MY MASTER HACK FOR MEDITATION
by Gnan Thakore MD, CYA-RYT300
Everyone encounters challenges with meditation, primarily due to the wandering nature of our thoughts that veer us away from our intended focus. I personally faced this struggle, attempting to find a comfortable and upright posture while employing cleansing breaths through brastrika (bellows) technique. Sitting in gyan (knowledge) mudra, with my fingers gently touching my thumb, I embarked on the journey of meditation. Yet, like many, my active mind proved difficult to tame as it incessantly wandered in various directions.
Drawing upon my understanding of science, I discovered a meditation hack that I would like to share. Amidst the abundance of meditation techniques, comprehending the three progressive stages of meditation outlined by Patanjali is crucial, regardless of the technique one chooses.
The initial stage is Dharana (concentration), where we sit in a serene environment and focus our attention on an external or internal object, an image, or a deity. Breathing rhythmically, we strive to maintain a clear mind, eventually transitioning to the subsequent stage, Dhyana (absorption). This remarkable phase resembles a state of self-hypnosis, where the mind becomes tranquil, impervious to the intrusion of thoughts. Muscles relax, saliva gathers in the mouth, and the practitioner experiences the profound benefits and joy of meditation. The final stage of meditation, Samadhi (trance), can be achieved by persistent focus on an inner phenomenon such as breath or sound. At this point, the mind becomes one with the chosen object, undergoing a transformative journey into an alternate dimension.
Unfortunately, many beginners fail to reach the second stage of absorption and abandon meditation, perceiving it as unproductive. Thus, I present a yoga hack that specifically aids in attaining Dhyana. Understanding the scientific concept that we are actively manipulating our consciousness holds the key to success.
Without delving too deeply into the intricacies of anatomy, it is important to note two aspects of the brain that may be unfamiliar to some readers. Firstly, consciousness is rooted in the brainstem, which is the region between the higher brain and the spinal cord. Though the specific structures within the brainstem, such as the midbrain, pons, and medulla, are not essential for our discussion, it is vital to acknowledge that the brainstem plays a fundamental role in our conscious awareness through its intricate neural connections. Moreover, brainstem neurons contribute to the ascending reticular activating system (RAS), which is responsible for maintaining our alertness.
Secondly, it is noteworthy that all the nerves governing eye movements, facial expressions, tongue sensations, and even the vagus nerve originate from the brainstem. This particular detail is integral to the meditation hack I am about to propose.
Here is the Hack:
This technique effectively redirects the brainstem away from the stream of thoughts and provides an ideal foundation for progressing into the second and third stages of meditation.
I encourage you to try this hack and kindly share your experience with me.
A HEALING JOURNEY OF UNLEARNING AND RELEARNING WHAT I THOUGH I KNEW
By Carly Gaylor CYA-E-RYT250
The arrival of my son heralded a wondrous entry into motherhood, accompanied by a profound voyage of healing. This transformative journey was characterized by moments of frustration and unwavering perseverance, mingled with fear and resolute determination, and punctuated by despair and unwavering hope.
Needless to say, the birth experience I had envisioned and prepared for in my prenatal yoga classes, birth preparations with my midwives, and shared dreams and plans with my partner did not come to pass. In retrospect, it came to my attention that a pelvic imbalance, which numerous practitioners had observed but none knew how to effectively address, may have played a role. As a consequence, my birthing encounter left me with a mixture of trauma and awe, alongside significant pelvic floor complications.
Grateful for my awareness of and access to pelvic floor physiotherapy, I discovered that my postnatal yoga sessions may have been inadvertently exacerbating the issue rather than aiding in its resolution. Aware, for instance, that even a slight case of diastasis recti necessitated caution with forward planks, I pondered whether the other mothers present, engrossed in planks despite the warning, were truly aware of how to protect themselves. After all, how many postpartum women know if they have diastasis at the six-week mark, considering that virtually all experience it by the end of their pregnancy? Moreover, I myself lacked the knowledge to safeguard my pelvic floor during lunges, squats, and balancing poses. Instead of being a source of solace and rejuvenation, yoga became a source of stress, prompting me to cease attending.
Despite diligently adhering to pelvic floor physiotherapy, progress was painstakingly slow. At three months postpartum, I was informed that I might be able to resume running at six months. However, by the six-month mark, the timeline had been pushed back to nine months, and so it continued: a year, and then another whole year! The goalpost kept receding, leaving me in a state of despair and desperate determination.
It was in this moment of anguish and unwavering resolve that I enrolled in Core Exercise Solutions' online program, Pelvic Floor Perfect. This comprehensive program addressed imbalances and strength throughout the entire body, encompassing areas such as arch strength, jaw tension, breath control, hip stability, glute strength, rib cage alignment, and everything in between. Remarkably, halfway through the twelve-week program, my pelvic floor had gained sufficient strength to allow me to run once again, filling me with overwhelming joy.
Yet, amidst my elation, I couldn't help but feel perplexed. Why had I only now come across knowledge that made such a tremendous difference in my healing journey, knowledge that could have easily been integrated into my pelvic floor physiotherapy and postnatal yoga classes? It became evident that in-depth understanding of the pelvic floor and postpartum rehabilitation is a rare commodity, even among experienced yoga instructors and pelvic floor physiotherapists.
Subsequently, I continued my quest for knowledge and completed training with Core Exercise Solutions, becoming a Pregnancy and Postpartum Corrective Exercise Specialist. Armed with this newfound expertise, I am now reintegrating it into my yoga teaching, thereby revolutionizing both my approach to instruction and personal practice. The process involved a substantial amount of unlearning and relearning. My cues have evolved, my sequences have transformed, and my observations of my students have undergone a profound shift. I now emphasize the importance of 360-degree breath and rib expansion, advocating for the engagement of the pelvic floor and lower transverse abdominals. Additionally, I provide guidance on posture, including pelvic and rib positioning, as well as head and foot alignment, among other aspects.
I wholeheartedly endorse the Core Exercise Solutions professional training to all women who have experienced childbirth and to every teacher dedicated to supporting pregnant or postpartum individuals, regardless of whether they are 6 weeks, 6 years, or even 6 decades postpartum. I go as far as considering it an essential component in my comprehension of movement, breath, and the healing process. I can assure you that through this training, you will gain invaluable insights that will enhance your personal yoga practice, elevate your teaching abilities, and potentially serve as a transformative key to your own healing.
Nature is the “Hack” that allowed me to understand what Yoga Is.
by Natalie Forrest PH.D CYA-E-RYTGOLD
How Nature helped me with the realization that Yoga isn’t about Postures.
Her voice billowed out around us as we struggled, cajoled, and – gasp, yes it’s true – forced our
bodies into postures:
“There’s no enlightenment button on your knee cap that can only be pressed with your
foreheads – back off, breathe, listen to your body”.”
I’m in an Anatomy & Asana Yoga teacher training class in a gym in Calgary circa 2002. I can
feel myself and my fellow students struggling with her words.
She had to keep repeating herself as the soft but firm words just couldn’t penetrate the
denseness of our minds, a lifetime of not hearing our bodies had made us unable to listen.
“You will not feel more whole and connection if your heel touches your head – BACK OFF,
breathe, L I S T E N.”
The more we struggled to accomplish the shape of the posture, the more her words became like
the river slowly, bit-by-bit, wearing down the banks of our beliefs and minds...asking us to
She never directly said what she was pointing to with her words. I don’t know why. Perhaps it was that she was going against the grain of the time, a time when Yoga training were hyper-focused on the asana. Perhaps she didn’t have the words yet for herself even. But if she did...It’s unlikely that those words would’ve made it through the denseness of our ideas of what Yoga was.
Perhaps she knew that she was planting a seed that would blossom into a deep-in-the-bones
experience, an a-ha, a moment that would shatter the mind and change our practices forever,
that what could/would arise was a true understanding that is really a knowing...an actual
realization. It would take me years and a fervent full moon meditation to really get this, and even longer to
find the words to express it.
It was a lovely late summer’s eve; I felt called to a little soft spot of beach, where the river
whispered gently as the reflection of the mountains on the water felt timeless as if there were no
end and no beginning to them, or me. I was engulfed in something magnanimous.
I had come with the mental intention of doing a slow flow practice but after a few breaths it was
clear that movement was not appropriate and it turned into something else...
I sat in a dyad meditation with Moon, breathing in and out witnessing each other – slowly
dissolving into each other. My being was melting into the deliciousness that was Union with
Moon. I had a moment of mental interruption telling me to get back to doing...but my teacher's
words that had been silently waiting in the back of my mind for years spoke up, whispering,
“L IS T E N, breathe...”
In that moment I had started to pull myself out of the Moon meditation with just a simple thought
of “sitting properly” or taking a certain shape...but instead a subtle “cry” from within, a deep
sadness of sorts, had arisen. The bittersweet of sadness is that it has a way of shattering us open into this moment, we can’t help but feel it fully. I breathed and listened, to my body, my being, this moment, and to Moon. I mean I REALLY listened – the kind of listening that changes minds, hearts, beings. Turns out my body, and Moon, had a lot to say, things that I think they had been trying to tell me all my life. And in this
moment I was finally ready, able to listen.
What I heard was something ineffable, something that could not be put into words but it
somehow clarified what my teacher had been saying all those years before. And in doing so
exposed something that was buried deep within, something that I always could sort of feel, even
intuitively knew, but now I was beginning to understand.
It was in this moment that I understood my teacher’s words in a new way: being in full lotus
didn’t make Oneness appear, there isn’t an enlightenment button on my knee cap that can only
be pressed with my forehead, getting my heel to touch my head doesn’t make me more likely to
go to heaven, Union isn’t found in a posture.
It would take me years after this personal night of clarity, along with a whole lot of courage to be
able to say these next words because in the West, Yoga means postures...we “do” Yoga, we
take pictures of ourselves doing a posture with a backdrop of Nature, we challenge ourselves to
get better at the postures.
Here are the words that are born from that Moon meditation:
The Purpose of the Practice is NOT the Postures.
Let me say that again in exactly the same way:
The Purpose of the Practice is not the Postures.
This beautiful ancient practice has very little to do with postures...and everything to do with
dissolving our minds’ hold on us. We’ve gotten confused somewhere along the way. We think that the hammer is the house, instead of a tool to build the house.
“You will not feel more whole and connection if your heel touches your head – BACK OFF,
breathe, L I S T E N.” These words of one of my first teacher trainers still echo in my mind, only
now I look back and have a wee giggle at them: my mind, my struggle to perfect the postures,
thinking that the purpose of the practice was the postures. It’s the kind of giggle that one makes
at an inside joke – the universe has quite a good sense of humour, you know.
The “hack” is that there is no hack! Or maybe the hack is knowing that Yoga isn’t about the
postures...but whatever the hack is, it involves Nature. The purpose of the practice isn’t the postures...but hey, they sure are fun.