The last “Simple Tip” (look under the categories menu tab) I shared was utilizing the complete relaxation technique. In the systematic style of meditation expounded in the Himalayan Tradition, complete relaxation is only the second stage–it follows a postural practice. Let’s pause for a moment– if you’re new to this blog, or yoga meditation, no worries–you don’t have to have a perfected postural (asana) practice to continue. Furthermore, if time is a constraint, simple stretches– even a nice walk– will get you “into” the body.
Now, assuming you have worked with relaxation, which is a necessity– you cannot meditate if you are anxious and distracted— you begin to move further towards your Self via the breath.
We have all heard, anecdotally, about the importance of breathing deeply. But, it’s more than just the decompression of a sigh– shallow breathing negatively impacts our physiology. It is further exacerbated by, to name a few co-factors: poor posture, obesity, and incorrect breathing techniques.
In this tradition, the breath is the more “gross” manifestation of the “subtle energy” (prana) that animates the physical body– like electricity conducted along a wire. Therefore, we must refine the breath: make it deep, smooth, even (or seemless), and silent. The key to this is diaphragmatic breathing. The following video by Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati elegantly explains the physiology of the technique.
It is important not to get frustrated if the technique feels alien at first–no one would expect us to run a marathon without training. The upper abdominal muscles have to become stronger; furthermore, the chest and the belly have to be reeducated.
After your complete relaxation–or while you are lying on the back in savasana– you can sit tall and well and begin to work with the breath. Take your time with it. Keep the facial muscles and shoulders relaxed. As I have mentioned in previous posts, less is more in the beginning. Focus, completely, on diaphragmatic breathing for a predetermined amount of time–five to seven minutes. You may find this metronome helpful to keeping a steady cadence; I set it to 60 bpm and then inhale for about 5 to 6 seconds and exhale for the same length. After a while, try to lengthen the breath cycle– but, as a beginner, keep the breath even. Then just notice the difference in your body. What sensations do you feel? You are laboratory and Yoga practitioners are scientist who explore themselves from the gross to the subtle– and beyond.