Are Holen, founder of Acem Meditation, Norway, speaks to Priti Agrawal about meditative yoga. The interview was printed in Speaking Tree, published by The Times of India, on 16 November 2012.
What is meditative yoga?
Meditative yoga is a special way of doing Hatha Yoga, very different from the hurried, sweaty, gym-like yoga of many schools around the world. It is in line with Patanjali’s chitta-vritti-nirodha and of slow movements that are well-coordinated with deep and unforced breathing. The attention is, initially directed towards the movements, later towards breathing, and finally, towards the wholeness of the postures. Meditative yoga brings the mind to silence and focuses on slow movement yoga with abdominal breathing for maximum relaxation.
How can we synchronise movement with breath?
In yoga, relaxed breathing should guide all movements, and rhythmic movements should guide the breathing. When lifting the arms upwards above the head, the thorax expands and the impulse is to breathe in. The breathing should flow slowly and evenly from beginning to end during this slow upwards movement. Thereafter, when the body is to be bent forwards, the person should breathe out in a similar slow manner. Every movement in yoga has inherent impulses for the direction of the breath. The adept may not be aware of these. Movements synchronised well with breathing create a state of deep, meditative impetus towards relaxation.
Every yogasana builds up some momentum towards meditation. This build-up should be maintained till the shavasana (or corpse pose) at the end of a sequence of asanas.
In this way, shavasana is the most meditative of all — provided the mind is allowed to flow and float freely for 5-15 minutes. Shavasana is, in fact, the essence of meditative yoga.
Why do we need to do yoga and meditation?
Modern life requires speedy use of knowledge and technology. It requires high levels of expertise, mental and interpersonal skill. Navigating your way through life is stressful. There is nothing wrong with stress; some of it is necessary. Stress could even be healthy as long as there is a good balance between relaxation and stress. Simple yogasanas are good for relieving stress and keeping the mind and body relaxed and healthy.
Most of us embrace the advantages of modern life, but we do so without having established adequate ways to de-stress, to relax and to allow for reflection and introspective insights. Stress problems increase. Certain types of meditation and some modes of yoga have a calming effect.
How can we breathe in a relaxed manner?
Move your mind towards your breath without putting any strain on the breathing. Work on the movement in such a way that you find free flowing breaths. When that is accomplished, you become aware of the wholeness of your body position including mind, breath and body movement.
Between every exercise, you need to lie down, just for some seconds for relaxation. It helps in releasing stress and any kind of strain that’s there on the body and mind.
What is Acem Meditation? How does it help in quitening the mind?
Acem Meditation originated in Norway. It has no guru, no religious affiliation, and is based on modern
psychology. Scientific studies have shown marked bodily changes during Acem Meditation: reduced autonomic functions and profound rest. In the brain, alpha and theta waves appear together with other changes in brain activity, indicating reduced levels of anxiety, depression as well as in unbalanced personality issues. In the heart, slowing down of sympathetic stress-related activity, and increase of parasympathetic activity which helps you de-stress are displayed.
Facilities for Acem Meditation are available in Delhi and Tamil Nadu. It is done with eyes closed while sitting comfortably in a chair or on a bed. The meditator repeats a given meditation sound, gently and effortlessly. The sound and rhythmic qualities trigger a relaxation process involving body, brain and mind.
Meditation is a process of stilling the mind against external distractions to discover peace and wisdom within. As the mind calms down, and worries are forgotten, there begins a growing feeling of contentment.
Acem Meditation is to be done with a free mental attitude, without any strain. Thoughts, bodily sensations, and images just come and go. Many practitioners report regular Acem Meditation opens their minds and hearts to spiritual dimensions of existence and deeper understanding of the Self.