Friday, 20 January 2017

Starting a meditation practice - staying awake

When we start a meditation practice we often start by watching our breath as it moves in and out of our bodies. Let's face it - the breath is not the most riveting of subjects and if you are feeling tired, it can have a similar effect to 'counting sheep'.  There are ways of overcoming this tendency to sleep.

Firstly, make sure you are sitting with a straight spine rather than lying down which has associations with sleep. By sitting up tall, you facilitate the lungs filling with energizing oxygen. Sitting up straight also has the effect of opening the central energy channel, the sushumna to allow the prana to flow. Also you may find it is better to meditate first thing in the morning when you are fresh.  Try not to meditate shortly after a meal when a blood sugar rise can be followed by a low energy dip.

If you are falling asleep regularly in meditation, are you getting enough sleep for your needs? 

Another solution is to do a short practice to build focus and concentration.  Try the following practice.

Start lying back on the mat and take a stretch to release any tension.  

Shoulder Bridge - bend your knees so that your heels are close to your buttocks.  Breathe in, lift your hips, take your arms overhead, breathe out, lower your hips, bring your arms by your sides.  Repeat several times then inhale lift your hips, 'walk' your shoulders towards your heels and interlace your fingers under your back, keeping your arms straight. Hold for a few breaths then release your fingers and lower your spine slowly.  

Balancing Cat - come to all fours and take a few Cat/Cow (inhale lift your head, exhale arch your back tucking your chin).  Come back to all fours.  Breathe in, bring your right knee towards your chest, breathe out take your right leg back - flex your right foot and level your hips.  Keep your gaze down on the mat as you breathe in and lift your left arm.  Hold for a few breaths then breathe out to lower your left hand, draw your right knee into your chest then lower your knee to the mat.  

Tadasana - stand with the feet together with the outside edges of the feet parallel (for most of us this willl mean separating the heels).  Have your weight spread evenly through all four corners of the feet, the little toe side, big toe side, inner heel and outer heel.  Lengthen your tail bone down towards the mat, lift your chest and roll your shoulder blades back and down.  Your chin should be level with the floor, the crown of your head reaching for the ceiling.  Relax your arms by your sides, your fingers gently curled. If you feel balanced, close your eyes or you may lower your eyes.  Try to find a place of stillness where you feel balanced.

When you are ready open your eyes.  Breathe in, lift up onto your toes as you take your arms out and up.  Breathe out to lower your heels and take your arms out and down.  Repeat twice more then hold in the lifted position for a breath or two before lowering.

Tree - stand in the middle of your mat.  Take your weight into your left foot.  Take your right foot to your left ankle, or shin or reach down and bring you right foot to your left thigh.  Find a dristi, a gaze point, breathe in and lift your arms up. Hold for a few breaths then breathe out to release.  Repeat second side.

Warrior 2 - stand in the middle of your mat with your hands on your hips and take your feet as wide as is comfortable.  Turn your right leg to the right and the toes of the left foot in 45 degrees, lining up the heel of the front foot with the instep of the back foot (men) or heel with heel (women).  As much as possible have the hips level with the front of the mat but do not force the back hip point back because this will strain the SI joint. Inhale, stretch your arms out at shoulder height, lift your chest, exhale bend your right knee, turn to look down the fingers of your right hand.  Hold for several breaths.  To come out of the pose, inhale straighten the right knee, exhale hands to heart, turn your feet to face forward.  Repeat second side.

Supported Shoulder Stand in and draw he - lie on the mat with your knees bent.  Breathe in lift your hips and place two stacked blocks under your hips.  Breathe out to lower.  Lift your hips again and draw the top block halfway towards you.  Lower your hips as you raise both legs - the top block should tip and support your lower back.  Your toes will come over your head.  Stay here for a minute or so breathing steadily then lower your feet down to the mat.
Lift your hips to remove the blocks then hug your knees in over your chest and rock from side to side.  

You should now be ready to meditate - alert but relaxed - so come to a seated position and get yourself comfortable. 

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