10.03.2016 Yoga

Releasing Stress

Yoga teacher Jen Kaz offers this guide to finding that elusive peace through meditation

Learning to meditate is the greatest gift you can give yourself. It has been used for centuries to overcome stress and through meditation you can undertake the journey to discover your true nature, and find stability and confidence.

What is meditation?

It is a means of transforming the mind by allowing the mind to withdraw from the constant chatter. It is a technique that relaxes the body and calms the mind.

Today it is regarded as particularly helpful for reducing stress and tension that so often prevail as a direct result of our busy lifestyle. Studies have shown that consistent meditation practice alters neural pathways in the brain, enabling us to be more resilient to the effects of stress.

Stress is habitual over stimulation, the flight or fight response, and it kills by stealth. It works below the surface, slowly and quietly over time. Exacerbating the effects of most disease, it delays recovery from illness and ages us, affecting all systems in the body.

It makes sense that with regular meditation stress will be lowered. We now realise that stress is detrimental for our health and science now supports what the yogi masters have known for centuries - that many of our physical and mental problems are stress related.

Insomnia, anxiety, or an under or over active mind leads to muscular tension, pain, headaches, cardiovascular disease, impaired immune function, anxiety and depression. Most studies have shown that regular meditation lowers arousal and relaxes body systems such as blood pressure, muscle tone, blood flow and cholesterol levels.

Meditation is a means of mindfulness and awareness.There are two forms of meditation - active and passive.

Active Meditation

This involves being mindful of your surroundings. Such things as noticing your breath while walking, focusing on each mouthful while eating, being aware of birds singing or watching waves rolling in on the beach are all forms of active meditation. However, to achieve active meditation you must first be able to meditate passively.

Passive Meditation

Passive meditation is to still the mind from wandering.

Follow these steps to enter a passive meditative state:

  • Choose a time where you’re likely to be undisturbed. Let others know you cannot be disturbed, put a sign on your door.
  • A daily practice of 15 – 30 minute works well but begin with five to 10 minutes daily. Be patient with yourself!
  • Choose a quiet comfortable environment with fresh air.If you prefer, have incense burning. Create your own special space.
  • Be in a comfortable position, sitting upright, alert yet consciously relaxing your muscles. This could be in a chair with feet on the floor or sitting on the floor (most of us will meditate deeper with a back support).
Meditation is best practised seated upright, not lying down.
  • Begin by focusing on your breath, or concentrate on the flame of a candle.
  • When thoughts enter, which they will, don’t attempt to control them. Observe and let go. If they persist have pen and paper close by and write that thought down.
  • Within a few weeks you’ll notice a difference in your ability to focus. This is now the beginning of awareness - active meditation.
  • If thoughts persist, introduce a mantra. This is a two syllable Sanskrit word which, when repeated, will create geometric shapes in your energy body to optimise healing on all levels. A common example of a mantra is “Gaia” (pronounced ‘Guy-a’) meaning Mother Earth. Repeating this mantra will keep you connected to Mother Earth and all the Earthlings.

Which posture to choose?

Your posture must be comfortable and allow you to remain alert and aware.

Sitting on the floor - legs crossed and maybe for comfort sit on a block or cushion or with back support.

Sitting on a chair - back supported and straight with feet comfortably in front and flat on the floor. Do not cross your ankles.If your feet don’t touch the floor use a book or cushion to rest your feet.

Lying Down - on your back, arms by your side, feet slightly apart. Be mindful as you may have a tendency to sleep. How many times have you heard fellow yoginis snoring at the end of a yoga class when in Shavasana (Corpse Pose)! However Yoga Nidra is done while on your back. It is best to be upright with our chakras (energy vortexes) vertically aligned.

Which technique?

Focusing only your breath as you breathe in and breathe out. If a thought persists ask yourself if it is relevant. Control your mind by regularly training it as you would your muscles in the gym.

Rotational Awareness is mentally scanning your body. Commence with right side moving to the left side. Mindfully relax each part of the body, section by section.

Guided imagery is a powerful technique where you can become familiar with your imagination. Choose an image that has a particular religious or spiritual meaning, or choose something you’d like to know more about. Or imagine yourself walking in the bush or along a deserted beach. There are many free guided meditations you can access online; these are often a great place to start when first embracing meditation as they can help guide you into a deeper meditative state.

Chanting is repeating an affirmation or one word to feel its resonance through your body and to connect your mind and body to work together.

Ultimately, meditation is a personal pursuit. Avoid believing whatever you’ve read or been told.Test it against your own experience and intuition and come to know the trust of the matter for yourself. Experiment and adapt to your own preference. There is no right or wrong way to meditate.

Jen Kaz

Jen Kaz trained and taught yoga in London in 2008. In early 2010 she returned to Perth and began teaching QiYoga. www.qiyoga.org