Another method that can be used to induce deep muscle relaxation is meditation. To say the least, meditation has changed considerably over the last couple of decades. First of all, you don’t have to wear a diaper or a wrinkled towel around your head any more. Best yet, you don’t have to sit in a cave either. One thing that might interest you is that there are all sorts of meditating techniques. There is Zen, Dhyana, Chigong, Yoga, Gurdjieffian, Silva Mind and Transcendental Meditation, just to name a few. Interestingly, the ultimate purpose of every one of these techniques is the same…to promote peace and relaxation of the mind. The research evidence indicates that although different types of meditation redirect attention in a slightly different way, one technique is about as effective as another in achieving attentiveness. Traditionally though, the “masters” and/or followers of one method do not accept the teachings and validity of other methods. It doesn’t seem to matter what method of meditation you are into as long as you follow the procedure. In some cases, you may find yourself going in different directions from your counterparts, but eventually, you will all end up at the same place. As you might have expected, in recent years there have been numerous studies conducted to determine the physiological effects of meditation. The results of these studies have consistently shown that during meditation the respiration rate is lower and there is a dramatic decrease in oxygen consumption, blood lactate and carbon dioxide elimination. Alpha brain rhythms and ∞ WELLNESS FOR LIFE ∞ galvanic skin resistance (GSR) increase __________________________________________________________________ during meditation while heart rate and respiration decrease. What all this means Brain Nothingness. is that meditation can bring about a A state of brain nothingness (one-pointedness in Zen, relaxation response. nirvana in yoga) can be produced easily in a physiology lab. In Actually, there are a lot of great fact, that very state has been produced a number of times in things about meditation for us plain folk. physiology labs across the country. The only difference is that First of all, it does not require any physiologists call it “blanking out.” For instance, Smith equipment, money, or thought. That’s presented a number of studies in which a group of physiologists right, no thought. As a matter of fact, the were testing the theory that the brain needs continuous change. objective of meditation is to achieve In the experiment, the subjects looked at a totally patternless brain nothingness. It’s called a state of visual field called a “ganzfield.” No matter how the subjects' nirvana in Yoga and “one-pointedness” eyes moved, they saw the same white washed surface. After only 20 minutes, the subjects reported having no visual experience, a in Zen. Trust us, empting your brain of "blank-out." A blank-out wasn't merely seeing white or nothing thought is not as easy as it sounds. at all; it was a complete disappearance of the sense of vision. Thinking of nothing is hard work. To be The subjects didn't know if their eyes were opened or closed. honest though, we do have this little There seems to be a similarity between blank-out and the state of problem with the concept of “brain nothingness, one-pointedness, or nirvana. As Smith points out, it nothingness.” Perhaps, because we never seems to be a matter of communication. The vocabulary of the experienced this alter state of mediator says that if you meditate well and really cut off the consciousness. Then again, we may have outside, you can merge with infinity. You are showing lots of experienced it, but never knew it because alpha brain waves, but you are not registering any stimuli the same state the mediator’s experience. our brain was thinking about nothing, and if you are thinking of nothing, do you know that you’re thinking of nothing?
Actually, how do you know you’re thinking? Well, you can see we still have a little problem with the concept. One thing we are sure of, our students are meditating superstars…they get a perfect ten on brain nothingness. As we mentioned, there are numerous types of meditating techniques and every one of them is designed to teach you how to clear your mind. What we are going to do here is describe three different methods that you can use to meditate. Choose the one that appeals to you most or try all three and decide which you like best. It would probably be smart to use each one separately for several weeks before making a decision on which one you want to use, if any. First of all, you need to plan a program just as you would for effective physical development. Two sessions a day, one in the morning and one in the evening is what most people who mediate use. Begin with 10 minutes for each session and gradually work up to 20 or even 30 minutes for each session. Some individuals have found that meditating right before going to work or physical exertion gives them a boost. Others say that meditating right before going to bed is best for them. Like we said, in this area no one seems to agree on anything. This will be something that you will probably have to decide on your own. The important thing is that your meditation sessions should be regular and you should not miss anyone of them. Here are a few other general guidelines for best results. Don’t meditate right after a meal. Sit in a comfortable position and be in a place where you won’t be disturbed. We’re going to start with meditation on breathing. Assume a comfortable sitting posture in which the head, chest and shoulders are held erect and straight. Your posture should be comfortable so your body can remain still throughout the duration of the exercise. Once you are comfortable, begin to pay attention to your breathing. Count slowly as you inhale, “1, 2, 3, 4.” Now count slowly as you exhale, “1, 2, 3, 4.” Each number you count should represent one second. You will find that your inhalation lasts about the same number of seconds as your exhalation. The normal ratio of inhaling to exhaling is 1:1 it should take you about 4 to 6 seconds each way. Now, let’s change that ratio to 1:2. Inhale for 4 seconds and exhale for 8 seconds. Concentrate and count the seconds. The reason for making the exhalation twice as long as the inhalation is so you can get maximum control over your lungs. Consequently, squeeze out all the carbon dioxide gas and/or waste products that are in your lungs. No matter how hard you inhale, unless all the carbon dioxide is squeezed out of the lungs, you cannot bring in a significant amount of oxygen. In ordinary breathing, we squeeze out only a small portion of air from the lungs. As you meditate on breathing be aware of how you breathe. Use your whole respiratory system, leaving no portion of the lungs unfilled with fresh air. The inhalation process should begin with the downward movement of the diaphragm into the abdomen. Next, the chest is expanded and the upper part of the lungs is inflated as the shoulders and collarbone are raised. Okay, now if you’re breathing correctly and are able to achieve the 1:2 ratio of inhalation to exhalation, you are ready for breath retention. Inhale for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 16 seconds and exha1e for 8 seconds. You can gradually increase the seconds, but keep the ratio the same. The ratio for inhalation to retention to exhalation is 1:4:2. You can gradually work up to doing eight seconds of inhalation, thirty-two seconds of breath retention (holding your breath) and sixteen seconds of exhalation. The inhalation-retention-exhalation of one breath is called a round. Perform 15 to 20 rounds during each session. If you are able to do this easily, then you have excellent control over your lungs and your power of concentration is superb! End each meditation session by sitting quietly for a few moments, breathing normally and experiencing the effects of this type of meditation. After meditation, most people feel relaxed, but also feel they have an abundance of energy. After a week or so, you will be ready for the next step in breath meditation… alternate nostril breathing. Experts in yoga tell us that alternate nostril breathing helps maintain equilibrium in the anabolic and catabolic processes of the body. This is especially important for athletes. The anabolic process is the building up of organic compounds in the body. The catabolic process is the breaking down of organic compounds. To build bigger
stronger muscles, the body must first break ∞ WELLNESS FOR LIFE ∞ down the old muscle tissues, then build up __________________________________________________________________ the new stronger larger ones. In addition to all other benefits of meditation, this next Mantra. step on breathing is said to aid your anabolic and catabolic processes. Actually, it doesn't really matter which mantra you Get into a comfortable position. use. For instance, a study conducted by Herbert Benson revealed Close the right nostril with your thumb and that using the word "one" for a mantra brought about the same inhale through the left nostril. Then close physiological changes as the traditional 'mantras such as "am," "rahm" and "ah- nahm." In fact, there's quite a bit of other the left nostril with your right ring finger. research, which indicates that it really doesn’t matter what Remove your thumb from your right nostril mantra you use. According to these studies any mantra will and exhale through that nostril. This is a suffice in helping you achieve deep muscle relaxation and half-round. Without pausing, inhale through eventually a state of brain nothingness if you will. the right nostril. Then, close the right nostril with the thumb and exhale through the left. This makes one full round. Begin again with inhaling through the left nostril. Try to keep the proportion of inhalation to exhalation at 1:2…as we described in the previous exercise. It may seem to be a little tricky to get it all going, but with practice it’s really easy. Work up to 20 rounds for each session. End each session by sitting quietly with eyes closed for a few moments. There are a number of forms of meditation on breathing, most of which are variations of ancient techniques. The ones we just described are derived from a system of breathing used in Yoga called pranayama. Zen also employed meditation with breathing techniques. If you wish to pursue Yoga or Zen, you might want to get the assistance of an instructor or master. There are also many kinds of yoga ranging from the stretching poses of hatha yoga to the nearly violent physical activity of kundalini yoga. In case you are interested, Yoga originated in India while Zen comes to us by way of Japan. Okay, let’s go on to another technique of meditation called visual meditation. This technique has long been a traditional part of Yoga and has been used by American Indians for inducing meditative or other altered states of consciousness. One such method is called candle gazing. Get a candle and matches. Sit in a comfortable position in a place where you won’t be disturbed. If possible, have the candle at the level of your head 2 or 3 feet away. Light the candle, settle back and gaze at the flame. If thoughts pop up, let them fall away and bring your attention back to the flame. If your eyes may dart around the room, bring them back to the flame. After several minutes, close your eyes. You will “see” the candle flame in your head. Keep looking at it. If it starts to slide off your mental screen, just bring it back to the center. If you lose sight of it altogether, open your eyes and gaze at the flame for several minutes, then close your eyes again and study the flame in your mind’s eye. Let your first session last for 10 minutes. Gradually, work up to 20 minutes. Visual meditation should feel relaxing to your eyes. If it doesn’t and you feel eyestrain, reduce your meditation time by half. If the eyestrain persists, choose another form of meditation. If, on the other hand, you should find this method relaxing, then proceed by slowly increasing the meditation time. Keep in mind that you do not need to force anything. Everything should happen naturally. The third type of meditation is called mantra meditation. With this method you rhythmically repeat a sound which traditionally comes from the ancient language of Sanskrit. The sound is usually nasal and tends to reverberate in your head. The sound should have no particular meaning because you are not to think about it, you are only to say it in your mind over and over in a rhythmic fashion. The most well known mantra is “om.” Begin by saying it aloud in the following way: take a very deep breath, shape your mouth into an “0” shape and exhale through your mouth saying “oh.” About halfway through your exhalation, close your lips so that the “oh” turns into an “m” sound. You will feel the
“oh” part in your chest and the “m” part in your head. Inhale deeply again and repeat the mantra. After practicing aloud several times, sit quietly and make the long “om” sound in your head without actually saying it aloud. As with visual meditation, you may find yourself thinking about things rather than meditating. When this happens, let go of your thoughts and begin again with your mantra. Eventually, the mantra may fall away, you will not be having thoughts and you will find yourself in the meditative state…brain nothingness. Start out with 10 minutes per session and gradually increase to 20 or 30. There are many other mantras. Here are two others you might want to try: “rahm” and “ah-nahm.” In all candor, you can use any nonsense syllable you want and still achieve the same results.