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Archive for September, 2012

Mindfulness is now synonymous with meditation. Meditation in its simplest and most profound form is paying attention to the mind–to all the expressions, manifestations, and perceptions. What exactly is the mind?

Yogic Understanding of the Mind, February 2009 issue of Yoga Magazine (Bihar School of Yoga) provides some answers.  This is a somewhat scholarly article. For those interested in knowing the way mind is defined and described in the various Indian philosophies this article is very helpful. This post provides a small glimpse.

The article states that the mind is the power of the self or atma shakti. The divine consciousness or the universal spirit manifests and expresses itself through this mental energy. The heart is the seat of the mind. In samadhi (individual consciousness or jiva merges with the cosmic consciousness/ universal spirit  or paramatman, Brahman) and in sleep the mind rests in the heart. But in sleep ignorance is the veil that separates it from itself as the projection of  the universal spirit.

The individual mind is connected with the cosmic mind and with all other individual minds. We are all interconnected through a global web of individual minds–think of it as a world-wide web where all minds are interconnected.

“If A is a friend of B, A’s mind is connected with B’s mind. The minds of friends and relatives of A are attached to A’s mind. Several minds are similarly linked to B’s mind also. The minds of those who are attached to A’s mind are, therefore, connected in turn with the minds of those who are hanging on B’s mind. In this manner, one mind is in touch with all the minds in the whole world. This is the Vibhu theory of mind of raja yoga.”

Nyaya, one of the Indian philosophies, says the mind is atomic. Patanjali describes it as all-pervading. According to Vedanta philosophy, it is the same size as the body.

“Mind is material, made up of subtle matter. Just as the physical body is composed of solid, liquid and gaseous matter, so also the mind is made of subtle matter of various grades of density with different rates of vibration. A raja yogi penetrates through different layers of the mind by intense sadhana [spiritual practice].”

The article goes on to describe the mind as one of the five sheaths or koshas.

“The mental body or manomaya kosha varies in different people. It is composed of coarse or finer matter, according to the needs of the more or less unfolded consciousness connected with it. In the learned, it is active and well-defined; in the undeveloped, it is cloudy and ill-defined. There are several zones or slices in the mental body just as there are various compartments in the brain for particular types of thought. During intense anger, for example, the whole mind is suffused with the black hue of malice and ill-will, from which fiery arrows of anger dart forth.”

The mind is called the bridge between the human and the divine.

With permission from Yoga Magazine, this article will be an important addition to the Article section of www.mahasriyoga.com.

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One in five Americans suffer from anxiety, according to The New York Times which has been running a series of articles on the subject. The paper notes that for many it is not a disorder but a part of the human condition. Looking at the previous blog posts, I noticed how extensively this blog has covered anxiety and the many different, various prescriptions for cures. But first, do you think you are an anxious person?

Do you find yourself or your friends and family get anxious, very anxious, about the weather? Parents who get incredibly anxious about their kid’s school or college work? Anxiety about getting ill? Fretting over daily routine and chores? Anxiety about catching a plane or traveling? Anxious about the way someone looks, how their house looks, what they say, what they read, what they watch? The list could go on and on.

Every now and then everyone will experience some normal anxiety. But it does become debilitating when it is an almost daily occurrence. From where to eat to going to the doctor, anything and everything seems to provoke anxiety for many people. When I watch, it appears that anxiety is catching and infectious. When others around us are constantly anxious, unless we consciously watch ourselves, our minds start mimicking the thoughts and behaviors of people around.

The mimicking mind is nothing new. Studies have shown that people who have obese friends tend to put on weight. Those who have lean friends tend to be relatively lean.  Menstruating women’s bodies synchronize over time so those who live together will be more likely to have synchronized menstrual cycles. Our minds feed off of each other, the environment, and what we expose our minds to in what we read, hear, and see.

The human condition can be changed. The mind can be reprogrammed, rewired, and retrained. It starts with first observing the mind as a spectator or an objective witness. It is also called being mindful. Here are some practical and easy cures but regular practice is essential. The difficult part is making the time and being disciplined, even if it causes some initial anxiety. Find someone to practice with or a support group to make it easier. Listening to music  can easy and effective on your own.

Change your breath, change the brain waves of  the mind, change the condition of the mind.

Alter the breathing patterns with the guided breathing practices in the blog post below. All the practices are free online audio tracks on www.mahasriyoga.com.

Safe Breathing and Increasing Lung Capacity is a good starting point. The body must be relaxed and breath must be relaxed together. Train the mind to rest on the breath and not on anxiety. Trying to push anxious thoughts out does not.  A better strategy is to give them some time to express themselves as the mind watches objectively and then  not give attention to them, not to make them the focal point.

How to Lengthen Safely is the next stage. Grounding the mind in the breath: Whole Body, Belly, or Full Yogic Breath starts retraining the mind. The space in belly is a very restful, peaceful place to be.

Balanced Paced Breathing for Calmness changes the breathing pattern. Balanced breathing will help synchronize the brain with more tranquil waves. The brain starts getting rewired.

Music Therapy: Sound waves alter brain waves.

Listening to repetitive music such as chants and kirtans is another cure. The music must be peace-inducing so that the brainwaves will synchronize themselves to the frequency of the music. So just by hearing the right music it may be possible to change the anxious mood.

Meditation, Music, Anxiety, Stress was a popular blog post and readers may want to revisit it.

Power of Music, Rhythm, Chants, and Kirtan is another popular post to revisit.

Yoga Asanas: Certain physical positions and activities slow the mind and body.

Yoga Asanas For Anxiety and Stress gives some simple positions that help reduce anxiety.

Yoga Nidra and Trataka go to the root of anxiety.

These are two extremely effective practices and recommended for anxiety.

Anxiety and Stress: Beyond Asanas explains more fully and will guide readers to the links to the free online audio tracks to the practices on Mahasri Yoga’s website.

General Suggestions

Yoga Do’s for Anxiety, Stress, Depression.

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Researchers from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) have put out a list of five things people should know about yoga. I have reprinted it here as a public service notice.

Yoga typically combines physical postures, breathing exercises, and meditation or relaxation. Researchers are studying how yoga may be used to help improve health and to learn more about its safe use. If you’re thinking about practicing yoga, here are 5 things you should know:

  1. Studies suggest that yoga may be beneficial for a number of conditions, including pain. Recent studies in people with chronic low-back pain suggest that a carefully adapted set of yoga poses can help reduce pain and improve function. Other studies also suggest that practicing yoga (as well as other forms of regular exercise) might have other health benefits such as reducing heart rate and blood pressure, and may also help relieve anxiety and depression.
  2. Studies show that certain other health conditions may not benefit from yoga. Research suggests that yoga is not helpful for asthma, and studies looking at yoga and arthritis have had mixed results.
  3. Yoga is generally considered to be safe in healthy people when practiced appropriately. However, people with high blood pressure, glaucoma, or sciatica, and women who are pregnant should modify or avoid some yoga poses.
  4. Practice safely and mindfully. Everyone’s body is different, and yoga postures should be modified based on individual abilities. Carefully selecting an instructor who is experienced and is attentive to your needs is an important step toward helping you practice yoga safely. Inform your instructor about any medical issues you have, and ask about the physical demands of yoga.
  5. Talk to your health care providers about any complementary health practices you use, including yoga. If you’re thinking about practicing yoga, also be sure to talk to your health care providers. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.

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