Tag Archives: Yoga

Dealing with thoughts and emotions.

We are coming to the end of our seven-week meditation course, Be Here Now. There is often a point when someone will ask how we do deal with emotions. How can I cope?

Suffering from your troublesome thoughts and emotions might be the very reason you started to explore meditation practice- but don’t limit it to just that.

Meditation is therapy but not in the way many mindfulness courses assume. I don’t just get how one can meditate specifically for better leadership skills, decision making, creativity  or compassion…..

All of those things happen ‘naturally’ depending on where you are and wether you will let them flow. Wanting those skills as your starting point is a bit like learning to paint like Raphael, because you want to be famous and rich –

Its never going to happen. It doesn’t work like that.

Raphaels-La-Fornarina-The-001

The key is to smooth out expectation by learning non-attachment. In mindfulness this is called non-judgment.

The point is that you are not your thoughts or your emotions.

What?

Yes, that’s right. You might ‘think’ that your thoughts are YOU, that how you feel are the concrete building blocks of your essential make up.

But they aren’t.

They can’t be because they are never around long enough.

Thoughts come and go at about 700 miles an hour.

Yoga science says that thoughts are like objects. They are like your car, your phone, and your shoes.  They are made of ‘stuff’, which appears and disappears. They don’t last. And because they don’t last that makes them an unreliable source on which to base any idea of whom you are or what you are doing and what is really going on.

Dealing with emotions, in fact all of those troublesome thoughts will happen naturally. You will notice through practice that they lose their power to impact on your mind, body and actions.

Imagine if you went though life believing everything your mind told you- good or bad… that everything that popped into your head, which in turn impacted on your body, stimulated your emotions, your actions, was how things really are.

Start swimming

Many say that are being –‘sucked downwards’ by their thoughts, their emotions. They are overwhelmed, caught in cycle of emotions, thoughts and worries… It’s exhausting, confusing and depressing.

Its no accident that the yoga term for thinking is ‘vritti ‘ meaning ‘whirlpool’. What happens when we get caught up in a whirlpool? We get sucked inwards, down under the water. If we don’t manage to break free, to start swimming; there is a good chance you won’t survive.

Our problems start when we are taught from an early age to live solely in our heads– not in the whole you, some not even on planet Earth – and I don’t mean that in a good way. Those people are really lost in space!

Unfortunately, that is how many of us do live.

They are not happy!

It takes practice and good meditation teaching. Those mindfulness courses that remain at the level of surface contemplation ( look at the sky…isn’t it nice. How do you feel about it?) are not enough. You need to get in the water…

Have you ever heard of General Anxiety Disorder (GAD)? About 5% of the UK population suffer from it. Its caused by overactivity in areas of the brain involved in emotions and behaviour. Yoga would say yes agreed! Its our whirlpool thinking connected to a  moment-to-moment confusion on how we think.

When we confuse our thought ‘objects’ with reality it’s like identifying yourself as a real, authentic, fully enlightened person, by your car, your job, your status, and your salary.

None of that lasts…in the end we discover its all lacks vital substance.In the same way we don’t have to identify with our negative emotions. Its not us. Its not real even though it feels real.

Cultivating insight

Look at how many times the word ‘insight’ is used in meditation. It means, awareness, intuition, perception, comprehension etc.… but it requires a starting position from which to direct our sight (attention) – inwards – from being outwards to inwards…

When we do that, we notice things – differently. We don’t have to go into therapy, we don’t need to analyse our thoughts, push them away, block them off and compress them. You don’t need to talk about them if you don’t want to…

You simply ‘watch’ them.

When we learn to do that we found ourselves in a new space (not so new, as its been there all the time). Like a farmer tending to crops, we prepare the ground for growth and change.

We notice, thoughts come and go, but underneath them, flowing through that new space is a deeper, more profound world of peace, creativity and stillness. It all grows naturally. You then realise that it has nothing what so ever to do with how you think you need to ‘deal’ with or work though your thoughts and emotions. You remember that  you already own the inner resources to change you perspective and thus transform the world.
You allow all of theses to happen to you. You don’t make them….you notice them. Probably, for the first time. We come to realise that we can do more, by not living in our heads all the time.

We often say that meditation is like learning to swim. You can read about swimming forever but you will never know what its like and how you can do it unless you get in the water.

So just start swimming, get stronger, be free and learn to keep out of those those whirlpools…

Naruto_Whirlpools_taken_4-21-2008

 

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Yoga Nidra and feeling good!

Last night we talked a little about how important Yoga Nidra is, particularly at the beginning of the class.

 When we lead our Yoga Nidra (which means yoga sleep which in reality really means becoming awake) the objective of is to help our students find their internal point of stillness by carefully combining body, breath and mind into a single place and moment. This brings on a very deep and profound relaxed state, which will impact on every level of the mind/body field. As the body is the only part of us that ‘appears’ present, in the here and now, it is the focus for many deep relaxation techniques.

IMG_3255
Last night’s Level 1 YogaLife Project Class

When we practice our postures we become conscious of just how stiff and tense we are. Many of us unknowingly hold parts of our bodies in tension all of the time. Even when we are asleep the body maintains the tension. Holding tension is something that we don’t notice until something goes wrong and we begin feel tired, tense and anxious. Learning to relax means becoming aware of where these areas are and how we can change them.

The intention of our YLP Nidra at the beginning of the class is to help our students build a portal or threshold into the now. Moment-by-moment we lead their attention from the outside world and the day’s events to the here and now of the yoga studio, on the mat. It’s a combination of deep relaxation and stillness allied with underlying experience of potential and intention.

Scientific research[1] on Yoga Nidra reports an increased endogenous dopamine[2] release in the ventral striatum [3] a finding accompanied by a reported “decrease desire for action.” Its also known that expressions of loving-kindness, a sense of connectedness, and feelings of trust and cooperation have all shown to produce increased activity in the ventral striatum.

Dopaminergic_system_and_reward_processing
This is where the striatum is located.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is why yoga nidra is a vital practice. If we skip it or don’t give it the importance it deserves then we are really not practicing yoga. We are simply just lying down.

Which is okay but its not yoga!

 

The notes:

[1] Kjaer, T. W., Bertelsen, C., Piccini, P., Brooks, D., Alving, J., and Lou, H. C. (2002). Increased dopamine tone during meditation-induced change of consciousness. Brain Res. Cogn. Brain Res. 13, 255–259.

[2] In the brain, dopamine functions as a neurotransmitter—a chemical released by neurons (nerve cells) to send signals to other nerve cells. The brain includes several distinct dopamine pathways, one of which plays a major role in reward-motivated behavior. Most types of reward increase the level of dopamine in the brain, and most addictive drugs increase dopamine neuronal activity. Other brain dopamine pathways are involved in motor control and in controlling the release of various hormones. These pathways and cell groups form a dopamine system which is neuromodulatory. Wikipedia

[3] The ventral striatum is closely associated with decision-making, risk, and reward, in addition to suppressing certain actions in the limbic system. It primarily mediates reward cognition, reinforcement, and motivational salience.[10] Dopamine is its most vital neurotransmitter; thoughts of gain (monetary, emotional, or otherwise) will increase dopamine in the ventral striatum, whereas thoughts of loss decrease dopamine. Wikipedia