I know the current topic presented may be funny/not funny. This mini article was inspired by my recent interactions with my patients through my Ayurveda Practice and based upon the proclamation that they “don’t have time to or the ability to meditate.” For whatever reason (which are numerous and equally justified by the ego and monkey mind), many people feel that they can’t do it or have what it takes. Some people want to but notice how busy their lives and mind (reflectively) are. Other people make excuses because of the trepidation associated with becoming aware of the onslaught of thoughts cascading one after another.
My first meditation teacher, Dr. Nashit from the Himalayan Institute in New York City, defined meditation as “an uninterrupted flow of awareness on one object of consciousness”. Adyashanti, states “that meditation is not something you do but something that happens as a result of the things that you’ve done in order to call meditation in.” It’s not something you can make happen or capture in a certain way, especially in the beginning. Classical yoga, according to Patanjali who created the Ashtanga Yoga (Eight limbs) Path teaches how meditation is step seven of eight and that there are “pre-requisites” to meditation to be installed before meditation is arrived at. Many of us tend to put too much stress on what meditation “should look like and be like”, rather than allow it to show up to us in the moment as we set the stage for it to unfold as deemed appropriate and individualized per person, guided by some external instruction (sometimes) and the inner wisdom. Meditation isn’t “suppose to” be a stressful experience BUT can bring up perceived stressors as we become aware of the storm of thoughts present and colliding seemingly endlessly with one another. When we endure the painful assault of thoughts, which eventually subsides, we become witness to the return to silence and how silence becomes our friend. When we can put aside what our expectations of meditation should look like we will have better results and these results will have a multitude of effects.
It is crucial to our mental health, as there is physical exercise for the body’s health, that there is also exercise for the mind. This involves breathing techniques that act as a bridge between body and mind, and body/mind with spirit. Breathing is the conduit that nurtures the physical cells and DNA of the body, the thoughts of the mind and the anchor for spirit. The body energizes with oxygen, through breathing; the mind and thoughts are either activated or disengaged through breathing; and the spirit comes through the breath. Additionally and importantly, mantra which involve sacred words/prayers (but not necessarily for the purpose of this article) and meditation are the exercises for mind.
In the Ayurvedic-yogic literature, we can say that meditative practices can fall under the categories and possess a tamasic quality (grounding, heavy), rajasic quality (stimulating, uplifting) or sattvic quality (balancing, enlightening). With that, Ayurveda uses these qualities and carefully constructs “protocols” based on the individual mental constitutions of each person known as ‘Manas Prakruti.’ This becomes an easier tool that can present some hopefulness for people that are “too busy or skeptical” about what mediation is. As we lay out the groundwork that encourages the mind to decompress and de-clutter we can invite in the opportunity for deeper healing and a reorganization of the chaos that is happening in our bodies by creating space for it to happen. Lives and lifestyles can seem so frantic and chaotic that it almost seems impossible to slow down. It’s up to us to start somewhere.
I feel that it has to start with the first baby step, fueled by intention, and utilization of time efficiency until a more structured ideal time is set in place. I remember learning many years ago in one of my New York nutritional trainings that “90% of life’s most important decisions are made on the toilet.” Concordantly and in light of this, one simple technique I feel would be helpful in encouraging a calmer mind and nervous system, along with a break from the days’ insanity is the ‘One Minute Potty Meditation’.
We all have to make it to the toilet at some point of he day and during that time, ranging and on average from 3-10 minutes, we have time to sit there and not be preoccupied by worldly distractions, which means PUT DOWN the book, magazine and cell phone and focus on a very important function of the body…the bowel movement. Actually, according to Ayurveda and Yoga, it is contraindicated for many reasons to sit on the bowl and be distracted during that time. Additionally, it is important to note that not everyone has a regular/daily routine of releasing the stools. Some people, more than you think, more than you’d like to admit and more than you may understand, may actually go once or infrequently every few days to even once a week. Imagine??!! (If this is you, please contact me or find a local Ayurvedic Practitioner so that we can get the motor running and get your poop popping out regularly and healthily, so that you’re happier and your body thanks you.) Who knows? You may actually become more regular as you apply this practice to your sitting time on the toilet. Every little bit helps. A calm mind, focused and less stressed mind can cause the colon to be more relaxed and do its duty.
Here goes, as you’re sitting there implement this meditative practice. (short and sweet)
1- Sit with your spine erect and your palms on your knees face down, with your index finger and thumb gently connecting.
2- Close your eyes gently and focus your gaze in towards your eye brows or down towards your heart center.
3- Take a deep full breath in that begins in the abdomen and rises up to the chest.
4- Gently hold the breath from 6-12-18 seconds or until you start to notice a struggle with the breath or just before the swallowing reflex wants to engage. (This retention is called Antar Kumbhaka, as there are 4 parts of the breath that serve a specific function in the physiology and psychology)
5- Exhale deeply and fully, from the belly first (this is important!) and allow the rest of the rib cage and upper chest to decompress.
6- Repeat this a few times over a minute.
Note that if you feel courageous and inspired enough, as you get into a groove with it, you can go longer than a minute and as long as you’re still pooping. It’s a simple meditative practice and not meant to replace a more defined way of sitting down to meditate but it is meant to supplement until you’re able to get things more organized in life that creates the space.
Making time for you is important. Using this time is an example that fortifies your well-being because you’ll feel a shift. Taking these deep full breaths serves the heart by massaging it and engages the parasympathetic nervous system through the vagus nerve. The retention helps with centering the nervous system, strengthening the digestive system and respiratory system. Through this, vital parts and systems of the body are being stimulated. You may feel more energized as you’re calmer. You may more still and focused. You may feel all sorts of sensations and experiences…just feel. Just observe them and continue with your intention of creating a space where you can recharge throughout the day.
We all need time to reset. Vacation resets us. If we’re able to, sleep at night resets us from the day. When we meditate it’s the ultimate reset for our body-mind-spirit. Be diligent with this practice. Be hopeful with this practice. Be light with this practice. It’s simple, easy and guaranteed to go where you go and that you’ll have at least have a couple times a day where you can practice, until you actually set up your own time in your schedule to do so otherwise.
Start here…just start somewhere and here’s a basic technique to help. Everyone can do it. If you’re already finding time during the day to meditate, then adding this in wouldn’t hurt you. It will just connect more of the day together and encourage a regular practice of meditation. Ultimately, one of the benefits of meditating more and more is that you’ll be more present to the moment, in each moment. Hence, “an interrupted flow of awareness on one object of consciousness.”
Enjoy! (and Happy Pooping!)
Step 1: Disconnect from technology for a little while. (I know this may be difficult for some but it's worth the investment, I promise.)
Step 2: Sit either in a comfortable crossed leg position. If this isn't for you, then sit on a chair or rest on a couch/bed.
Step 3: Place your right palm on your belly button and your left palm on your chest.
Step 4: Close your eyes.
Step 5: Just start breathing in and out of your nostrils. Notice the cooling sensation on the inhale and the warming sensation on the exhale. Do this for a minute or two. (Longer if you'd like, before continuing.)
Step 6: Draw your awareness to the belly, notice that if you are inhaling whether the belly is lifting first or the chest. If the belly is lifting first, then great. If it is not, then no worries. The ideal goal, (based on my learning) is to breathe from the belly first so if this doesn't seem to be happening for you, with time, patience and practice, it will. That being said, shift your awareness to the belly and set the intention to lift the right hand with the inhale first, and then the left-hand second. This is all the inhale. This is where it gets trickier, but not impossible. The exhale begins with the right hand, then the left. The action of the breath becomes like a wave slowly rising on the beach (inhale) and then the wave retreating (exhale.)
Step 7: Whether you have masters step 6 or not, yet, keep the practice moving. Take about 5 minutes, maybe even 10 to do this.
Step 8: After doing this practice, you can relax from the technique and return to simply observing the breath. Notice any changes?
It is important to note that this breathing practice/technique is the first step and fundamental practice that most of the other breathing techniques depend on for their effectiveness and success. This technique is like baby steps or like tricycle wheels that are required before taking off on the advanced steps.
NOTE: Do not strain the breath. Do not force the breath. Step 6 is setting the mind's intention with a subtle inclination of guidance/encouragement. To do otherwise could cause more harm than benefit. Just know it may take some time but it will shift. The breath should never be strained.
DISCLAIMER: Check with your primary healthcare provider first if you suffer from any cardiovascular/respiratory/chronic conditions. Check with your primary healthcare provider if you plan on making any changes to your health and wellness routine.
This is a variation of the Alternate Nostril Breathing Technique called "Nadi Shodhana", with its focus solely on the solar (Pingala Nadi) channel, inviting warmth and stimulation throughout the nervous system.
Step 1: Sit in a comfortable seated position.
Step 2: Close your eyes and position your inner gaze upon the center of your eyebrows.
Step 3: Take your right hand and simply extend your thumb and ring finger out, while the index and middle fingers collapse towards the center of the palm. Some people find this hand positioning (which is a sort of mudra) to be difficult, so I recommend just using the thumb and index fingers, while the other three fingers collapse towards the palm center. The point of this mudra is to make sure you have form of a hook.
Step 4: Using index finger, press the left nostril shut, while the right remains open.
Step 5: Inhale through the right nostril.
Step 6: Pinch the right nostril shut with the thumb.
Step 7: Release the finger from the left nostril and exhale.
Step 8: Pinch the left nostril shut again with the non-thumb finger.
Step 9: Release the right thumb from the right nostril.
Step 10: Repeat steps 3-9
The usual repetition of this is 3 round of 27, to start with. Or, 10 minutes worth of repetition. The breath must be deep, full and mindful. Not rushed or shallow.
This technique can be done every morning. You can do it before exercise or after. To get things moving. If you're not exercising then you can do this before showering. Additionally, it is a great technique to stimulate digestive activity and can be done before each meal. Say a few rounds or 2 minutes worth.
It's also a great technique to stimulate sympathetic activity and address lethargy and melancholy.
DISCLAIMER: This information is meant for educational purposes only and not considered medical advice. Any changes in lifestyle should be reviewed with a qualified practitioner and/or primary care physician if you are currently under their care for specific conditions.
Kapalabhati (known as rapid diaphragmatic breath or "shiny forehead") stokes the fire of the belly and supports oxygenation and circulation of the blood and abdominal organs.
This breathing technique is essential for stimulating the power of the digestive fire and eng aging the lymphatic system of the belly and torso.
1) With eyes closed take a deep full breath from the belly up and then exhale.
2) Take similar deep breath but only go half way from the belly up and on then the exhale is a profound pulling of the naval towards the spine.
3) Repeat this action anywhere from 27 to 108 times. If you're a beginner, start out slow so that you can properly coordinate the belly muscles and breath together, then make your way up to the higher repetitions.
4) Do three rounds of whatever number you choose. Stick with the number that feels right for your body and after a few weeks you can graduate up. I like to start some of my patients at 3 rounds of 27 and then increase after a few weeks to 3 rounds of 54 and then eventually 3 rounds of 108.
5) In between each round you can pause, take a breath, gently retain it for 7-12 seconds and then release.
Note: If you suffer from hypertension, hypotension, other cardiovascular issues, headaches, migraines, eye issues, glucose related issues please consult with your physician and/or other holistic healthcare provider.
Warrior pose is a great pose that is warming, can be grounding and yet dynamic. The deeper you sink into the pose the more you lengthen and can strengthen through the core, stimulating digestion and increasing some heat in the body. I would go into the pose after doing a few rounds of jumping jacks to rapidly raise the heart rate. Then, I would go into the pose. Followed by a forward fold to integrate the practice.
Step 1- From a standing position, make sure that your feet are positioned hips-width apart.
2- Making sure you keep your feet aligned with your hips, step back with your right leg ON the inhale..
3- Position the right foot so that it's at a 45 degree angle. or as close to this without straining.
4- Bend the front knee (the left), ON the exhale.
5- Inhale and life the arms over head and shoulder height.
6- Exhale and sit into the pose. With each exhale allow the body to go deeper and witness what comes up for you.
7- Hold this pose for 30 seconds to a minute.
8- Coming out of the pose, inhale and step the back leg forward
9- Exhale, into a forward fold.
10- Switch sides and repeat the above steps.
11- Ending the pose, both legs are standing together and exhale into a forward fold, with knees bent or straightened depending on your flexibility.
NOTE: If you wanted to make this pose more dynamic, especially for Kapha predominant types or someone with Kapha imbalances you can reverse the breath where you inhale you would exhale and where you exhale you would inhale. Ensure you don't have any heart issues and that you have practiced with the breath for sometime since this is more of an advanced technique, where we reverse the breath.
This pose is great for a reasons. One of which is because it relates to expanding the heart more.
There are a few variations so consider your limitations (if any).
1. Come on to your knees and maintain a straight spine
2. Here's where variations are considered. You can either curl your toes under and continue or your feet can be flat, based on your flexibility. Toes curled is a little more advanced. Take your right arm up towards the sky on the inhale and place it on the right lower back with the palm down. Inhale the left arm up and then place it palm down on the left lower back.
Note: If for some reason being on your knees is uncomfortable, you can stand instead and inhale the right arm up towards the sky and exhale it towards the lower back with the palm flat on the right lower back. Inhale the left arm up and exhale placing the palm on the left lower back. Both palms are in a sense supporting the lower back/lumbar spine. You can also interlace the fingers behind you and extend the arms towards the floor, if you wanted to have another variation.
3. Take a deep breath in and on the exhale slightly arch the spine back to where it's comfortable/uncomfortable (sthira and sukham).
4. Additionally, if you don't have any neck issues take a deep breath in and on the exhale slowly release the chin up as the back of the head arches backward.
5. Take a few breaths here as you tune into the heart area expanding. Breathe into the heart area and let the body settle in.
6. When you feel ready and would like to come out of the pose use the breaths similarly to how you entered into the pose.
7. Counter pose is a simple forward fold, for decompression. A restorative pose to soften any tension accrued from lower back compression.
This information is strictly for educational purpose only and not considered medical advice. Always first discuss with your primary care physician before considering any new health regimen.
Malasana is a great pose to practice for the ungrounded qualities of the Fall and Winter Season when Vata is predominant and we experience dryness and coldness. It also helps to regulate digestion and colon functioning.
This pose is engaging and generally simple to do.
1) Begin from a standing positing with your arms at your side.
2) Separate the legs comfortably apart, usually at least slightly past hips width distance.
3) Take a deep inhale and raise the arms above your head, with your arms shoulder height and shoulders down and relaxed.
4) Exhale and while exhaling bring the palms in prayer position in front of the heart as you begin bending at the knees as though you were going to take a seat but go as far as you can without losing balance. The elbows end up positioning between the bent knees.
Note: Should you lose balance widen the feet. Sometimes the heels don't always make the ground. That's okay. Do your best. The quadriceps (thigh muscles) are engaged so that the knees aren't collapsing.
Hold this pose for around a minute. Use the breath to hold the pose more than the muscles.
DHANURASANA (BOW POSE)
This pose helps to reduce excess heat in the body as it works on the liver and abdominal cavity where digestion is key to our health and vitality.
1. Position yourself completely in a prone position (on your stomach completely flat).
2. As you exhale bend your knees towards the direction of your buttocks.
3. Reach around with both your hands to grasp your ankles (if possible).
4. Inhale and slowly lift the legs with the hands connected.
Hold this pose for 5-11 breaths or a minute if possible.
Your chin and neck should be in a neutral plane central to the shoulders and not over extending or lifting upward.
Note: if you're unable to perform this pose a simpler version would be to keep the legs down, positioning your palms beneath your shoulders with your elbows bent and with you slowly lifting up to where the majority of pressure is on the abdominal cavity. Make sure that you inhale when you lift up and exhale as you release down. Repeat this a few times and then hold for 30 - 60 seconds. This pose is called Cobra (Bhujangasana).
Utkatasan (ut-ka-ta-sa-na) means powerful and fierce, is the yogic sanskrit word for 'Chair Pose'
This is a very powerful pose that is designed to strengthen the digestive fire, diaphragm, digestive organs, heart and increase circulation. It works on the core and then some.
It is a dynamic pose that can be done slowly or quicker for maximum potential.
1) Stand in an upright position with you feet hips width or slightly wider than hips width apart.
2) On the inhale extend the arms up, with palms facing each other and shoulders down.
3) On the exhale begin to squat as though you were going to sit on a chair, coming down as far as comfortable (maybe a little past your discomfort level). If you're experiencing pain, then you've gone too far.
4) As you're in the squat ensure that your spine is a lifted out of the hips and straight as possible.
5) Inhale and straighten the legs, lift the arms up.
6) Exhale and bring the arms down to your sides OR for more intensity return back to the squat.
Practice this for around 5 minutes. Notice what you notice, including an increase in heat in the body and a sense of strength.
Note: If you're unfamiliar with this pose, start out slowly until you work out the mechanics and coordination of the breath. Then you can pick up the pace as it becomes more fluid.
Low blood pressure