To put it simply, deep contraction means- a willing stretch on body in a normal and natural way. It also means doing some physical exercise daily.
But the physical exercise of deep contraction are very much different from what is generally meant by this.
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When I say – physical exercise
it does not mean – jogging, aerobics, push ups, weight lifting or other physical drills etc.
Though these exercise also helps in keeping the body fit and healthy, they are particularly suitable for young and athletes only as they encourage muscle tensions in the average person for whom tension is usually already a problem. Further, they require more daily effort than anyone but an athlete is likely to be willing to make. Moreover they tend to tired the body and overexerts the hearts and arteries.
One more disadvantage is that this physical routine emphasis on certain muscle groups while never involving others. The external muscular part of body gets the maximum of benefits while internal organs does not get the requisite amount of movements and massage.
In contrast to above mentioned physical exercise routine, deep contraction and its advanced stage of ‘yoga’ has been developed after closely observing the nature and animals. Animals unlike man know instinctively how to keep fit. Yet their secret is simplicity itself. It involves indulging in the most stimulating physical exercise there is- natural, spontaneous body movements.
This can easily be understood by taking the example of cat. The way a kitten relax in sleep and the way it wake up depicts the wonderful natural body movements. The kitten completely let go of every muscle thus becoming a dead weight in sleep or relaxation. When it wakes up, it stretch, yawn, slowly gets to its feet and arch its back, changing from a limp rag to a coiled string in no apparent effort. The tremendous economy of energy and movements gives the cat its peculiar grace and power.
The yawn and big stretch are nothing than a kind of deep muscular contraction – a contraction that reaches every muscle group from head to toes. After awakening its sinews in this pleasant and satisfying manner, the kitten suddenly leap after a speck of dust, thus going from a passive contraction to active contraction. If you notice this , you’ll find that the motion is effortless. An animal never tries to prove anything and moves for the sheer pleasure of being in motion.
In our highly civilized, urban and scientific world, we have almost forgotten that we are also just one of the millions of species of animals on earth. Our body is still a primitive body that gets affected by various ups and down of nature. Luckily there were people, who realized this and developed the art of yoga or deep relaxation by studying nature. Yogis developed their exercising techniques by observing animal life. Not only did they appreciate the genius for relaxation all animals possess.
They realized that animals, utilizing their energies properly, sleeping at intervals around the clock, eating only according to need live to five times their maturity and keep their full vigor five-sixth of their life, while man and woman live to only twice their maturity and begin to lose their vitality half-way through. Carrying their emulation of beasts and birds to a logical conclusion the yogis became the exception to the rule. They learn enough how to turn to the simple and the primitive in order to re-discover the natural living and nature’s laws.
Deep contraction is more or less a prolongation of natural instinctive stretches carried to the point where a person’s whole mood and physique become involved. There are many benefits of deep contraction. First of all, these exercise can be done at a very slow pace in a relaxed manner, thus never exerting the heart or arteries. They affects the internal organs of the body in a positive manner.
When a muscle stretch during deep contraction, a lubricant called synovial fluid is immediately secreted helping disperse the waste matter which causes stiffness at the joints. The lymph flows more freely, nourishing and stimulating body cells. Blood circulation is improved.
Deep contraction routines when done with deep breathing tones the body, stimulates circulation and causes waste to be carried away and deposits of fat and calcium to be utilized instead of remaining nothing but dead weight. Moreover it does not require much time on daily basis. Only a 10 minute schedule, 3 times a day is sufficient. Moreover deep contraction can be done almost anywhere, in work place also.
As I mentioned earlier (in three yogic aids to meditation ) that in order to learn meditation properly, you are required to make your life relaxed, simple and less demanding. A life in which the level of physical and mental exhaustion is at bare minimum. After Deep breathing and deep relaxation; deep contraction is the third step which you should include in daily routine. Now I am describing you a simple deep contraction routine which will keep you fit and active throughout the day.
Once you adopt this 3rd step of Deep Contraction along with the other two aids, you will be able to greatly reduced the exhaustion level and more importantly you will begin to realize that your life is slowly-slowly (but permanently) becoming relaxed, simple (not complex) and less demanding. This will ensure a congenial and perfect situation for trying meditation techniques on daily basis.
Now let us discuss some methods.
An excellent relaxation routine : stretching your body on waking up in the morning.
Make it a habit never to jump out of bed in the morning. Instead, give your self a minute or two minute to wake your body thoroughly. Lie flat on your back, preferably without a pillow. Breathing deeply but easily , start by consciously stretching one leg from the hip down , toes pointing so that you can feel the muscles of the calf, and the leg itself feels about an inch longer than the other. Relax, then repeat with the other leg.
Now stretch your arms hard sideways, then over your head, tensing shoulder and neck and muscles, and arching your back like a cat. Finally stretch your entire body slowly, consciously tensing all the muscles together and relaxing them thereafter. Now get up slowly, avoiding jerky motions. You have never seen a dog or cat jump up from a nap, unless it has been startle and alerted as if to danger, in which case its adrenalin is probably pouring through its body. It is precisely such harmful purposeless over-stimulation that you must teach yourself to avoid. After getting up, take a few deep breath.
If possible, go in your balcony or outside your house and take some long and deep breath Make this waking routine a regular feature of you life. doing it just once will left you in amazement. In morning it is really difficult to left the bed with enthusiasm and energy. However, this small 5-6 minute routine will give you an instant freshness and energy. Incidentally this getting-up routine is worth an extra half hour’s sleep. Just do this once and you are bound to do it again and again daily !
Now some deep contraction exercises :
The following are simple form of some yogic asana of Hatha Yoga. Though a morning time is recommended, you can do them any time of day. Just keep in mind that a few exercise should be done in empty stomach.
At the very first, begin by practicing stretches of your own devising. whatever is comfortable and natural, only make sure that you do your stretching these three different ways: lying flat on your back, sitting down, and standing upright. Stretch you legs, feet and toes as far as possible, stretch your arms legs, feet and toes as far as possible, stretch your arms high above your head, stretch your neck, your chest, your waist and your back. Above all, let every movement be natural, unhurried, fluid.
During each stretch try to contract as many muscles as you can consciously trace. then hold the sketch for as long as a minute, building up tension gradually. then, just as gradually, let down again. Remember never to move jerkily, since this negates the benefits of the exercise.
Repeat this same kind of stretching several times during the day. at least once while sitting in a chair and once while you are standing. Try to allot five minutes in all to these three routines. remember to pay special attention to the waist and the back, for in that way you will be benefiting two vital areas- the spinal columns and the abdominal cavity.
At the end of a few days, when you have begun to feel completely natural in your stretching routines, you can go on to the next step, which is to do your stretching exercises directly following the relaxation period.
Remember, During deep relaxation you have been lying flat on the floor on your back, eyes closed arms along your sides, in the Shavasana or Death pose. Now as you rouse yourself, start lifting both legs from hips, toes pointed and knees held straight. Do this slowly, being careful to keep the rest of your body, neck and head down on the floor. Lift as high as you can, preferably until your legs are at a right angle with your body, always being careful to notice the various contractions that begin with the feet, extend up the calf, through the thighs and into the abdominal region. Hold this stretch for as long as possible without feeling strain. then slowly and gently, lower the feet to the floor in one smooth movement. Then rest.
Next sit up and try grasping your toes or ankles with your hands, bending the trunk and keeping the legs stretched out. Continue to bend as far forward as possible, holding this position for a few moments before loosening your grip and slowly sitting up once more. Do not worry if at first you are unable to grasp your feet. You will gradually grow more limber as you continue exercising a little everyday. The main thing to keep in mind is that you are doing the best you an-and not to overtax yourself. Remember, too, to avid jerky motions: the stretch should be natural. Again you have just completed the first cycle.
Now lie on your stomach, keeping your legs straight out. Place your hands on the floor in line with the shoulders. Try to lift yourself by pressing down on the hands. At first this may seem hard, but after a week or so you will be able to lift your whole body from the hips up. This posture is excellent for spine.
Your last stretch is to be done standing. Stand with the feet slightly apart, knees slightly bent. Place the hands on thighs. Take a deep breath, exhale, then expel the breath sharply. Now try to draw the abdomen in and up, raising the diaphragm as high as possible Hold this position a moment, then relax.
This is an exercise which massage the colon, the large and small intestines and start peristaltic action, generally doing away with any tendency to constipation by invigorating the nerves which control intestinal movements. Moreover, muscle which ordinary are beyond our voluntary control are involved here. This exercise also helps in fallen stomach, intestines or uterus. It should, however, always be done on an empty stomach.
Keep in mind all the above mentioned routines should be in the nature of a glorified stretch. Do not ask too much of yourself. Be content to make haste slowly. As for timing , choose any convenient time according to your schedule. Always be sure to wear loose, comfortable clothing and to allow at least two and preferable three hours to elapse after a meal before you begin.
While doing these exercises, your mental attitude is of greatest importance. Just as, during relaxation, you must empty your mind of all the distracting influences, so during the stretches you must teach yourself to dwell on the performance only, to study each action and its effects on your body, allowing yourself to relish the sensation you are experiencing.
If you follow this routine faithfully you will begin to acquire greater limberness and to experience both physical and mental well being within one short week. You will sleep better, have greater vitality and your nerves will be your friend instead of traitors. The combined benefits of deep breathing, deep relaxation and deep contraction will astonish you.
Why these 3 aids are important for learning meditation is that from the very first, the emphasis here is not on building up one or another part of your body, not on one or another “angle” but on the whole being. The whole of our existential identity. These 3 yogic routine aims at creating a balanced mental-physical combination of improvement and growth.
Deep breathing will ensure an optimum supply of oxygen to all body parts thus making us energetic throughout the day, deep relaxation will help us to thoroughly relax every single cell of body thus helping us to rejuvenate after a busy & tough day. Thirdly deep contraction exercises, make our body flexible and fit for the whole day. In the final analysis, a regular practice of these three routines will ensure that you will get a relaxed, simple and less demanding life.
When you’ll get more energy, more relaxation and a perfectly agile and fit body, you will find it very easy to try various meditation techniques. Someone has rightly said that to draw some real spiritual benefits, one should be in a state of physical and mental and emotional well being. I can write many pages on the benefits of these 3 super aids, but I think it is better to leave this for you to decide.
I have explained the techniques in detail. Please give them a try and you yourself will realize the kind of unbelievable changes they are capable of making in you. Even if you don’t try meditation techniques described in this book and just practice these three aids only, you will be able to dramatically reduce the amount of tension, stress from your busy life. After all we all wants a peaceful, successful and happy life. By regular practice of these three aids, you can easily expect to make some positive progress in this direction. I wish you all the best.
Now after acquainting yourself with all the three aids of meditation, let us see how we can utilize these three aids in meditation in our daily life.