Archive for the ‘Yoga Nidra’ Category

The 80-minute guided meditation CD Breathe Fully Live Free: Meditations to Release Anxiety and Fear is now available at Whole Foods Princeton, Ridgewood, and most other Whole Foods stores in New Jersey, lower Connecticut, and Long Island. It is also on CD Baby, iTunes, and Amazon (see links on Mahasri Yoga). The CD includes some core personal teachings of Swami Buddhananda Saraswati who was a key, well-loved Australian teacher (especially for yoga nidras and kriya yoga!) at the Bihar School of Yoga. He is the author of Moola Bandha:The Master Key.

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Breathe Fully Live Free: Meditations to Release Anxiety and Fear is now available for downloads on iTunes, Amazon, and CD Baby.

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The guided meditation CD, Breathe Fully Live Free: Meditations to Release Anxiety and Fear, is ready at last and available on www.cdbaby.com/cd/meenamodi2.  It is a recorded adaptation, in response to all the feedback, of the BVMI fundraiser “Yoga for Fear and Anxiety” we did last July. Amazon, Google Play, iTunes will have it in a week or two–will post links. New Jersey Whole Foods stores will carry it but this is a longer process and will take more time.

The 80-minute audio guided meditation CD combines wisdom from the East and West, science and contemplative traditions, clinical research and psychotherapy, talk and practice. For 2014, the profits will be given to charities that fight human trafficking and care for the victims.

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Being in Flow: Meditations for Peace, Insight, Clarity and Focus, the best-selling CD at Whole Body Ridgewood is now featured at Whole Body Edgewater, NJ. The CD is also available at Whole Body Princeton and several stores in New York and New Jersey.

All profits, 100 percent, are donated to charities. Mahasri Yoga supports charities that provide free meals, education, and medical care to the poor around the world.

Being in Flow transforms stress to rest. The guided flow of awareness clears the mind and improves focus. A still body and a clear mind become a powerful force of attention. When directed to look within, the attention reveals insight into problems. Grounding the awareness in the sound of silence within is a solid foundation to peace.

The numerous benefits of meditation are well documented: reduce stress, reduce blood pressure, anger management, improve relationships, pain management, improve attention span, improve memory, increase creativity, improve test scores.

Guided meditation is one of the easiest and effective forms of meditation. The mind is kept focused without boredom. Over time, it helps solve issues by exposing the root cause.

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It is so difficult to let go of that which tortures us, to let go of our pain. Why do so many feed and nurture and grow the pain? Often, we do not even know the real cause of suffering in our lives as it is so deeply embedded. I see people clinging to the very things that drive them insane, unable to let it go, to free themselves. No space is allowed to live with joy, to live free. This is where numerous studies support meditation. There are so many meditation techniques and they all have varying effects so it is important to distinguish between methods instead of having the generic term “meditation” or “Yoga”.

One of the most effective practices is Satyananda Yoga Nidra–there are many who have “borrowed” this practice without giving the source due credit. We suggest going to the original source and reading Yoga Nidra by Swami Satyananda. There are several transcripts in the book.

Satyananda Yoga Nidra is a the modern adaptation of the tantric practice of nyasa which works at five levels or bodies–physical, energy body, emotional, mind, and spirit. Repressed emotions manifest themselves at all levels as they are an intricate web and not distinct. The practice is ingeniously simple on the surface and safely allows emotions to surface. They are witnessed with awareness, not judgment or reaction. This process saps the emotion of energy and it is free to dissipate. The emotion no longer has the powerful grip over the mind and no longer consumes the person.

Yoga Nidra is a pratyahara (sense withdrawal) method in the eight limbs of Patanjali Yoga (yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyhara, dharana, dhyana, samadhi--see What is Yoga). Disturbances from the mind, and by implication the unresolved issues of life, must be settled before dhyana can begin.

Experience beats theory and so readers are invited to try out the Yoga Nidras from Mahari Yoga–they are all free on-line tracks. Begin with the first one and then gradually work your way up. These are shared freely with all who seek peace within themselves.

Being a Witness

In this practice, we will learn to be a witness, a neutral spectator, without actively participating in the physical breathing or mental processes. Simply being, observing, has a significant effect in calming the body, mind, and emotions. You will feel it in this practice.

Who Am I?

This meditation reveals the perpetual and consequential programming, or the conditioning process, of the mind that began at birth. Think of the body and mind as hardware and software that are constantly growing, and being shaped and formed, by everything the body-mind is exposed to. This body-mind complex takes, absorbs, processes, and stores everything. As we witness it, is “I” the body-mind? Who is the silent witness? Who am “I”? Even if there is no burning desire to seek an answer, just being aware of the continuous, ongoing, cumulative process of conditioning can empower us to reprogram ourselves consciously in positive ways. Conscious thinking can lead to a deeper, compassionate understanding of relationships and less conflict. It does this by slowly breaking down identification of Self with the mind and the thinking process.

Up to the Summit

In this meditation, we begin shedding some of the conditioned programming. We learn to discard excess baggage that weighs us down and prevents us from getting where we need to go. The visualization of climbing to the summit, top of the mountain, and the inner guide part is based on a Yoga Nidra done 30 years ago during a course in Mumbai with Swami Buddhananda Saraswati of the Bihar School of Yoga. Over the course of the years, like an evolving recipe, our interpretation and wording of it has also evolved. This is our version, which too will change over the course of time.

Role of Purpose and Beyond

This fourth meditation is about looking at various roles each one of us plays. Some roles are easier and more comfortable than others. Do others see us the way we see ourselves? Who plays the roles? Who watches as the spectator? Exploring these questions is a critical step in self-transformation for a more peaceful life for ourselves and others.

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“MEDITATION and mindfulness: the words conjure images of yoga retreats and Buddhist monks. But perhaps they should evoke a very different picture: a man in a deerstalker, puffing away at a curved pipe, Mr. Sherlock Holmes himself. The world’s greatest fictional detective is someone who knows the value of concentration…. ” is the introduction to “The Power of Concentration” by Maria Konnikova published in The New York Times on December 15, 2012.

Many of us believe that concentration is the inevitable by-product of meditation and the heart of meditation is mindfulness or awareness. When we practice, we are training our mind to be aware of itself–we are mindful of the activities of the mind. We do not force the mind to be quiet but it becomes quiet. We do not dismiss distractions but we acknowledge them and then guide the attention back to the breath or feeling or sensation, whatever we have been told to use as an anchor. And the distractions learn to remain in the background and not take over the control of the mind. In this way, we learn to observe the present and do not constantly remain entangled in the past and the hypothetical future. Concentration is awareness or mindfulness of what is now.

This is the process through which meditation enhances stress-free learning. Two reviewers of the guided meditation CD Being in Flow: Meditations for Peace, Insight, Clarity, and Focus wrote about their personal experiences in using the CD: enhanced productivity, greater creativity and innovative abilities, better ability to solve math problems and piano playing.

The New York Times article supports the reviewers’ experiences with studies and here is a brief summary.

  • The article cites improvements on measure of cognitive and vital functions in adults.
  • In a University of Wisconsin 2011 study, researchers demonstrated that meditation caused a shift in frontal brain activity toward positive emotional states for better emotional regulation (I have called this greater emotional fitness and immunity in my classes).
  • With mindfulness, “attentional flightiness”, associated with multi-tasking seems to disappear and there is improved concentration.
  • Mindfulness has positive behavioral as well as physical effects as it improves connectivity inside our brain’s attention networks.
  • The practices even affect the brain’s default network. There is greater and more consistent access to information regarding internal states and there is better ability to monitor the surrounding environment.
  • A 2012 Ohio State University study found that older adults who scored higher on mindfulness scales, the two areas (information processing hubs) that showed increased brain connectivity were the areas known to be “pathophysiological” sites for Alzheimer’s disease. So meditation may potentially help those areas of the brain stay healthier.
  • By strengthening areas of the brain most prone to cognitive decline, meditation and mindfulness (terms used differently by various groups) may have a prophylactic effect on the mind-body.

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A New York Times article “Living With a Sound You Can’t Turn Off’ by Jane E. Brody, December 3, 2012 made me think of Deanne and the Satyananda-based Yoga Nidras she has practiced over the years.

The constant loud humming in her ears drives Deanne to despair. Loud sounds leave her shaking for days. Deanne is in her 70s and she suffers from tinnitus, the subject of Jane Brody’s article and her affliction as well. Deanne though is in the 3 percent for whom this condition is debilitating. She fits the description in the paper given by Dr. Rilana F. F. Cima, a psychologist and researcher in the Netherlands:

“Patients say the sound is driving them crazy,” Dr. Cima said. “Their negative reaction to not wanting to hear it creates daily life impairment.” She said patients would do almost anything to avoid hearing the sound in their heads and the feelings of fear and anxiety that result.

Tinnitus is a chronic noise that seems to come from the person’s head. It’s intensity, pitch, and volume can vary.  Some experience it as a constant ringing sound that is the most obvious when it is quiet and there are no other distractions.

There seems to be no cure. Deanne has tried hearing aids and masking devices that produce white noise. Even after repeated adjustments over an extended period of time, they really do not help.  Reading this article was like listening to her story over the past few years. In the Times article, Dr. Cima says that when patients respond poorly to the masking device, they are often told they haven’t used it long or consistently enough.

Now Dr. Cima and her Dutch team have  successfully developed and tested a three-month treatment “based on cognitive behavioral therapy and relies on principles of exposure therapy long proven effective to treat phobias.”  The team enrolled 492 patients with varying degrees of tinnitus. Here is a short description:

The Dutch treatment relies solely on psychological techniques. Following an education session about tinnitus and lessons in deep relaxation, patients are gradually exposed to an external source of the very ringing they hear in their heads. After 10 or 12 sessions, they become habituated to it and no longer find it threatening.

This is also how Satyananda-based Yoga Nidra works–I do not know Dr. Cima’s specific treatment that can be replicated and was published in The Lancet (a British medical journal) last Spring. The abstract does not give any details of the program. This particular type of Yoga Nidra may also be seen as a very effective form of cognitive behavioral therapy. Deanne has been practicing Yoga Nidra for several years and it is this guided meditation that gives her any sense of relief and peace from the constant noise. During the practice, she is not aware of the sounds in her head and they do not elicit strong negative reactions. The stress and physical tension that accompany the fear (due to lack of sleep) and anxiety regarding the noise also melt away. However, the Yoga Nidra we practice in the senior class is not specific to tinnitus and the calming effect wears out for Deanne whose condition is more complex because of multiple health issues. Playing soft music in the background helps her as well. Deanne still has to avoid loud construction noise, vacuum cleaners, and jazz concerts, but at least there is something she can turn to for some sense of quiet peace, a quiet she craves.

For anyone curious about Satyananda-based Yoga Nidras, www.mahasriyoga.com/meditation has free audio tracks.


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