Meditation is mental hygiene, a relaxed state of consciousness that moves from the head to the heart. So, ease into meditation, go with the flow, and unfold effortlessly. Be silent and calm before you retire to sleep so that the stillness required for mindful breathing enables you to move easily into rest/recovery mode.
Specific breathing practices with prolonged exhalations help to fall asleep and stay asleep":
- Increase vagal tone and improve sleep by activating the parasympathetic nervous system (and suppressing the sympathetic system)1
- Induce the relaxation response
- Clear obstacles while turning down distracting external noise
- Silence the “monkey chatter”
Breathing for Meditation
Breathing for meditation involves inhaling through the nose, slow abdominal breaths, and elongate the exhale, pause briefly after each inhalation and exhalation. I will guide you to relax, recuperate and rejuvenate. So, let us - Sit/Lie down, Observe, Accept, and Relax. During this meditation, Be nothing, do nothing, know nothing, but you are everything.
- Sit easily and comfortably with your eyes closed.
- Smile gently with neck and shoulders relaxed without tension. Keep your gaze/drishti on the nose-tip or Ajna chakra.
- Breathe in comfortably through your nose. Feel the abdomen inflate and expand like a balloon.
- Breathe out very slowly. 2Feel the abdomen collapse and sink in, pause briefly—Repeat x3.
- Continue, while inhaling thru the nose, feel the cool breath coming into your nose, sinuses, and the back of the throat.
- Follow this with a slow exhalation, feeling the warmth on your upper lip—repeat x3.
- Continue slow, long breathing. Inhale through your nose for 4 counts and breathe into your belly. Then, exhale slowly for 8 counts, feeling the abdomen collapse and sink down. Notice the slight pause after the exhale. Be aware of the urge to breathe inside you, but avoid stress.
- Continue to count up to three rounds, each round consisting of one inhalation and one exhalation.
- Without judging or manipulating the breath, release control over the inhale or exhale and return to natural, easy breathing.3
- Feel the lightness and relaxation of your entire body without anxiety, worry, stress, and fear.
- Continue to inhale effortlessly with prolonged exhalations. Make a fist, squeezing your hands tightly. Hold this for a few seconds, feeling the tension. Then slowly open your fingers and feel the difference. Notice the tension leaving and the muscles relaxing.
- Release all stress and tension. Allow positive energies to flow and eliminate negative energies to allay apprehension and restore tranquility.
- The way you breathe is the way you think. Inhale peace and calmness. Exhale stress and tension — repeat x3. Sat Chit Ananda.
- With intention and attention, observe your thoughts - without expectation or judgment.
- Mindfully take a calm belly breath, letting the belly rise. Exhale slowly and relax—repeat x3.
- Take a calm belly breath. Exhale slowly and relax—repeat x3. Live in the present moment, in the here & now. Nothing to fix, solve or accomplish.
- Place your palm on the heart region and feel the throbbing of your heartbeats. Decrease your RR and Slow your heart rate by increasing the vagal tone.
- Allow your breath to come back to its normal pace. Notice your natural breath, coming/going on its own. Accept everything with nothing to fix or change.
- Do not try to control your breath; follow your breath and just be a witness - repeat x3.
- The breath is the anchor that brings you back to your practice when the mind wanders. So, when thoughts come to your mind, or you feel sensations in your body or hear sounds in the environment, do not react. Instead, keep following your breath in and out. Just let go of all regrets, fantasies, and fears.
- Feel the love, harmony, peace, and joy within. Break through all barriers and feel that you are 'blessed'.
- The whole world is our family, Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam.
- Forget and forgive all grievances and resentments to others and yourself.
- Take everything for gratitude but nothing for granted.
- With each inhalation and exhalation, become more relaxed and comfortable, thereby decreasing your stress hormone.
- With each breath, feel God's presence in your mind. You may choose So hum, Radhey Shaam, or your own mantra and visualize yourself in an ocean of Divinity.
- Experience your true nature where there is peace and calm, by silencing your mind. In the depth of silence, you can hear the voice of God. So let’s observe silence for at least one minute.
- When you are ready, gradually, at your own pace, open your eyes. Rub your hands and place the warm hands over your face. Hari Om.
Story: Talent Competition in the King's Court
An Indian king invited his subjects to recognize their skills in various activities (music, sword fighting, painting, etc.), offering rewards. Various competitors came forward to exhibit their skills. Finally, one man came forward and just stood still. The king got irritated and questioned him, "What is your achievement?" The man replied, "To remain still without my mind wandering and worrying." The king was offended and wanted to punish him for not showcasing any worthy skill. The man agreed to accept the punishment if the king tried and succeeded in remaining quiet that night while going to bed. The king accepted the plea and summoned him to come to his court the next day. Accordingly, the man showed up the next day and asked the king if he indeed had a peaceful night. The king bowed and told this yogi that he could not forget his worries and problems, however hard he tried. He recognized the wisdom of this yoga master and showered him with valuable gifts.
Silence activates the release of oxytocin, GABA, and serotonin - all hormones which reduce stress.
2Cheryl Fenner Brown, C-IAYT, E-RYT 500, YACEP. www.yogacheryl.com
3Cheryl Fenner Brown, www.yogacheryl.com