Stress is one of the major enemies of the modern era, as it brings with it a series of physical and psychological consequences, which however can be contrasted with meditation. What is it about? In general, meditation is a practice through which one tries to have a greater mastery of one’s mind, in order to improve one’s overall psychophysical well-being.
This, at least, is the most common goal for which we approach meditation today: in fact, we can have both a secular and a religious approach to this discipline, as different meditative traditions have developed over the centuries within different philosophies and schools of thought, such as vipassana meditation or Zen meditation.
In these cases, the well-being that derives from meditation is only a secondary effect: the true purpose of these disciplines is knowledge of the truth, awareness of the true nature of man and the world.
It is therefore a practice that requires a lot of concentration, but also willpower and above all it will be important to approach it with an attitude of trust: therefore the skepticisms are banned, in order to fully enjoy the benefits of meditation. One of the most common forms of meditation is yoga meditation.
What is yoga meditation Yoga meditation is a technique that leads to greater awareness and awareness of oneself and the surrounding world. Let’s forget certain wrong concepts, such as that of isolation from the rest of the world: meditation is in fact a practice that allows you to feel more connected with what is around us, without however involving us from an emotional point of view. With yoga meditation one reaches a deep corporal and spiritual awareness of oneself.
So meditation is something extremely pleasant and above all beneficial for your body but also for the mind, as it allows you to regain your balance, a fundamental factor for your well-being. Moreover, this technique allows you to quickly reduce the effects of stress and anxiety disorders, helping the body to regain health and a good quality of life. Meditating will allow you to relax, clearing your mind.
After all, all the techniques of yoga, from the most physical to the most mental, are intended to accompany meditation, allowing those who practice them to concentrate their mind on a specific part of the body, or on the breath. Easy? Not really, but with practice the concentration skills will gradually improve and concentrating excluding the perception of external stimuli will always be easier.
How does meditation work? In general, meditation is based on concentration: you usually start by focusing your attention on an object, or on a sentence or word, so that the rest of the thoughts are temporarily abandoned. In short, a bit like when we listen to a song for a long time, until it continues to turn around in our heads.
In the case of yoga meditation, however, this is an induced process, which thus leads to detachment from everything else. So getting to concentrate totally you can keep away the thoughts that crowd the mind, removing attention from them. In this way we focus on our five senses, thus stopping thinking. Everything else disappears, sinking into the present at 360 degrees.
Yoga and meditation: what differences One may speak of yoga meditation, but in fact yoga and meditation itself are two different practices. Meditation is a sort of pure observation of something, a contemplation, which allows you to see your thoughts from the outside.
Yoga is instead a physical discipline, which allows you to find a link between body and mind. There is talk of yoga meditation since the practice of meditation can be conducted within the practice of yoga, combining the benefits of both disciplines.
How to start meditating Of course yoga meditation is a practice to be learned little by little, although it is much more accessible than you might think. However, there are some rules to follow when you want to start meditating so that you can do it correctly.
1.Sit with your back straight. To start meditating you need to sit on a rigid surface, whether on a chair or on the floor, even with the aid of cushions or a gym mat. The ideal position is the one with crossed legs and the back of the feet resting on the opposite legs. This is not a very simple position, so you can also start with a facilitated version, with your feet on the ground. Once seated, you will have to imagine being attached to a thread, which pulls the neck and spine upwards from the head: this will lead you to maintain an upright position.
2 Relax your body. Once the correct position has been found, the yoga meditation technique involves relaxing the body, focusing attention on all its parts, starting from the bottom and proceeding upwards. Then start from the feet, then go up to the legs, then to the bust, without forgetting the arms, and so on, focusing in particular on the parts of the body that during the day tend to accumulate more tension, such as the neck and shoulders. Do this slowly, relaxing your muscles and letting go of your tensions as you focus on specific areas of your body.
Remain seated in silence. Once the first two steps have been completed, it is time to stop, to remain still, surrounded by silence. In this way you will become aware of the space around you, as well as your body.
Breathe deeply. At this point you need to focus your attention on breathing. Use the diaphragm to take deep breaths, feeling your lungs swell and deflate and feeling the air entering and leaving your body.
Use a mantra. Yoga meditation can be facilitated by using a kind of mantra, that is, a phrase to be repeated in the course of meditation, aloud or in one’s mind. This will help you focus better.
Clear your mind. During yoga meditation exercises you will have to try to keep your mind relaxed. This means that if external thoughts touch your mind, you will have to observe them without judging them, and then return attention to your body.
When and for how long to practice yoga meditation Yoga meditation There is no suitable time to meditate: choose to do it whenever you feel the need. Even where there are no fixed rules, on the contrary: although the first few times it is better to do it in the tranquility of your own home, over time it will be good to learn to meditate everywhere. A lawn, a city park, on the banks of a river or the sea, wherever you can concentrate without suffering external distractions.
The duration of yoga meditation can also vary: at the beginning it is better if you practice short sessions, of about ten minutes, but over time feel free to increase the timing. To stop meditation, when you think it is the case, slowly return to what surrounds you, bringing attention back to the outside world.
Slowly move your fingers first and then your limbs, then slowly open your eyes and gradually release the position. Take the time you need to keep your sense of calm and inner peace as long as possible and bring it with you in your daily life.
Yoga meditation techniques Yoga meditation is likely to be a rather generic and abstract concept. It is therefore good to go into details as much as possible to fully understand what it is and how to practice it. There are in fact many meditation techniques that are inspired by yoga and that lead to similar results. These are paths carefully studied over the past centuries, especially in Eastern countries, where yoga meditation is a tradition that has its roots in distant times.
However, there are common aspects that bind all meditation techniques, primarily the development of one’s awareness: there are disciplines that work on awareness of one’s energy body, others that focus on awareness of the physical body, still others of the mind or spirit .
The final aim of the different disciplines is also analogous: knowledge of the world and personal self-realization. So there is no right and wrong technique, as it is a very subjective choice. The choice of one or another discipline may in fact depend on the character, the moment of life in which you find yourself or the type of path you want to take. Not to mention that nothing prevents you from trying even different techniques. Let’s see some of them.
Tantric meditation Tantric meditation is the basis of yoga meditation, as the second arises precisely from tantric culture. These meditation techniques develop the knowledge of one’s body, starting from the centers of consciousness, known as chakras, and from the so-called subtle channels, known as nadis. Yoga in this case therefore works on the subtle bodies, in order to harmonize them and awaken what is known as sleeping consciousness, or Kundalini, which according to tradition is located at the base of the spine.
Taoist meditation Meditation inspired by Taoism leads to the development of an individual consciousness by working on the energetic level. According to this discipline, in fact, harmonizing the vital energy, known as qi, leads to the expansion of consciousness.
This yoga meditation system involves the use of physical practices, with very specific positions, such as those of Qi Gong or Tai Chi, together with meditative practices. So Taoist meditation is based on so-called energy conduits, in which this internal energy flows into the body. Energy that can often be blocked by various factors, such as stress, negativity, but also inadequate nutrition. So the task of Taoist meditation is to free the body from negative energies, instead allowing the qi to circulate freely. To achieve this there are several techniques:
• Xiao Zhoutian is the most used and the most basic technique, and allows you to learn how to convey your vital energy at will.
• The inner smile acts profoundly on the body’s energy, through a mental process that leads to the relaxation of each organ of your body, enabling it to flow vital energy in the correct way.
Buddhist meditation Buddha’s spiritual teachings spread throughout Asia, being then explored differently according to the regions and cultures, originating multiple schools of thought. So today the meditation techniques deriving from Buddhism are quite varied, although all are based on the inner awareness developed through self-observation.
The key point of these techniques is always to focus on the present, leaving aside the past and future. One of the best known methods is that of Vipassana meditation, which leads man to seek himself in a profound and personal way. This type of meditation is divided into three phases.
The first is called Annapana and is based on observation of the breath. So you will have to keep your mind focused on the here and now, perceiving your respiratory process, which you will not have to influence in any way: breathing is a natural and unconscious action and focusing attention on it you can easily move on to the second phase.
The second phase is called Vipassana, which is the actual technique. Your concentration will have to shift to the sensations your body causes you. You will therefore have to learn first to perceive it, in a gradually deeper way, until you become aware of the physiological processes that characterize it, as well as the energetic ones. This over time will lead you to increase the awareness of your body and its surroundings.
Zen meditation Yoga meditation In the tradition of Zen, meditation concerns the mental plane, which leads to the evolution of the individual. Known as Zen meditation, the meditation that derives from this philosophy is more properly called Zazen. In this case, the environment in which you decide to carry out the session will be important, as you will have to train your mind to focus only on one thing at a time, cutting out the rest.
This will help you become aware of your inner space even in a society like ours, where you are more and more inclined to do a thousand things all together. Again there are several techniques, which we will see briefly.
One of the most popular techniques is sitting meditation. This practice allows you to develop the awareness of one’s mind, without being involved in the thoughts that crowd it daily.
In this phase, thoughts flow without directly involving the meditator, who learns to observe them from the outside, as if they were someone else’s, focusing on the present moment, on the here and now. The exercise therefore develops the so-called satori, i.e. a state in which the mind is emptied and at peace.
A second technique is called Kin-hin, or walking meditation. It is a next step, to be practiced when you have mastered the meditation techniques. In fact, it also allows you to meditate in everyday life: on the bus, in the office, while walking on the street, and so on.
Yoga nidra meditation The term yoga nidra derives from Sanskrit: yoga literally means union and nidra means sleep. Therefore Yoga Nidra meditation derives from tantric discipline and allows you to learn to relax consciously. This induces total relaxation, under the mental, physical and emotional plane.
During the practice of this discipline you will appear asleep, but in reality you will be perfectly conscious, at a deeper than normal level of awareness. It is therefore an intermediate level between sleep and wakefulness, which leads to deep inner relaxation.
The tensions accumulated in the mind but also in the body are relaxed, as well as on an emotional level, in order to increase psycho-physical well-being. With yoga nidra the mind becomes more receptive: it is in fact “moved” from one point to another, always maintaining awareness of every experience that is made, without the need to concentrate
Preparatory exercises for yoga nidra The greeting to the sun Yoga nidra involves a series of targeted exercises to do before starting the lesson, a sort of preparation, to loosen the muscles and thus approach the best practice. Among these, some cycles of the so-called Greeting to the sun: it is a sequence of 12 positions, which must be performed fluently, with a choreographic movement, taking particular care of breathing, which must be carried out from the nose, with the mouth closed.
The first position is the position of the mountain: you are standing with your legs together, inhaling. Then exhale, bringing your hands to the height of the heart and joining the palms, as if you were praying. The second position is that of the raised hands: you breathe in deeply then, exhaling, raise your arms up, pushing your pelvis forward.
The exercise should be done by contracting the buttocks, so as to contract the back backwards. The third position is that of bending forward while standing: after inhaling, exhale bending forward, extending the hands downwards, bringing them to the height of the feet, resting the palms on the ground if you can.
The fourth is the equestral position: you breathe in, then exhale you put your hands on the ground, bringing your left leg back and bending your right. The left knee will be placed on the ground. The back should be straightened as much as possible, keeping the gaze fixed forward. The fifth is the position of the board, which must be done by holding the breath: a plank is performed, keeping the arms and legs stretched out, so that the back, neck and legs form a straight line.
We then move on to the sixth position, the greeting with the 8 limbs: after inhaling, we exhale by bending the knees until they rest on the ground, without losing the support of the toes. Then bend the elbows so that the chest and chin touch the ground while the arms remain perpendicular to the body. In this exercise you will have to keep the pelvic area detached from the ground.
The seventh exercise, called the upside down dog, involves inhaling, sliding out with the torso up and forward, while pushing on the arms. You will have to arch your back back, keeping the kiss on the ground and your back arched. The gaze must be kept fixed forward while the shoulders will remain lowered with the shoulder blades close together.
The eighth position, dog upside down, involves, always with the usual game of inhalation and exhalation, to stretch the legs backwards keeping the arms stretched and distributing the weight of the body between hands and feet. The heels must be resting on the ground. The ninth position, called the equestrian position, involves placing the hands on the ground, bringing the right leg back while bending the left. The knee and toe of the left foot should be resting on the ground, then straighten your back as much as possible, looking forward.
The tenth position, bending forward while standing, involves bending forward, until touching the ground with the palms of the hands, which must be on the side of the feet. In this position, you can help by bending your knees a little. The eleventh, called the position of the raised hands, is practiced by stretching the arms upwards and pushing the pelvis forward.
The buttocks contract and the back is arched backwards. The last, called the mountain position, involves standing with your arms stretched along your body and your thumbs attached to your thighs, making a cycle of three deep breaths.
After the sun salutation, to continue yoga meditation, take the Shavasana position: lie down on the mat, supine, keeping the palms of the hands upwards and the toes pointing outwards, still looking for a comfortable position. At this point, mediation can begin.
How to practice Yoga Nidra Yoga meditation There are different ways to practice yoga nidra, in periods of time ranging from 20 to 40 minutes depending on individual needs. The basic method is to begin by lying down on the floor on a gym mat, with your eyes closed. At this point you can focus your mind on external noises, as well as on what they cause from the sensory point of view.
At this point the practice of yoga nidra involves the use of Sankalpa: you will have to repeat three times, in your mind, a phrase that is related to purposes of change, the Sankalpa, in fact. This exercise will help the mind to accept positive purposes.
The practice of Yoga Nidra then involves the use of a technique called “rotation of awareness through the areas of the body”: in this phase the conductor cites different parts of the body in sequence, fairly quickly, asking you to view these areas, which in fact are the areas present on the motor-sensory cortex. This increases awareness of the body and consequently stimulates the brain, promoting relaxation.
After this step, you can bring awareness to your breath, which must always remain spontaneous and never forced, following the path and counting the inspirations and expirations. This allows not only to relax and increase concentration, but also to awaken energy.
The exercise will continue by inducing deep relaxation also through the recall of some sensations: the conductor will ask you to think of opposite sensations, such as lightness / heaviness, cold / heat, etc. This experience leads to simultaneously stimulating the two opposite hemispheres of the brain.
The visualizations are another fundamental step in the practice of yoga nidra, as they allow you to unlock the contents that are found in the subconscious: the conductor will then create a conscious dream, through the use of symbols, asking you to view certain carefully chosen images. In this way, irrational desires and patterns will emerge, which will have to be observed passively and placed in consciousness. You can also practice yoga nidra on your own, being yourself to guide your mind.
The practice of Yoga Nidra ends when you gradually return to a state of full vigil, slowly retracing the initial procedure that led you to a state of deep relaxation. The awareness on your body, on the sounds and on your surroundings is then reported, then you try to get out of immobility with small movements. The exercise ends sitting in a meditation position, perhaps reciting one’s mantra.
The benefits of yoga meditation Yoga meditation is a very popular practice as it has numerous benefits, first of which is reducing stress levels. In short, as many studies also claim, the periodic execution of yoga meditation exercises leads to an overall relaxation of the body and mind.
Stress: what it entails First of all, it is good to understand what exactly you are talking about when you mention the dreaded stress and what it causes in the body. Indeed, certain events cause a reaction on the body, stress, which increases the production of the Nf-kB molecule; it activates the production of chitoquine, necessary to combat negative stimuli, but which causes inflammation of the cells.
A useful process at the moment, but if prolonged over time it can lead to risks for the body, such as contracting certain diseases, or accelerating aging, or even falling into depression.
The increase in immune defenses Among its many benefits, yoga meditation also has to strengthen the body’s immune system, reducing the process of cellular inflammation. This will allow you to prevent certain common ailments, such as the flu or diseases of the respiratory tract. In short, meditating allows you to feel better in all aspects. This, if combined with a healthy and genuine diet, will increase your general well-being. For this reason, yoga is often linked to a healthy lifestyle, with particular attention to the quality of the food taken during the day.
Physical pain reduction North Carolina researchers have come to the conclusion that meditation is also helpful in reducing the sensation of physical pain. To achieve this, the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center conducted a study on a group of people. The participants, after some meditation lessons lasting at least 20 minutes, got a decrease in physical pain.
Reduction of the risk of heart disease and stroke Heart disease and strokes are among the leading causes of death in the modern world. Well, meditation can be a valid ally to combat these pathologies, both from the point of view of prevention and from the point of view of rehabilitation following episodes of stroke or other pathologies affecting the heart.
Again, the positive effects are related to the reduction of stress and anxiety. In patients at risk or with heart problems, anxiety and stress are continuous sources of stress for the heart, with frequent episodes of tachycardia and accelerated rhythm.
Thanks to yoga meditation, it is possible to learn to reduce and keep more under control the symptoms of anxiety and stress, removing the thoughts that generate them. In this way, it also acts positively on the heart, subjected to less negative stimuli.
Increase in cerebral gray matter Another of the benefits of meditation, found by other American scholars, would be the increase in gray matter in the brain. An effect that is already obtained with two months of practice. According to scholars, who studied the effects of meditation on the human brain, after eight weeks important effects are revealed on the reaction to stress, memory and empathy. In addition, the density of gray matter in the hippocampus area increases.
Meditation in hospitals In some hospitals, the practices of yoga meditation in oncology wards are finding space in the therapeutic pathways, as the relaxation caused by meditation and yoga positively affects mood, improving the patient’s psychological and emotional skills in managing the disease.
Not only that: the relationship between meditation and cancer must certainly be further investigated, but there are some studies that show how reducing stress can have an influence on the percentage of mortality following breast or prostate cancer.
Recover contact with nature The relationship with nature is fundamental for well-being. A walk in the green, in fact, brings everyone an immediate feeling of relaxation and peace with the world. For this reason, if you decide to meditate in the green, these sensations will be amplified, as the yoga meditation techniques allow you to find the connection with the surrounding world and therefore also a deeper contact with nature. This is one of the reasons why many meditation centers are located in isolated woods or green areas.
Productivity increase Another beneficial effect not to be overlooked when approaching yoga meditation is the increase in productivity at work. Since meditation is mainly based on increasing concentration skills, it goes without saying that this also translates into a benefit in other areas where concentration is extremely important, such as in study or at work.
Meditation helps increase productivity precisely because it facilitates the ability to stay focused for a long time, eliminating distractions from one’s mind. This benefit will be evident the more you practice meditation and improve your skills.
These positive effects are particularly evident in those who practice sports: yoga meditation teaches us to focus on a single thought, in this case the goal of competition, ignoring external stimuli, which can be worry, tension, physical pain, but also the presence of distractions as a general public.
Even speaking in public can become simpler, as it is easier to focus on your exposure by moving your mind away from the agitation and the thought of the presence of the audience in the room, from the sense of fear linked to the feeling of having everyone’s eyes pointed at you.
Today relationships between people are particularly complex. To make them simpler, it is important to exercise empathy, that is, to be able to better understand others. In this, meditation is a useful ally, as it promotes virtuous behavior, which will lead you to feel more comfortable among others, but above all to understand them.
This will have positive effects on your interpersonal relationships. In fact, a series of positive emotions develop, which lead to having an attitude of love both towards oneself and towards others, also thanks to self-acceptance. This is a benefit that is often found even in patients undergoing psychotherapy, who struggle to develop this part of their emotions.
Relieve depression and anxiety Daily stress, especially if you don’t have great endurance, can also cause major problems, such as anxiety or depression. In this regard, yoga meditation is an important tool to relieve these sensations, especially if combined with particular relaxation techniques.
Of course, yoga meditation is not in itself a therapy or a definitive solution for this type of pathology, but it can have a strong positive impact on mood, facilitating the production of serotonin, and on the ability to keep the mind under control. when the obsessive thoughts of anxiety or the negative thoughts of depression peep out. With good concentration, it is possible, for example, to calm the symptoms of a panic attack when one realizes that they are about to arise.
Reducing the symptoms of these diseases leads to a greater sense of security and confidence in the possibility of definitively defeating them, thus also facilitating the therapeutic process.
Learn to manage multitasking stress More and more often today we are brought to multitasking, or the practice of carrying on more things at the same time. However, this is a false positive myth, since in reality it is a considerable source of stress. In fact, continually shifting concentration from one thing to another is a very tiring activity for the brain, which leads to general distraction and a sense of dissatisfaction.
In addition, the feeling of being able to complete many tasks is bogus: in reality, the time wastes are greater and with the waste of time and energy, in constantly switching from one activity to another, they increase.
According to what emerged from a research carried out in Arizona on the human resources staff of a company that was subjected to meditation for two months, combined with the relaxation techniques of the body, it emerged that for these the stress levels produced by a test on the multitasking decreased significantly, not to mention that the group of workers who had practiced meditation showed better memory and greater concentration.
Improve creativity Well yes: those who do creative work should meditate more. Indeed, the practice of meditation has positive effects on individual creativity, so those who regularly perform this type of exercise will be able to better express creative thinking even when faced with a task entrusted from above.
Learn to know yourself Doing yoga meditation means embarking on an inner journey, which will lead you to greater awareness of yourself. This will then help you better interpret your emotions and channel them in a certain direction, making more informed decisions to take your life in the direction you want.
The benefits of meditation for children According to the studies carried out on the subject, it has been discovered that meditation can bring significant benefits even to the youngest, in which it reduces the symptoms of depression as well as psychosomatic stress. It also allows you to lessen the hostilities and conflicts that often arise at an early age with peers. Children who practice meditation suffer less from anxiety, while they get better memory and better self-care. Positive emotions and self-esteem are amplified and feelings of well-being and happiness increase.
With yoga meditation in children, social skills and self-awareness are increased, resulting in better school performance. Sleep quality also tends to improve. Overall, the child who performs the meditation sees his personal qualities increase, as well as openness. Become more curious and compassionate, empathetic and confident of others. The physical health of the child also benefits from meditation.