Mental health is one of the most important aspects of health. Having a healthy mind certainly is a key to achieving a healthy life. For some reason, mental health has not gained the much-needed acceptance in society, instead, it is always looked down upon. It is still somewhat considered taboo. This shouldn't be the case, especially not in India whose rich ancient culture is filled with dedicated practices to improve the mind. Yoga is one such example of these practices. "Mind" is discussed thoroughly in Yogic Science. Even when traditional yoga has been branched out in so many lineages, the "mind" aspect of the science remains as it is. If you have ever taken a yoga session, you know that feeling of calmness, awareness, and having better control of yourself. Still, many suffer from terrible consequences of ignored mental health, even when the solutions are so approachable. It's time when we should start paying attention to our mind, as it holds immense possibilities rather than just forcing one to end their life.
Just like any other illness, mental health issues should be acknowledged first. The one primary point we learn by practicing yoga is self-acceptance. When we go on the mat, our main intention is to be aware of ourselves, our body, our breath, and our mind. Observing ourselves is a true learning experience of acknowledging everything about ourselves.
This learning should continue outside the mat too, being aware of the kind of thought and emotions your mind is producing is the first step in the healing process. You can only get rid of the issues once you acknowledge that there is an issue.
Breath control through Pranayama is the most suggested way to achieve a calmer state of mind.
Our breath plays a vital role in the fluctuations of the mind. Next time when you are experiencing the height of any emotion such as anger, happiness, etc. you will notice your breath rate has gone higher. The key to balancing the mind truly lies in balancing the breath.
You can experience this right this moment-
1. Sit in a comfortable position,
2. Both the palms on the knees, spine straight, shoulder relaxed, chin parallel to the ground,
3. Inhale, by filling as much air in your stomach as you can and pause for a while,
4. Exhale, by taking all the air out of the body and pause again.
5. Focus on maintaining the depth of the breath and slow down.
6. Practice 10-11 rounds.
The practice is known as "Yogic Breath Practice" or "Diaphragmatic Breathing".
Once you are done with the practice, observe your mind and notice how you feel.
Yes, it is this simple!
Breath control would bring a certain level of meditativeness to you. The feeling of having better control over yourself is encouraging to now be able to sit in "Dhyana". Dhyana or mediation is a widely accepted method to achieve excellent mental health. Modern medical science has found "Dhyana" as an effective and long-term measure for people with clinical mental disorders.
And just like the Pranayama, even Dhyana is very simple to follow. It is rather a continuing practice after the pranayama. There are several methods suggested in yogic science that can help you progress into your dhyana journey such as Shambhavi mudra, but it is advised to learn these methods under guidance. To begin with, let's look at the simple practice-
1. Sit in a comfortable position and do yogic breaths.
2. Once you achieve breath control, begin focusing on the five senses.
3. Begin with the ear, try to listen to all the sounds in your surroundings. Spend a few breaths here
4. Move on to the skin, feel all kinds of touch such as the friction of clothes, the touch of your palms against the knee, etc.
5. Move on to the tongue, taste the tasteless, the saliva. Be aware of the structure of the mouth,
6. Move on to the nose, experience all the smells in your surroundings
7. Move on to the eyes, and observe whatever is in front of the closed eyes.
8. Continue your focus on the breath, just be a witness to your thoughts which you experience with each sense and let them come and go. If you feel that your attention is flowing with the thoughts, bring your attention back on to the breath, spend some time with the focus on the breathing path, and then return to the sense mediation again.
9. You would soon develop a sense of being present in the moment, improved concentration, and a balanced state of mind.
Caring for mental health is as important as physical health. The efforts which we put in strengthening, toning, and maintaining the physical body are an absolute waste if one has a fluctuating mind. All the early onset such as sleeplessness, stress, anxiety, etc. shouldn't be ignored. We need to understand that all of these fluctuations are happening in the mind. "The Mind" which holds such high possibilities shouldn't be left to be the slave of mental fluctuations, especially when it can be controlled. The solutions are approachable, the help is closer than it seems. The help is within you. All you need is just one realization that your mind doesn't control you.
It's going to be all right!!!
*It is suggested to learn the Pranayama, Dhyana, and kriyas under the guidance and then become self-reliant.
Nidhi (Senior Teacher @Ayushman Yog)
Level 1- 200 hrs., Level 3- 800 hrs. (YCB)
MSC (Yoga), MSC(Vedanta)