AYURVEDA & MEDITATION
In Ayurveda, (the Science of Life), meditation plays a very important role as a therapy, particularly to aid those suffering from psychological & emotional issues, and problems related to the nervous system.
According to Ayurveda, our life is a combination of spirit (consciousness), ego, intelligence, mind, sense organs & motor organs. As long as these elements are together, with the soul, we are alive.
Our soul is covered by 5 sheaths called Panchakoshas in Ayurveda, namely Annamaya Kosha (physical gross body), Pranamaya Kosha (several types of air), Manamaya Kosha (the mind), Vijnanamaya Kosha (intelligence) and Anandamaya Kosha (total bliss). Ayurveda says, in order to remain healthy, it is essential that we keep these koshas or sheaths clear & pure, without contamination. Anandamaya Kosha can be kept free from contamination by following the diet as per our prakruti (constitution), and the diet has to be sattvic (in the mode of goodness).
Pranamaya Kosha can be kept pure mainly by pranayama or simply taking deep breaths of fresh air. There are several techniques of pranayama, one has to be careful to choose the techniques suitable for one’s constitution, according to the weather conditions & time of day. For instance, a person with having Pitta as a predominant dosha should refrain from doing Bhastrika and Surya Bhedan pranayama during the summer seasons and in the afternoons, because it will generate more heat in the body, resulting in problems like high blood pressure, acidity, headaches etc.
As far as Manamaya Kosha, Vijnanamaya Kosha and Anandamaya Kosha are concerned, they are part of our subtle body, and to maintain their purity, meditation is highly recommended in Ayurveda. Ayurveda says that the cause of most health problems are deep rooted in the Manamaya Kosha which affect the other 4 koshas, causing acute health problems.
According to Patanjali, “Dhyana Nirvishayam Man” is the technique or process of meditation which helps us to free our minds from thinking about any sense objects. Though the technique of meditation is not that easy, if we incorporate Ayurvedic principles into it, then meditation becomes simple & enjoyable.
Before discussing how Ayurveda can help make meditation more enjoyable, let me first mention a few techniques of meditation:
- Chakra meditation – one has to sit with the spine erect & eyes closed then energise all the Chakras starting from the Mooladhara (base) Chakra, going upwards towards the Sahasrahar (Crown) Chakra, by doing pranayama.
- Mantra meditation – a particular mantra is chanted, for example the mantra “OM” for a specific number of times. With regular practice, one eventually becomes completely absorbed in the mantra.
- Thought meditation – one has to just be an observer & observe the myriad of thoughts that surface in the mind, without dwelling on these thoughts or analyzing them. By doing so, gradually the mind will become more peaceful.
- Prana meditation – one has to do slow & deep breathing, paying attention to the intake of oxygen, and expelling of carbon dioxide, with so many impurities being removed from the body. It has a purifying & peaceful effect.
- Dinacharya Darshanam (scrutinizing one’s own daily activities) – this is to be done preferably in the evening. One should recall the activities of the entire day, scrutinize the bad deeds or unpleasant moments eg. getting angry with someone, then determine the reason for the incident, and send positive messages to the subconscious mind so that the mind does not react the same way again in a similar situation. This method is particularly effective for getting rid of bad habits or other vices.
Now let’s look at how Ayurveda can help in meditation:
- Time of meditation – in general, 1 ½ hours before sunrise, noon time & sunset times are recommended for doing meditation. In particular, according to Ayurveda, there are particular time periods during the day when a particular dosha is strong in the environment. For eg. Vata is strong in the environment from 2 am – 6 am, and from 2 pm to 6 pm. So for Pitta & Kapha people, these timings are quite suitable for meditating, but it is not suitable for Vata individuals.
- Diet – besides observing a specific diet according to one’s prakruti (constitution) and weather conditions, Ayurveda says that a sattvic diet (fresh vegetables and fruit, etc.) is good for everyone in general. But Kapha foods like sweet potatoes are very good for Vata individuals in particular due to their grounding effect.
Conditions to be followed:
- Stability: One has to choose a comfortable position to sit and maintain that posture throughout the duration of meditation.
- Faith and determination: One has to have strong faith in the technique of meditation, even though in the beginning the results may not be as per one’s expectations. One should be determined to keep on trying and not give up.
- Focus: The mind should be focused and concentrate on the technique.
- Regularity and continuity: Meditation should be done regularly and one has to be consistent.
- Fixed time: Meditation should be done always at the same time.
- Fixed place: One should meditate at the same place everytime and the place should be quiet and clean.
- One posture: The sitting position also should be the same everytime when one does meditation. According to Ayurveda and Yoga, Padmasana (the lotus pose) is the best for meditation. Because only in Padmasana the body remains undisturbed even though during meditation the body is buoyed up.
If the above guidelines and conditions are followed, meditation can be very effective and a truly blissful experience.