Meditation for balancing heart chakra

The heart chakra, or anahata, represents the center of love, compassion, empathy and forgiveness. A healthy alignment of heart chakra will make us feel surrounded by love, compassion and joy. We are open to all experiences in life. We can see all the goodness and love around us. We can truly accept and connect to ourselves and others.

On the other hand, a blocked heart chakra will bring dysfunctional relationships in which the person may find it hard to develop and keep healthy relationships with oneself and others. Other signs of the heart chakra being blocked include excessive social isolation, frequent feelings of loneliness and jealousy, being overly defensive and difficulty in trusting others.

Keeping a balanced chakra is important for our physical and mental well-being. To balance the heart chakra, we can practise chest-opening yoga poses such as camel pose (Ushtrasana) and upward bow pose (Urdhva Dhanurasana). On a daily basis, we can also practise gratitude and meditation to change our mental habits. In this blog, I would like to share with you the loving kindness meditation exercise that I have learnt from the book “Search Inside Yourself” written by Chade-Meng Tan.

 

Just like me and loving kindness meditation

(adapted from “Search Inside Yourself”)

  1. Sit in a comfortable position. Start with 2 minutes to rest the mind on the breath.
  2. Bring to mind somebody you care about. Visualize him or her.
  3. Begin “Just like me” meditation on this person as the object:

This person has a body and a mind, just like me.
This person has feelings, emotions and thoughts, just like me.
This person has experienced sadness, disappointment, anger or confusion before, just like me.
This person has suffered physical and emotional pain before, just like me.
This person wishes to be free from pain and suffering, just like me.
This person wishes to be healthy and loved, and to have fulfilling relationships, just like me.
This person wishes to be happy, just like me.

Now, practise loving kindness by allowing some wishes to arise:

I wish for this person to have the strength, the resources, and the emotional and social support to navigate the difficulties in life.
I wish for this person to be free from pain and suffering.
I wish for this person to be happy.
Because this person is a fellow human being, just like me.
Now, I wish for everybody I know to be happy.
(Long pause)

End with 1 minute of resting the mind.

This practice is useful to heal relationships in any situation. I like to use this practice to manage my relationships in life. For this to work, I have also consciously made some changes in my mental habits.

  • Choose kindness

Remind myself I have the choice to become a kind person. When you give people kindness, it is more likely for you to receive kindness from others. I choose to be kind because I want to make the world a better place to live. There is no need to judge or harm others. Everyone has their own struggles and difficulties in life. We come to the world to help each other grow to become a better and kinder person.

  • Surrender your ego

When interacting with people, I always remind myself to put away the ‘self’. Forget our ego, our interests and even our own problems. Instead, choose to focus the attention on the person in front of us, listen to understand them, talk to offer our empathy and kindness to them.

  • Practise gratitude

Remind myself to be grateful for every person I have met and every experience that has occurred in my life. Without the rain, I wouldn’t have learnt to appreciate the sun. Learn to see the goodness in every person and experience. The unpleasant people or experience are there to teach us life lessons, to serve as a mirror for ourselves and more importantly, to help evolve ourselves to become a better person.  

  • Success from other people only shows us what is possible

Jealousy is one of the sins that prevent us from attaining happiness in life. Do not get jealous over other people’s success because each of us has the opportunity to rise and shine in our fields by hard work and determination. Other people’s success only shows us what is possible within us. This is something to inspire us and to motivate us.

Lastly, it takes time to transform our mental habits. As long as we are willing to take the first step to change, be aware of each of our thoughts, actions and words, we will slowly evolve to become a better person.

 

With love,

Wei Li

Meditation to relieve depression

Depression is a mental health condition that presents many symptoms such as low mood that cannot be shaken off, loneliness, sadness, sleep problem, suicidal thoughts, anxiety & irritability which are the more common ones. If you have these signs for more than two weeks, you might have a depression disorder. As a natural alternative to anti-depressants, you may want to try practise meditation. It can help to you manage these symptoms if you know how to do it. If you make it a regular practice, it can help you reduce stress and anxiety, which can cause depression.

Through meditation, you will realise that you have more control over your mind and can cut through the dark cloud of depression to a place of balance, peace and joy. When you meditate, you can override the triggers stimulated from the prefrontal cortex (area go into overdrive when you are stressed) and the amygdala (fear region that triggers fight or flee when faced with danger). This explains why your stress levels fall.

There is more than one type of meditations that can help to relieve depression. You may want to try all and find one that suit you and your can practise regularly.

  1. Loving-kindness meditation focuses on creating an attitude of love and kindness towards yourself and others.
  2. Mindfulness meditation is using your breath to create an anchor to keep bringing your attention back to the present moment and help with cognitive retraining.
  3. Breath awareness meditation uses the object of your breath to focus on, to help with mind training so as much as 15 minutes a day of focusing on inhaling and exhaling can yield mood benefits, including lessened emotional reactivity.
  4. Kundalini yoga incorporate chanting and specific techniques to manage fear, banish anger, and replace negative thoughts with positive ones.
  5. Transcendental meditation uses sound or a personal mantra, often one or two syllables to anchor your attention.
  6. Body scan meditation involves focusing on different parts of your body sequentially. As you shift your attention to different parts of your body, you also focus on inhaling and exhaling deeply.
  7. Walking meditation takes walking to another level. Aerobic walking with Buddhist meditation not only reduced depression but also improved flexibility and balance.

Let us focus on Kundalini yoga with mantra chanting to help relieve depression. WAHE GURU is a powerful mantra that take you from darkness to light, from ignorance to true understanding. It involves Kundalini energy to purify your past karma and to give you vitality. This is the mantra of ecstasy and it will remove loneliness, doubts, fear or confusion. By chanting this sacred mantra, you embody divine healing vibrations and raise your energy field to the vibration of Love.

Wahe Guru (pronounced “Wah-hey goo-roo”) Mantra

Wahe Guru Wahe Guru Wahe Guru Wahe Jio

Meaning

Wahe is the statement of awe and ecstasy.
Guru is the one who brings us from darkness to light.
Wahe Guru is an expression of complete ecstatic awe of the Divine.
Wahe Jio is great beyond description is the experience of God Blessing the Soul.

Steps to meditation

  1. Sit in Ardha Padmasana (half lotus pose) or Sukhasana (easy seated pose). Apply a light neck lock.
  2. Hold out your hands in a reverse prayer mudra from your chest. Keep your thumbs separated and your fingers pressed against one another, creating pressure on the back of your hands.
  3. Focus your eyes at the tip of your nose.
  4. Take a few long, deep breaths in and out of the nostrils to prepare yourself.
  5. Inhale deeply and chant Wahe Guru mantra 10 times as you breathe out. One complete cycle should take 20-25 seconds.
  6. Try this for 10 minutes and gradually build to 30 minutes.

Besides meditation, regular exercise including yoga asanas and pranayama can also help to ease symptoms of depression. It is good to choose an exercise that you enjoy and if possible, find a supportive partner or group to exercise with you.

 

Namaste

Ivy Ng (July-2021)

Sound Meditation: Why it Helps?

Sound has an ancient kinship with meditation and healing.
Sound baths is a meditative experience, where the attendees are “bathed” in sound waves. By using repetitive notes at different frequencies, you will be able to remove your thoughts and enter to the meditation stage. Generally, these sounds are created with crystal bowls, gemstone bowls, cymbals, and gongs.
Sound meditation is a type of meditation that focuses on the hearing sense. There is an ancient sound healing ritual practice, similar to modern sound baths, that uses Tibetan singing bowls, quartz and bells in the session. The practices highlighted how the experience of sound manifests not only through hearing but also through tactile physical vibrations and varying frequencies.

Current research has also indicated music has mental and physical health benefits in improving mood and reducing stress. There are many different theories that attempt to explain why sound experiences can be linked with deep relaxation and physical pain relief.
One hypothesis is that sound can numb our pain perception by stimulating touch fiber through the vibrational tactile effects in our body. Study has found that low-frequency sound stimulation improves sleep and decreases pain.
Another hypothesis is that while listening to certain frequencies of the sound, our brain can synchronize and change the electrical activities (brainwave) accordingly. The premise of the second hypothesis is that the brain synchronizes its brainwave frequency to the difference in hertz between tones played in each ear, which, depending on the frequency, can lead one to states of deep relaxation associated with beta waves or meditative theta waves.
Try to discover the sound healing effect next time when you do meditation.


Reference: https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/urban-survival/201907/the-healing-power-sound-meditation

Meditation with Singing Bowls

I’m not one who can sit still or lie down in Savasana and meditate through the complete quietness without having passing thoughts through the minute, and therefore have explored different methods to quiet the mind through while focusing on holding through yoga poses, swimming, walking in the park, to even trying out sensory deprivation tank. These have worked pretty well and as much as I enjoy the moving concentration, i find that i was unable to reach a deeper state of it.

Recently during one of the practice while we close in Savasana, i was pleasantly surprised by a tone that surrounds the room. I could feel the sound vibrations sending goosebumps to my body while wondering if it was an instrument playing or was it a from speaker. While the sound kept echoing i decided to stop questioning and allow myself to just enjoy the moment and go into deeper relaxation. Our instructor then introduced us to the Crystal bowl that she was playing and there, i am intrigued.

So just yesterday after a day of cycling and practicing ashtanga sequence on the mat, I remembered Master Sree mentioned that meditation has also helped him relief the tiredness and soreness from the physical training when we were on the topic during lesson. While i didn’t have a crystal bowl with me, i did a search on youtube for a 15mins Tibetan singing bowl and got myself to savasana. Of course the sound from the speaker wasn’t as great as the real crystal bowl experienced in the studio, but it worked pretty magic! Was it full relaxation or was it meditation, i don’t know. But i managed to get myself into a deeper state and 15mins went by really easy and comfortably, and i must say it really did help relief that ache on that glutes from cycling.

So while i have found what works for me to start, I have also seen improvement with the help of constant practice of yoga. And i look forward to the day that i will be able to sit through a longer period of meditation without any assistance.

Types of Meditation

What is Meditation?

Meditation can also be defined as a set of techniques that are intended to encourage a heightened state of awareness and focused attention.  Although tied to many different religious teachings, it is more about altering consciousness, finding awareness, and achieving a sense of calm and inner peace.

These days, in quest to reduce stress and to find sanity in the midst of our busy schedules and demanding lives, it has becoming vital to meditate.

 

Why meditation is beneficial? 

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Reduce anxiety
  • Decrease pain
  • Improve sleep
  • Ease symptoms of depression
  • Psychological well-being

Types of meditation practice:

  Meditation Style How does it work? Ideal for
1 Mindfulness

Originates from Buddhist teachings and most popular technique in the West.

  • Pay attention to your thoughts as they pass through your mind.
  • Don’t judge the thoughts or become involved with them.  Simply observe and take note of any patterns.
  • Combines concentration with awareness.
  • Focus on an object or your breath while you observe any bodily sensations, thoughts, or feelings.
Those who don’t have a teacher to guide them, as it can be easily practiced alone
2 Spiritual

Used in Eastern religions, such as Hinduism and Daoism, and in Christian faith.

 

  • Similar to prayer as you reflect on the silence around you and seek a deeper connection with your God or Universe. (can be practised at home/place of worship)
  • Essential oils are commonly used to heighten the experience such as:
    • Frankincense
    • Myrrh
    • Sage
    • Cedar
    • Sandalwood
    • Palo Santo
Those who thrive in silence and seek spiritual growth.
3 Focused
  • Concentration using any of the five senses.
  • For example, focus on something internal, like your breath, or bring in external influences to help focus your attention.
  • Try counting mala beads, listening to a gong, or staring at a candle flame.
  • Simple in theory, but it can be difficult for beginners to hold their focus for longer than a few minutes at first.
  • If your mind does wander, it’s important to come back to the practice and refocus.
Anyone who requires additional focus in their life.
4 Movement
  • It can be Yoga, walking through the woods, qigong, and other gentle forms of motion where the movement guides you.
Those who find peace in action & prefer to let their minds wander.

 

5 Mantra

Prominent in many teachings, including Hindu and Buddhist traditions.

  • Uses a repetitive sound to clear the mind. It can be a word, phrase, or sound, such as the popular “Om.” It doesn’t matter if your mantra is spoken loudly or quietly.
  • After chanting the mantra for some time, you’ll be more alert and in tune with your environment to experience deeper levels of awareness.
  • Easier to focus on a word than on their breath.
Those who don’t like silence and enjoy repetition.
6 Transcendental

 

  • More customizable than mantra meditation
  • Using a mantra or series of words that are specific to each practitioner.
Those who like structure and are serious about maintaining a meditation practice.
7 Progressive relaxation
  • Also known as body scan meditation,
  • Aimed at reducing tension in the body and promoting relaxation.
  • Involves slowly tightening and relaxing one muscle group at a time throughout the body.
  • In some cases, it may also encourage you to imagine a gentle wave flowing through your body to help release any tension.
Anyone who wants to relieve stress and unwind before bedtime.
8 Loving-kindness
  • Used to strengthen feelings of compassion, kindness, and acceptance toward oneself and others.
  • Involves opening the mind to receive love from others and then sending a series of well wishes to loved ones, friends, acquaintances, and all living beings.
Those who withheld feelings of anger or resentment.
9 Visualization
  • Focused on enhancing feelings of relaxation, peace, and calmness by visualizing positive scenes or images.
  • Important to imagine the scene vividly and use all five senses to add as much detail as possible such as imagining yourself succeeding at specific goals, which is intended to increase focus and motivation.
Anyone who wants to boost their mood, reduce stress levels, and promote inner peace.

 

How do I know which meditation is the right one for me?

  • Choose the one you feel most comfortable with & encouraged to practice to meet your needs
  • The one that complements your style & personality

 

How to get started?

  • First, sit quietly and focus on your breath.
  • Start in small moments of time, even 5 or 10 minutes, and progressively to an hour.
  • Sit consistently for at least 20 minutes every day and do it for 100 days straight if possible.
  • Combine that with an additional 2 to 5 minutes of meditation throughout the day

Meditation is something that cannot be forced as it comes with regular practice where eventually it became sustaining, nurturing and relaxing.  If the style chosen does not fit, just try another!   Regardless what you are looking for, be it spiritual enlightenment or a moment of peace, you will get there. 😀

Mala Beads for meditation

What is the origin of mala beads?

Sometimes known as Buddhist prayer beads, mala beads are long necklace-type tools traditionally used for mantra practice and meditation. They have a deep connection to mental grounding and help opening the mind to spirituality. They are similar to other forms of prayer beads used in various religions and referred as a “rosary”.

They are originally made of Rudraksha, natural seeds found in Malaysia, Nepal, India and South East Asia. Rudraksha is believed to be the 3rd eye of Lord Shiva. Those beads have some incredible benefits on life and health. They have a major effect on the heart chakra and hence, regulates the blood pressure They also bring stability to the entire system of the human body.

Nowadays mala beads can also be made of a variety of natural gemstones or wood beads which provide specific energy properties and personal significance.

 

What are the benefits of using mala beads?

The mala beads have the power to control your stress, charge your soul, give you clarity and focus, protect you from negative energy. They also have health benefits.

 

How can you use your mala beads?

The mala beads are traditionally used to repeat a mantra (Japa) but it can also be as simple as chanting Om or recite a personal intention, accomplishment or desire. Mala beads necklaces typically have 108 beads (a sacred number which represents spiritual completion) plus a single “guru” bead to signify the beginning and end of a count cycle.

  • Seat comfortably with your spine straight, your eyes closed and hold your mala in one hand
  • Start off with three deep, clearing breaths to center and align yourself in your intention
  • Envision light surrounding your mala and say or visualize your intention
  • Starting at the guru bead, turn each bead between your thumb and middle finger, pulling it toward you as you recite your mantra
  • Travel around the mala until you once again reach the guru bead. You’ll be reciting 108 times
  •  When you reach the Guru bead, you take a pause to give thanks to your Guru or to dedicate your meditation to someone

There is no need to be religious or have a spiritual practice to wear mala beads. If meditation is not part of your practise, you can simply wear it to reconnect to your breath and to the personal intention you have set, or when seeking a calmer mind, body and spirit.

Using mala beads as cues for breathing can also help you to bring more intention and concentration to your pranayama practice.

 

How to choose your mala beads?

It is as simple as following your intuition and picking the one you are spontaneously drawn to. Once you’ve chosen a mala, you can investigate the meaning of the gemstones and intention with which the mala was designed. Surprisingly you’ll notice that the one you selected has the qualities you may be working on or trying to cultivate into your life.

The mala that you are attracted to is the one for you; it’s as simple as that. 

 

Every gemstone and crystal is said to have its own unique energy and meaning.

  • Agate is a stone bringing emotional, physical and intellectual balance
  • Citrine is the stone of life, sun and life. It corresponds to the Solar plexus Chakra and the parts of the body connected to it. It is supportive of self-confidence and renewed determination
  • Jade is a stone symbol of purity and harmony. It helps to stabilize the personality by releasing negative thoughts
  • Rose quartz is the crystal of love and peace

 

How to care for your mala?

Rudraksha, gemstones and crystals are sacred and deserved good care. They vibrate at certain frequencies and amplify the energies you send through them while drawing out negativity from your body.

In order to cleanse your mala beads you can

  • Gently wash them with natural soap and warm water
  • Bathe them in the natural light of the full moon
  • Smudge them with either sage, incense or Palo Santo

After cleansing, you might want to charge your mala beads by leaving them in the sunlight or the moonlight for few hours. The energy of the sun and moon is said to return the beads to their own pure vibration.

Besides being beautiful and energized, using a mala during meditation can help focus your mind and your breath as you move through the practice. Just give a try!

Meditate through poses

As I regularly meditate, meditation during movement is a common practice I do, but how to meditate when doing exercise is quite a challenge. As the excessive breath and big movement will make it quite hard to focus.

Surprisingly after regularly practice, I realised we can easily go into meditation in between poses. This can be achieved when we have increased lung capacity, better understanding of breathing sequence, and a more flexible and stronger body.

The benefit of yoga poses is it is a controlled movement, the more we practice, the smoother the transition is. We can build muscle memories and focus more on breathing that make us go into the pose easier.

With enough practice, we can focus into the poses and sense the changes of muscle, thoughts and surrounding. Eventually I realised it also brings the very same effect of doing meditation, which is calmer mind, steadier heartbeat and lighter of body and mind.

Meditating before a dance competition

On the 13th of May 2021 —which is just yesterday as I’m writing this on the 14th— after the YTT class at 1pm, I went off for my 1st dance competition. Thus far, I’ve only ever performed professionally/in school throughout my dance journey, but never have I participated in a competition as a solo competitor. Yesterday was my first.

Something about the word “competition” drives me more nervous than I normally would be for a performance, although technically I will still be doing the same thing: going on stage to dance.

I was stressing out and overthinking the entire time while waiting for my turn, so I decided to try meditation to see if it would help me regain composure (another first for me yesterday) because I’ve only heard of but never experienced the benefits of meditation for myself. 

Ahamkara Mudra

I also googled “mudras for self-confidence”, as holding mudras during meditation channels the energy flow in the body and reinforces specific healing states of the mind1, and Ahamkara Mudra showed up. 

This mudra stimulates the solar plexus (definition: a complex of ganglia and radiating nerves of the sympathetic system at the pit of the stomach)2, and helps to overcome our fears and doubts, giving us confidence and peace3.

Throughout my meditation, I kept chanting internally “I can do this” while trying to visualize myself on stage dancing, but it was not an easy task at all.

 

 

I realized that I had to put in the effort to actively concentrate on the dance itself because there were so many other thoughts in my head and my legs were getting numb from sitting.

Towards the end, there were a couple of moments in which I felt that I was “floating” in my mind. I felt as if there is a huge water droplet shifting around in my skull. Although I’m not sure if it was my body physically shifting that caused the illusion, but what was interesting about it was that I did not recognize that I was in the state until I “went out” of it. 

I ended my meditation when I felt that I was confident in my abilities and mentally stable, which to my surprise was an hour-long. (note: it is not healthy to hold a mudra for more than 45mins!) The effects of the meditation were lovely. I felt different being on stage. There was a sense of comfort and reassurance that came from within while I was dancing, and I could feel the energy flowing through my body and my intentions coming from my heart. It was a good first experience and I would definitely practice this again for future performances! 

— Mandy, 3 May YTT 2021

Restore Balance In Your Mind & Body With Pranayama

“I took a deep breath and listened to that old bray of my heart: I am, I am, I am.” – Sylvia Plath

Image from Unsplash

Breathing is something that we do involuntarily, day in, day out. It comes as no surprise that we hardly ever think about it.

However, the breath is closely connected to the mind and body – so even if we don’t realise it, they can actually influence one another.

When we develop the awareness and learn to breathe consciously, we can then create balance in the mind and body. This can be especially useful since we live in a fast paced world and sometimes forget to slow down.

If you’re dealing with stress on the regular, pranayama (life force extension via the breath) can do wonders for you. For those who simply wish to improve your well-being and health, it is a great tool for you too.

After all, studies have shown that having a regular practice of simple, deep breathing can reduce anxiety and depression, boost energy levels, improve immunity and reduce feelings of stress, among other benefits.

Ready to make every breath count? Try any one (or all) of the below techniques to restore balance in your mind and body!

1. Kabalabathi

Image from Unsplash

Kabalabathi translates to skull shining, and as its name suggests, this breathing technique rejuvenates the mind and body. Also, it improves memory and concentration as well as enhances blood circulation.

How to do it:

  • Sit in a comfortable cross legged position with your hands on your knees
  • Keep your spine straight and close your eyes
  • With both nostrils, take a deep breath
  • Pull the stomach inward and exhale sharply in short bursts
  • Follow each exhale with an automatic inhale
  • Repeat the process for 10 to 15 minutes

2. Anulom Vilom

Image from Unsplash

Anulom Vilom, or alternate nostril breathing, helps to ease symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress. It also boosts memory and improves lung function.

How to do it:

  • Sit in a comfortable cross legged position
  • With your right hand, bring down your index and middle finger to your palm, and use your thumb to close your right nostril
  • Inhale through the left nostril for 3 counts
  • Close the left nostril with your ring finger and exhale from the right nostril for 6 counts
  • Inhale through the right nostril for 3 counts
  • Close the right nostril and exhale from the left nostril for 6 counts
  • Repeat this process for 5 minutes and focus on every inhalation and exhalation

3. Ujjayi

Image from Unsplash

Ujjayi is also known as ocean breath, simply because of the sound you’ll make when you exhale.

If you love being by the beach, take a moment to enjoy the ocean wave-like exhalation sounds while improving your focus, clearing sinus and staying positive, among other benefits.

How to do it:

  • Sit in a comfortable cross legged position
  • Inhale gently, in a long deep breath, from both nostrils
  • As you inhale, contract your throat and avoid letting the air touch your nose
  • With relaxed and light breathing, exhale with your mouth open or closed and repeat 3 – 4 times

Meditation – the ultimate reset of our being

During meditation, stress hormones like cortisol and adrenalin are reduced in our blood whilst bliss hormones like dopamine and serotonin are produced.  The bliss hormones would stay in our body system for a while until the next daily mediation begins. 

Meditation can change the brain over time.  

  1. Long-term meditators have better preserved brain than non meditators (https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01551/full).  
  2. Meditation reduces activity in the default mode network, which causes the mind to wander, most of the time to less uplifting thoughts. (Yale university, https://www.pnas.org/content/108/50/20254.short)
  3. Meditation reduce the symptoms of depression, anxiety and pain according to a study conducted at John Hopkins
  4. Some Harvard scientists found out in a study that mediation can change the structure for the brain by increasing the cortical thickness of the hippocampus.  Hippocampus helps with learning and memory.  They also found that the brain cell volume of amygdala, which is responsible the fear, anxiety  and stress is also reduced due to meditation.  
  5. It is also believed that meditation has the ability to epigenetically change our genetics, bringing about positive physiological and biochemical changes in our body.  There are substantial literature that suggests medication including other practices like Tai Chi, Yoga and etc can alleviate stress-dependent symptoms of various diseases including psychological disorder, inflammatory diseases, aging and cancer.  (https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01767/full).  More studies in the future have to be done and recorded to scientific prove the correlation between meditation and epigenetic. Until then we remain hopeful.