In my last post, I talked a little bit about meditation and I hope you’ve had the opportunity to experience just being. One of the key elements of meditation is stillness. Often easier said than done! However, if you can work on bringing stillness into the physical body then the mind will follow.
Whenever there’s an article on meditation, it’s generally accompanied by a photo of someone sat cross legged on the floor. A picture of peace and serenity. Now, if you’ve ever tried to sit for any length of time cross legged on the floor, chances are you’re not always giving out peace and serenity vibes because all you can think about is the immense pain in your hips/ankles/knees/low back (delete or add your own body part as applicable). Well you’re not alone!
Hatha (physical) yoga, was developed by ancient spiritual aspirants so that they could meditate in peace, without the distraction of the physical body. The asanas (postures) and sequences, breathing techniques and relaxations we practise, are all there to keep the body free from pain and dis-ease, prepared for meditation. If we are not mindful of our posture and use our body as it was intended we can run into difficulties.
I’ve been reminded, on a couple of occasions since I last blogged, on how important posture is.
Last week I was lucky enough to be working with a forward thinking company in Halifax, running workshops for their employees on good standing and sitting posture. This company has recognised that posture has an affect on the productivity and general wellbeing of their workforce, and were taking proactive steps to ensure this doesn’t affect their bottom line. In the workshop we discussed how important it is to sit or stand tall yet relaxed. This way we use our energy most efficiently, we have the best chance of remaining calm, relaxed and functioning with clarity and focus. The people I worked with all commented on how different they felt (physically, emotionally and mentally) just from sitting and standing correctly. (For more information on this subject please take a look at earlier blogs and downloads).
The second reminder came when working with a Bio-mechanics coach (I have a challenging skeletal system – which is why I got into yoga in the first place!). He has been reminding me of the importance of correct alignment, anything else is a waste of energy, preventing the muscles from working effectively and ultimately leading to pain. We’ve been focussing on putting my pelvis back into place and as a happy side effect, I’ve noticed that in my meditation practise I have been able to sit for much longer.
Now, here’s the thing – the mind does not want us to be still because stillness will allow us to go deeper within and goodness knows what we might find in there! So, the mind, cunningly, sets up a whole series of diversionary tactics. Here are some common physical body ones:
All you can focus on is the pain your physical body is in.
You start itching, you scratch, settle and then start itching somewhere else….
You need to cough or sneeze
Feeling so relaxed, you start to drift off – more nodding dog than spiritual seeker
Pins and needles start in the legs and feet. You have to move to get the blood circulating again.
The idea then is to play the mind at it’s own game. Start removing the obstacles to stillness so that you can focus on just being and not on itching, fidgeting and moving. Use your yoga and relaxation practise, take regular exercise and be mindful of your sitting and standing posture.
So, your homework then, is to focus on stillness. You do not need to be sat in the lotus position (although it will help and we’ll discuss this in later blog), you just need to be comfortable, sitting on a chair is fine, lying down is OK as long as you can stay awake, or try standing in Tadasana (mountain pose). Try not to fidget or move.
One of my favourite tips to stop shuffling is to sit with your hands resting lightly on the knees, and on each hand connect the first finger and thumb (a traditional yoga mudra), holding a long grain of rice, long ways, between the finger and thumb. If you fidget, the rice drops out.
Do give it a go and remember this is meditation practise not perfection. It will take time for your mind and body to get used to being still, build on the moments of stillness you do experience and they will soon grow and expand. Ix