Forced Meditation sounds like an oxymoron because meditation is a practice in experiencing the present moment, focusing and letting go but not forcing anything. So how can forced meditation be anything but stress for your mind? Well, it can’t…and it can. In a certain way. Let me try to explain.
Going through school for Acupuncture, and even before that, when I would get my acupuncture treatments there was something that always stuck in my mind as to how I felt. I’m open about dealing with anxiety and if you have an anxiety disorder or even experienced anxiety for a period of time then you’re familiar with the happenings of the body/mind when this goes on.
Not everyone experiences it the same but there are a few symptoms that most people experience. Some may be, thoughts and worries circulating in the head that are invasive usually coupled with a feeling of fear or apprehension with physical symptoms such as, tense rigid muscles, a racing heartbeat, tightness in the chest and sides, stomach knots, decreased appetite, loose stools, increased urination, tightness in the throat, sweating and heavier shallow breathing.
Now these functions that usually needed in a time of survival or running away from a dangerous situation, are just there. That’s how you’re feeling throughout the day pretty much and it doesn’t stop, because this response is due the thoughts we are thinking and beliefs we are believing as opposed to us needing to flee because we’re about to get hit by a car. Its cause is internal instead of external. Now, I’m not saying this couldn’t be about something happening externally, but the external trigger is not what is keeping the body in this manner, that’s the mind. The mind keeps our thoughts in a danger loop and the stress response is activated and can’t go away because the mind is telling the body there’s danger.
Now why did I get into all that, ok, so a lot of times it’s very hard to calm down when your mind is spiraling out of control and your body feels like it’s trying to flee or it’s stiff and frozen. There are coping skills to use to help, which do help, like CBT skills and meditation, yoga, energy work, acupuncture and many more, which aim to assist the mind in calming down, focusing and getting out of the worry loop, calming the breathing so we intake more oxygen into the blood stream, increasing circulation to non-vital organs and the core, activating the lymphatic system to aid in toxins getting circulated and released. These are some of the physiological processes that can happen while using these modalities.
Now getting into what I mean about forced Meditation. When I would get my Acupuncture treatments, after getting my needles in and the therapist would leave, I could feel myself physically and mentally relaxing. It was like a wonder drug without the drug. So lovely. And I’d lay there with these needles in various places throughout my body, which if you’ve had acupuncture before you know that you can’t really move when they’re in. You don’t want to twist, turn or bend the needles because that could be dangerous. So, you lay there. Just you, the room, the needles, the possible discomfort of one or more needles or the focus on sensations in your body or even just focusing on the fact that you don’t want to/can’t move, the focus on the possible emotions coming up from being stuck there or from other emotional events, the trying to remain still and then the calming down of the body, the calming down of the mind, the letting go of physical tension and the deepening of the breath. It’s truly wonderful and it was the only time I had ever experienced this, meditation from external stimuli. The experience I called, FORCED MEDITATION.
And what I mean by that is simple. It is simply the fact that I didn’t intend to meditate, but meditation happened as a result of getting the treatment.
(Okay one more thing before I get into Yin Yoga because some of you won’t’ know why meditation is even a good thing. I won’t go into too much detail here because this post isn’t about the workings/ history or different styles of meditation, but I will tell you the most common effects of most meditation styles. Meditation has been known to improve focus, immune function, self-image, anxiety/depression/insomnia, high blood pressure, irritable bowel and increased ability to deal with stress.)
Ok back to the story!
But then, I started doing Yin Yoga. Game Changer. I experienced this Forced Meditation effect from Yin Yoga BUT the power was from within myself not from an external force. And the thing I experienced was responsibility for my own actions, thoughts and beliefs with feelings of full relaxation, a calmer mind, contentment and a general feeling of wellness and openness in my mind and body.
Yin Yoga is based on three principles. The first principle is to come into the pose and find your edge. Not painful but to the edge of where you can hold the pose with discomfort but still breathe deeply and there’s no sharp or overly painful sensations. The second principle is to make the commitment to find stillness and allow your muscles to relax. Yin Yoga is not activating the muscles unnecessary for the pose, it wants them to relax so there can be access and stretching into the connective tissues, joints, ligaments and bones. I see the muscle layer as our outside layer holding the world at bay and trying to keep us safe. Relaxing it isn’t always easy especially at first, it’s so automatic for us to tense up it’s like our protective shield. Think about what your muscles do when you get angry, scared, anxious, sad, etc. Your muscles tense up or knot up and it’s like this barrier between our insides and the outside. This can lead to issues getting stuck in the tissues, muscles and fascia. The third principle is to hold the pose for a specified time usually 1-20 minutes. So by making a commitment to be still, in the slightly uncomfortable pose, for a long period of time we allow our body to relax its defensive musculature system, we allow our mind to focus on something such as the discomfort or the breath and we open up deeper layers of our physical bodies to relieve pain and tension as well as emotional layers of our bodies to relieve the same. We encourage flexibility and suppleness necessary for a healthy body/mind.
So, the first few times I did Yin Yoga the effect was the same as for Forced Meditation in Acupuncture. I didn’t intend to meditate but the result from doing the practice was meditation. Now, it’s sort of different for me because I know what I’m intending to do but the effect is the same, it’s meditation. So the forced part comes in but in a different way, it’s more from my internal world than external world from the needles. By making the commitment to hold an uncomfortable pose, gently forcing myself to be there in that moment and with that discomfort when part of my mind/body wants to get out of it, this was the missing puzzle piece for me. The power, strength, decision and ability coming from within me whether to hold, fidget, move, or flow and this has given me a more confident feeling about my self, well being, healing and ability to handle stress.
I gained a unique sense of responsibility and belief in myself and self-healing and put the power back into my hands and my spirit. I am gaining my power back instead of looking outside myself for some kind of saving or healing. Though I do believe that we can be healed or cured from another person who channels true healing (who ultimately is just the channel, our body/minds do the actual healing. Example for this can be the placebo effect, the mind heals the issue because it believes it’s getting healed), I also believe that the best thing we can do for ourselves is to find our own power and do our internal work. Even if we get cured from some issue by the help of a healer, if we return to our normal lifestyle with the same thoughts, beliefs, actions, inflexibility, job, etc. then we are only allowing the process of disfunction to start all over again. We must do our own internal work as well. This is what Yin Yoga did for me. Because it gave me the same Forced Meditation feeling but I also had control over it. It’s a mind over matter practice that really works. I could break my commitment to be still. I could break my commitment to hold the pose. Or I can stay. Committed to stillness. Committed to holding steady. Finding a deeper breath into the belly or the discomfort. Holding steady in spite of the discomfort and resolving to allow the dual truths of feeling the discomfort and wanting it to stop yet feeling the discomfort and allowing it to be there. This! This is everything. And this has helped wonders for my anxiety as well. If you experience anxiety, I definitely suggest trying some Yin Yoga.
And I do still love Acupuncture and think it is of great value as well as has the added value for healing energy shared between practitioner and patient! I’m just sharing my story that for me adding Yin Yoga was a game changer. And I will continue to use Acupuncture and Yin Yoga for healing and well being.
Thanks so much for taking the time to read my blog.
I hope you find this helpful in some way. If so, I’d love to hear from you. I’m also currently taking my Yin Yoga teacher training and my plan is to make some Yin Yoga videos for YouTube or other online learning format so stay tuned by following me on social media. @laurenkarpinski on Instagram and YouTube. @abstractlaurenkarpinski on Pinterest.
From my heart to yours,
While doing my Yin Yoga teacher training, I learned of the Traditional Yin Yoga creator Paulie Zink, his style includes Yang flow with Yin Stillness. Yin-Yang together the way they naturally are. He teaches to flow gracefully and spontaneously like animals into poses or like changing elemental processes. Holding poses and relaxing muscles then flowing into other poses that may require strength or mobility and back into flexible relaxation poses. And on and on. Spontaneous and graceful with a mix of Yin and Yang. Interestingly I would naturally do this as I practiced Yin Yoga poses. Before I went into another Yin pose I would naturally do a gentle Yang flow whether the teacher did it or not. It just felt right. And now that I know this is also the original intention, I do intend in the future to take his Teacher training classes as well to deepen my awareness and experience of this amazing meditation in motion.
That being said, I still see the value in an entirely Yin class as most of us are usually always in a Yang active state of daily life or exercise. So, whether it was his original intention or not I am still in love with the value and effect of a mostly Yin class and it’s benefits of meditation, focus, flexibility, breathe-work and commitment.
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