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How Mantra Alleviates Stress & Anxiety
by Rishikesh Yogis
Mantra chanting is found to be a very effective to alleviate anxiety. Mantra Chanting is both
religious and spiritual practice, found in different cultures, religions and spiritual traditions across the world. Apart from its uses in spiritual and religious traditions, mantra chanting has immense potential to improve psychological wellbeing of a person. What is a Mantra? Mantra is a sacred utterance, a sacred formula, a sound syllable or simply a sound vibration; used as a tool to focus the awareness, strengthen the mind and attuning to the subtle sound vibrational energies within. In both Tantra and Vedic traditions mantras are used for many purposes. These mantras may or may not have a literal meaning. In both Yoga and Tantra, mantra is one of the important tools to centre or focus the mental and vital energies. In meditation practices mantra is used as a centering device to internalize and intensify the awareness resulting in the altered state of consciousness. Mantra is also defined as the force or instrument that liberates the mind from bondage. Bondage here means identification of mind with its contents i.e. thoughts, impressions, memories resulting in impurities (mala) and oscillation (vikshepa). The impurities are the sum total of all negative impressions deep in the mind. They are the result of past problems in all areas of our mental being, and relate to different areas of our life. Mantras helps to dissociate the awareness from all these negative impressions cluttering the mind. The other aspect of the mind, vikshepa, is the oscillation and distraction of the mind. This results because of the negative patterns of mind created by our identification with the effects of past, present and worry of future. By being identified with the negative impressions of experiences the internal monologue goes on all day, the desires, the fears, the plans, the disappointments, the mind is never at peace. By repeating the mantras with one-pointed awareness, the oscillations can be quietened and the mind becomes tranquil and peaceful. How Mantra Alleviates Anxiety: In today’s time, anxiety needs no introductions. Everyone feels anxious now and then. It’s a normal reaction of the mind. One may feel nervous when faced with a situation which are demanding in nature. But this may become a disorder when worrying becomes overwhelming and constant. Vibrational effects of Mantras A mantra is a combination of various sound vibrational frequencies. Mantra is used in many different yogic practices from all different traditions. When used as a tool in meditation, mantra helps to internalize the mind and awareness. Constant chanting of mantra leads to one-pointed awareness which helps dissociate the mind from the cycle of unnecessary, unproductive and crippling thoughts. This helps in creating a state of ‘relaxed-alertness’. If defined in physiological term, it is alpha brain rhythm. Here receptivity of the mind is heightened and this leads to attuning the awareness to the experience of subtle sound vibrations. Mantra meditation can lead one into a very deep and relaxed state of mind. It helps to develop power of concentration and will power; by strengthening the ability to hold the awareness on one tool i.e. mantra. Mantra and Nervous System A mantra is an energy composed of certain frequencies that have a pattern of their own and a vibrational field that creates different intonations. These frequencies and the sympathetic overtones generated by them influence our sympathetic and parasympathetic nerves, which are spread in a fine network around our internal organs. The sympathetic response generates the neuro motor response and influences the two hemispheres of the cerebral cortex. Neuroscience has demonstrated that the key to restructuring the nervous system in dramatic ways is to use repetitive therapeutic inputs that are precise and highly patterned. Studies show that the largest and most prominent neural circuits are formed by repetitive practices such as finger tapping, making music, and the gross, repetitive movement of limbs that occur during physical therapy. The phenomenon of neuroplasticity provides a basic explanation of how the practice of mantra affects the central nervous system. Effect of Incantation: - Incantation is the process of repetition of an alphabet, word, sentence or mantra. One of the major causes of anxiety is the impulses coming to the conscious mind from the wrong impressions stored in the sub-conscious mind. Thus the wrong reactions of the conscious mind originate from the wrong impressions in the various centers of the sub-conscious mind. The only way to overcome wrong reactions of the conscious mind is to wipe out the wrong impressions in the various centers in the sub-conscious mind and to prevent the further development of wrong impressions in them. This is done by incantation. By incantation a powerful centre is created in the subconscious mind which can send strong impulses to the conscious mind. In short, the principle of the ‘dominant thought replaces the weaker one’ is used to prevent the conscious mind from receiving any useless internal impulses.
6 Best Meditation Retreats in India
by Rishikesh Yogis
‘Meditation’ – a technique, and a process perceived as many things by different people. For
some, it is a way of life. For others, it is a method that demands time in life. And, for the rest it is a non-decipherable concept. We do not know which category you might belong to. Whether ‘meditation’ is a way of life for you or something that demands time from life, or it could just be an unexplored science that fascinates you – ‘meditation’ is undeniably unique and one of the most invigorating forms of science ever developed. There comes a time in our lives when the mental and emotional clutter overflows creating an imbalance in our mental, emotional and physical health. This may lead to insomnia, anxiety, feeling low, depression, and other physical disorders like BP, heart problems, diabetes etc. Under such circumstances a Meditation Retreat in India is one such elemental experience that is worth living at least once in a year. If you happen to travel to India and are unsure of the destination to undergo a rejuvenating trip, then we suggest you hail for a Meditation Retreat in Rishikesh. A meditation tour in India will not solve a purpose if you are looking for one, it is devoid of it. You might harness something like a weight on your body, mind and soul – ‘meditation’ delivers you to the present moment and lets you live in it, be at peace with it. Meditation is a vast science with different segments and techniques. It is quite easy to feel unsure about which one is ideal. Hence, we have listed the six most inspiring methods to explore from when on a Meditation Trip in India: Vipassana Meditation Achieving mental purification by seeing things as they really are – this is the niche of Vipassana Meditation. Retreats based on Vipassana meditation encourage participants to follow a life of discipline and observe silence and mindfulness all the time. One of the most ancient and the most pain stacking meditation techniques since the time of Lord Buddha, Vipassana Meditation is meant to help achieve mental and physical peace in the most vital situation. Known for its tougher-than-life process, this meditation technique is taken by very few people due to the same reason. However, if you do decide to give this one a try then you are advised to have nothing on mind, but ‘patience and devotion’. Transcendental Meditation Achieving a state of inner-calmness and peace even when surrounded by chaos and confusion – this is the purpose of Transcendental Meditation. In this form of meditationThis classification of meditation tour in India is specifically for the stressed out souls looking to tune out disparaging things out of their lives. It opens the gateway to achieving ‘inner peace’. Heart Rhythm Meditation The Heart Rhythm Meditation focuses on a downward style of meditation technique that works on the process of consciously observing the movements of cardiac muscles as the focus travels from the core of the body to its feet. This form of meditation technique helps build positive and elated vibes in people. It progressively helps on all three major levels – mentally, physically and spiritually. Mindfulness Meditation One of the ancient forms of Buddhist meditation techniques, Mindfulness Meditation focuses on two keywords ‘Awareness and Acceptance’. Under this particular technique, thoughts are set free. The meditator does not try to control their mind in order to concentrate better – instead, they accept things, thoughts, and images as they appear in the conscious. Eventually, when the wandering pauses, the mind is able to focus back with much more ease and intensity. This method helps you direct towards living life mindfully. Guided Visualization Meditation To invoke calm and happy thoughts, guided visualization meditation technique seeks visual support of an object or an image that inspires the practicing individual. It uses the power of imagination – as an individual imagines a situation or an experience that renders peace and happiness to them internally. This imaginary experience helps achieve peace, tranquility and delivers feelings of fulfillment to the mind. Kundalini Meditation Kundalini Yoga retreats are based on the traditions of traditional Hatha Yoga, Kundalini Yoga and Tantra philosophy. There are various Kundalini Kriyas which are employed in the course modules with the purpose of balancing, cleansing and harmonizing the various chakras (energy centres) and Nadi-system (system of energy channels). This form of meditation retreat helps an individual enhance their creative energy and intuitive skills. Guide yourself towards any of these mesmerizing meditation vacations in India and attain a speckle of enlightenment whose effects resonate with your soul for an entire lifetime.
Yoga Nidra: an art of yogic relaxation
by Sushant Pandey
Yoga nidra is a meditation technique. It is a powerful technique of pratyahara, which can be used to
bring about complete physical mental and emotional relaxation. As a technique of Pratyahara Yoga Nidra induces an experience of internalization in the practitioners. In the classical branch of Raja Yoga, there is a stage of meditation called Pratyahara which induces a state of internalization and inner relaxation. Yoga Nidra; literally translated as psychic or yogic sleep is one of the techniques of Pratyahara. The state of Yoga Nidra is very close to hypnagogic state. It helps disengage the mind from disturbing cycle of repeated thoughts and emotions and eventually provides much needed relaxation to your mind. The term yoga nidra is derived from two Sanskrit words. ‘Yoga’ meaning union or harmony and ‘nidra’, which is broadly defined as sleep or relaxation. The term can be said to mean relaxation, which creates inner harmony. Yoga Nidra is based on ancient tantric practice, called ‘Nyasa’. The word nyasa’ means to place or take ones mind to that point. Using this techniques shakti or energy of the different parts of the body is awakened by reciting the corresponding mantra of the body parts. Yoga nidra is characterized by systematic withdrawal of awareness from the whole body to various parts first externally and then internally. When awareness is turned inwards, visualizing and meditation is developed. Yoga nidra is often refers to as psychic sleep as the individual is between the states of sleep and wakefulness. Yoga Nidra is one of the techniques of Pratyahara. Pratyahara is one of the stages of meditation when one starts to experience withdrawal of the awareness from external sensorial experiences. THE STAGES OF YOGA NIDRA There are eight distinct stages of Yoga Nidra when taught traditionally. Preparation In the first stage of preparation pose of shavasana (corpse pose) is assumed. This pose once assumed properly then it helps you to eliminate all discomforts of the body and would help to attain maximum physical relaxation. In this state of preparation, through various techniques, your awareness is internalized, which helps you disengaging from stress inducing thoughts. As a result it immediately connects you with the experiences of the body and mind ‘here and now’. Sankalpa Once your awareness is internalized then you are asked to take a positive and simply worded resolve. Once you chose a positive resolve and repeat mentally in Yoga Nidra, it leaves a very deep impression on your sub-conscious mind. It helps giving a positive direction to your mental energies. Rotation of Awareness In the third stage of Yoga Nidra, you are guided to rotate the awareness through different parts of the body. Normally route to rotate the awareness is fixed and very systematic. In this stage, your awareness gets fully grounded in the body and systematic rotation through body would help to deeply relax not just the body parts but also your mind. Key to relaxation here is your conscious awareness with body parts which helps to establish a deeper connection with the body and hence relaxes it. Breath Awareness In the fourth stage, awareness of breath is enhanced. It helps to induce a deep physical and mental relaxation. It also provides your mind a support to remain aware and rooted in the present moment. Various techniques of breath awareness are employed in the practice to strengthen your ability to concentrate without creating tensions. Creating opposite sensations/feeling In this stage you are trained to create opposite sensations or feeling which remaining non-involved. Initially it may start with very simple opposite pair of physical sensations such as heaviness and light or heat and cold. Later it may involve more emotionally laden opposite feelings or emotions. But during the entire stage you are asked to remain an observer of the manifestations of these sensations or feelings. This stage not only releases the pent up emotions associated with the feelings but also enhances your ability to withstand them effectively in real life situations. Visualization In stage six of Yoga Nidra, there are many visualization techniques used. These techniques may range from simple and random objects visualization to healing visualization, story visualization or daily routine visualization. The stage of visualization enhances the ability of photographic memory, relaxation of the mind, healing of the body and helps improving the learning outcome. Sankalpa After visualization, the stage of Sankalpa is again repeated. This repetition helps to deepen the impressions of resolve when you are still in the state of deep relaxation. It is like irrigating the seed of Sankalpa through reaffirmation. Externalization Once you graduate through all these stages explained above, then your senses are guided properly to reorient towards external surroundings. This allows you to come out of deep relaxation without any disorientation.
The Concept of Mindfulness in Yoga in light of mental wellbeing
by Sushant Pandey
Definition of Mindfulness Mindfulness or Awareness is a key and central issue of inestimable
importance in any Yogic practice. According to Yoga, ‘mindfulness’ means to feel, to know, to be aware of and to comprehend what is going on not only around us, but within us as well. The mental barriers and tensions that we have are a direct result of our having not been aware. We were unaware of how they formed, or when, or even why they formed. In some instances, we are not even aware that we have a mental problem – just a vague notion that we could be feeling better than we do. Mindfulness or Awareness in Yoga means the ability to stand back and witness one’s mental and physical activities. Most of us loose ourselves in our own personal dramas every day, identifying completely with this limited perception. Awareness – the witnessing aspect – enables us to experience ourselves objectively, and with this objectivity, we are able to view our mental and bodily reactions in a whole new light and with detachment. The ability to watch one’s thoughts with impartiality leads one to realize and know things which were previously beyond present comprehension. Practising mindfulness takes time and dedication but it is also a very simple technique. Without being mindful it is not possible to transform one or to lift one’s mental burdens. Mindfulness penetrates the ignorance Mindfulness is central to every spiritual and psychological undertaking. According to Buddhist philosophy, “When Awareness is weak, the mind cannot penetrate ignorance”. This ‘ignorance’ relates to our unconscious habitual tendencies. Most of us operate only at the surface level of awareness, which relates to our rational, cognitive mind and we are unaware of any deeper unconscious mind factors. It is these deeper layers that are actually in control and this is why we do not really understand some of our actions and cannot control our moods and mental states. When we begin to develop mindfulness we start to penetrate the surface layer of everyday consciousness and connect with the underlying mind factors. Krishnamurti often said that “the seeing is the doing” and by this he meant that just by recognizing a hidden psychological factor, its mystery is removed and its power is abolished. Thus we see how powerful practice of mindfulness is and how simply it works. Once we become accustomed to adopting a greater level of awareness, we objectively witness the subtler workings of our minds, and overcome obstructions simply by recognizing them for what they are. The mind is an intangible element – it often roams around undirected and often becomes misdirected. We are made mindful of this mind through our thoughts but we are so often unaware of the multitude of thoughts running through our minds every second. As a result we are not in control of our minds, we let our thoughts run amuck and the end result is anguish, frustration and confusion. Psychotherapeutic significance of being Mindful For instance, when we are depressed, we experience a feeling of being ‘cut-off’ from ourselves. Depressive symptoms are both a cause and result of lack of awareness: they cause lack of mindfulness when we can’t employ insight into what we feel or why we feel like we do. It is very easy to go through life with a partial awareness and it is often painful and difficult to be truly aware, but it is only through mindfulness that we can overcome our self-restrictions. Gestalt therapy regards the development of mindfulness as the very essence of the therapeutic process. This therapy works on the premise that the cause of our suffering is a distinct lack of mindfulness, especially lack of awareness of the ‘here and now.’ Caldwell suggests that awareness is “a focusing of attention, a commitment to being in the present moment i.e. alertness.” Feelings of tension, anxiety, sadness, and pain are feelings associated with reviewing past events or worrying about future occurrences – they do not and cannot exist in the present. Mindfulness of the present moment will lead us to discover that here is an island of peace, clarity and tranquillity which is untouched by the sway of past impressions and future anticipations. Mindfulness is Swadhyaya (Self-study or self observation) Being mindful suggests being attentive, open and curious about everything around and within ourselves. The role of a witness is needed to reclaim that natural curiosity and alertness that will re-enable us to experience the world as it is. A poor self-image and feelings of inferiority etc cannot be eradicated by rationalising, but by the sometimes painful process of self observation. Assuming the role of a detached witness will help us to face these aspects of ourselves that may be difficult to accept. Mindfulness helps us to illuminate our more positive aspects as well and, as the process continues we can become conscious of building up more positive personal experiences and developing our psychological strength. If we are aware, we are able to avoid undesirable negativities that previously would have tied us down and confused us. We can actively replace even the most subtle negative thought patterns with more constructive building blocks for a greater self image and self worth.