I Really wanted to learn more about meditation because I have been meditating and I was not sure my way of doing so was “proper”. And of course… It was not haha! Oh so many disillusions…
I used to practice different kinds of meditation: guided, visualizing, healing etc. Basically it was Disneyland!!!
What I have learned with Swami Rama’s method at Sadhana Mandir Ashram is a lot different from what I used to do and is very basic and simple (the method of course, not meditating haha). I’ll explain it right now.
The first thing I learned is that Yoga is such wider that what I thought and that everything in Yoga are steps to prepare to meditation the 7th limb of Yoga to finally reach the 8th and ultimate limb of Samadhi (the superconscious state).
The retreat at Sadhana Mandir was very complete and really taught a full meditation practice made of the below elements, that applied in the following order, will help get ready for the meditation practice.
It is essential to follow each step since the preparation is the longest and most important phase of meditation
THE DIAPHRAGMATIC BREATHING
We tend to breath through our chest which makes the process of breathing shallow when the most natural way of breathing is actually through the diaphragm allowing a deeper and longer breathing.
A lot of diseases are due to our way of breathing and taking too many breaths. Indeed, by looking at the nature, we can observe that the animals that live the longest are the ones who breath very little such as the elephants and the turtles VS dogs.
The deeper and longer will we breath, the healthier and longer will we live
The yoga posture that will help practicing a deep belly breathing is the crocodile pose, makarasana which is encouraged to practice first in the preparation steps to meditation.
Getting ready for the meditation practice involves preparation. It will be easier to silence the mind if the body is silent first. That’s why it is advised to awake and stretch the body nicely first, through either an asana practice, or by gentle stretching exercises, keeping awareness on the diaphragmatic breathing. Once the body is awake and more flexible, it will help enter Savasana (corpse posture) that will bring relaxation to the body and mind.
It is essential to be relaxed in order to gather all the chances to reach a silent state. That’s why savasana will be very important before any practice to induce the relaxation state throughout the whole body. There’s not much to be done here but relaxing each part of the body from head to toe.
THE MEDITATION POSTURE
Posture is key for the meditation practice. The first preparation steps will be to find the correct posture enabling comfort and alignment of head, neck and trunk.
The primary posture is to sit cross legged if available for your body. You can also use cushion(s), a chair or on a stool. If on a chair, both feet are separated and on the floor and seating on the edge of the chair. In all postures, head, neck and trunk need to be in a straight line with spine erect.
Eyes are closed, lips are sealed and hands placed on the thighs or near the knees in the meditation mudra of your choice.
2:1 breathing – exhalation is twice longer than inhalation – NEVER COUNT! Instead visualize the inhalation from your spine to your crown chakra and visualize exhalation from your crown chakra to your toes.
Out of the 72000 nadis (energy channels) in the body, there are 3 main nadis:
Ida – Left side of the body, corresponds to the moon and feminine side
Pingala – Right side of the body, corresponds to the sun and masculine side
Sushumna – Main Nadi, which when open allows to reach a state of bliss
The main goal is to open Sushumna
by activating these nadis while practicing the breath awareness with the pranayama (activation of each nostril). Depending on the time of the day or the activity that we are doing, one nostril will be dominant (meaning more active/open). For example if we are exercising, the right nostril will be dominant, while if resting, the left nostril will be the dominant one. This can also change naturally throughout the day, every few hours.
Pranayama will help cleanse the energy channels and subtle body and ultimately attain Sushumna
Spinal breath – breathing diaphragmatically visualizing the inhalation going up the spine and the exhalation going down.
“So Hum” mantra – Adding (silently) the breath mantra “So Hum” – “So” while inhaling and “hum” while exhaling
- Add it to the spinal breath first
- Drop spinal breath and only keep “So hum” mantra
- Slowly silence the mantra while focusing on nostrils breathing only
MEDITATION – Silence
YOU ARE SAFE WHEN YOU GO INSIDE
Like in the asana practice, we always come out of a posture, the same way we entered it, we’ll go out of the meditation following the same steps (nostrils breathing focus, So hum mantra, mantra + spinal breath, abdomen breathing awareness, slowly come back feeling your body awakening)
I know that’s a lot of information to process and only PRACTICE will help. Let’s sum-up the different preparation steps that lead to meditation:
- Diaphragmatic breathing – with crocodile pose
- Savasana – Integrate diaphragmatic breathing before starting asanas or stretching – (not mandatory)
- Asanas/Stretching – waking up the body
- Relaxation – with Savasana
- Meditation posture – enter the posture and settle down
- Pranayama – Breath awareness with 2:1 breathing, Nadi Shodhana, spinal breath, so hum+spinal breath, so hum alone, nostrils breathing
- Meditation – Silence
- Come back
At the end of the practice each participant received a “program for progress in meditation” detailing the precise schedule of the nine next month preparation to meditation. Yes, only in 7 to 9 months, following this program, will we be ready to reach a proper meditation state.
I am so grateful for our teacher, Kamal, who has been such a kind, patient and attentive teacher. Attending this retreat changed my practice entirely and I hope this post can help you get a glimpse of the method. I would encourage anyone to attend a meditation retreat, whether it’s Swami Rama’s method or any other. Understanding the aim of meditation and getting a proper structure to practice is key I feel. And then…
Practice, practice, practice & patience, patience patience…
I won’t go into details on what the benefits of meditation are. I think it is actually very personal depending on what we are looking for, whether it’s a spiritual practice, a healing process, a calming practice etc. or all of these.
Everyone will find its own purpose…
PS: If this particular method interests you, and you would like to access the teachings from Swami Rama, you can find the whole method in his book Meditation and its practice.
Sources – Sadhana Mandir Ashram – Swami Rama’s method