start. Breathing plays a key role in SM meditations for two specific reasons. First, it is the source of vital energy or Prana for the entire being and second the movement of the mind and emotions is closely tied to our breathing patterns. Thus breathing impacts the vitality of our Physical systems, our moods and finally intimately affects the velocity of our thoughts. Specific breathing techniques that you will learn and practice will help in particular aspects of the SM program.
The science of breath manipulation is called Pranayam and for phase 1 you will be introduced to some basic pranic exercises. When it comes to Pranayam it is best not to overdo it. This holds especially true for exercises that require suspension of breath for any significant period of time. During the first 4 weeks you will primarily practice 3 types of breathing, Long Deep Breathing (LDB), Breath of Fire (BOF) and Silk Thread Breath (STB), none of which require suspension. It is important to adhere to this caution and not jump ahead if you are new to Pranayam. From a Yogic perspective Prana is the nuclear energy of atoms and it is important to approach this energy with respect and caution.
Below are the 3 breaths you will be using extensively during phase 1. These are also described in Appendix 1 in the Yoga for Meditation set.
Long Deep Breathing (LDB):
Description: Breathing is done by taking full deep breaths through the nose. The key to LDB is to fill the lungs entirely on the inhalation and then exhale completely. The diaphragm is kept relaxed and the stomach expands out on the inhalation and back in on the exhalation. The chest also rises and falls during LDB.
Benefits: LDB is excellent for expanding one’s lung capacity and bringing in maximum amount of oxygen to the system.
Cautions: If you feel dizzy, return to normal breathing, but in general LDB should not pose much difficulty for you.
Breath of Fire (BOF):
Description: Breathing is done rapidly through the nose with equal emphasis on the inhalation and exhalation- like very fast sniffing. Keep the abdomen relaxed and allow it to pulse automatically with the breath. Remember that the breath is not taken in very deep and the pace is fast, about 3 cycles per second.
Benefits: Breath of Fire is the breath to do when you want to increase your energy and quickly oxygenate your blood. It generates heat in the body, helps detoxify your system and syncronizes your entire system under one rhythm.
Cautions: If you feel dizzy, slow down the force and/or speed at which you are doing the breathing. Or you can substitute Long Deep Breathing for BOF until you feel ready to switch to BOF again.
Silk Thread Breath (STB):
Description: This breath is the one that correlates to the mind that is in meditation. It is a very smooth, light, deep breath that, like a silk thread, is almost unnoticeable. It is very quiet and silent and there may be a prolonged gap between the inhalation and exhalation. Later in the SM program you fill find that this gap corresponds directly to the state of mind that is silencing itself of thought.
Benefits: As mentioned above, the movement of the mind is closely tied to the breath and the deep, silent nature of this breath influences the mind to also slow down and move inward.
Cautions: There are no significant cautions to mention except to not prolong the gap between the inhalation and exhalation. Let it emerge naturally and don’t force the space artificially.