Here I am sitting down to meditate in a quiet place, I’ve shut off my phone, closed (no …..locked!) the door, I’ve turned the lights down low, I’ve even lit some soothing incense. But…….arghhhh my mind! It’s all over the place, racing along from one thing to another: my plans for tomorrow, what I said to someone, what they said to me, oops I forgot to do something, and on and on. I feel like a hopeless case! Oh I’ll never be able to meditate!
But all is not lost. Enter pre-meditation techniques. Sometimes it’s not enough to just find our quiet place, we need to spend a little time preparing ourselves for what can be an awesome experience but all too often feels frustrating and impossible.
Depending on our needs we can try winding down with some yoga asanas, guided relaxation or best of all with some yoga breathing. Yoga breathing is called Pranayama and basically consists of a variety of breathing practices which have an effect on our mind, nervous system, internal organs and muscles….in fact all facets of the body and mind. Yoga breathing is great for stabilising, energising and/or relaxing the body while focusing the mind.
One breathing practice that is very practical to do before a quiet meditation time is Brahmari breathing. This very simple and enjoyable pranayama is super calming for the nervous system, it quietens the mind and helps us to be nicely focused on our meditation. All it entails is humming on the long outward breath.
Brahmari breathing has its health benefits as well. Clinical studies have linked Brahmari breathing to an increase of nitric oxide in the sinuses. This reduces inflammation and is recommended in cases of sinusitis where the nasal sinuses become inflamed and swollen. Brahmari breathing has also been found to lower blood pressure and lower the heart rate.
Other reported but not clinically verified advantages of Brahmari breathing are the reduction of disorders like hormonal imbalances, depression and anxiety. Some people find it helps overcome anger and frustrations, while others report a strengthening of the voice. And because of its calming effect it has even been found to be beneficial in overcoming drug dependency.
When we hum we can choose where we pitch the sound. A low hum may vibrate in the chest, whereas a little higher pitch will bring our attention to the vibration in the throat, a much higher pitch will vibrate the sinuses, back of the eyes and even into the brain. You may find when you experiment with these different pitches that they have subtlely different effect. A higher pitch may help you to be more alert whereas a lower pitch may be more relaxing. It’s fine to use many pitches with each breath or couple of breaths. As a pre-meditation technique I recommend to start off with a higher pitch for 2 -4 breaths, then move down to the throat for a few more and then end up with a low pitch vibrating around the heart. If you are meditating on transcendental mantras it’s nice after experiencing the humming vibration around the heart to visualise the mantra bathing and cleansing our heart and mind.
It only needs to take 3 or 4 minutes to breathe and hum and receive the full benefit of this technique and then you will be ready to have a nice, focused meditation.
By Vrndavan Dasi
Founder and Principal of Veda Yoga Teacher Training