By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500
Some Yoga schools have strict guidelines to prevent students from meditating in a supine position. Many Yoga certification courses often discourage interns from meditating in Savasana. Although, It has been said, by some, that everyone meditates involuntarily, at night, when they sleep. This does not occur during dream-filled sleep, but during the dreamless phases. A good meditation session brings the brainwaves to a lower and lower frequency, until they closely mirror the brainwave states found during sleep. The individual should still be awake though; otherwise, this is just sleeping.
Within classes, falling asleep during meditation is generally discouraged; but it is a natural thing to happen occasionally. Yoga teachers can attest to how many snoring students they awake during classes. However, falling asleep frequently, during meditation, needs to be addressed. If someone is not able to meditate because they sleep, the true cause may be a matter of procedure, during the class, or during the course of a day.
Identify the Cause
If an individual constantly falls asleep during periods of reaching a deep meditative state, it is time to closely examine their sleeping patterns. Is the individual getting a full 7-8 hours of rest in a typical night?
If the answer is: “no,” identification of the source of the problem is the first step towards a better meditative experience. At the same time, getting the proper sleep is crucial for complete health. Being short on sleep can cause serious health problems.
If the student is getting enough hours of sleep in a night, and if they are still falling asleep upon entering a deeply meditative state, it may be time to see a physician – to be checked for sleep disruptions, such as sleep apnea. Individuals, with sleep apnea often get the same amount of hours as someone else, but still not feel rested fully.
Anchoring the Mind
Once sleep has been addressed, there are a number of tactics individuals may use to keep themselves from sleeping during their meditation. One such method is anchoring the mind with a simple and repetitive task. An individual uses something to anchor themselves into a state of wakefulness while they meditate.
Yoga Breathing Techniques (pranayama)
A common mental anchor is counting the breath. A small portion of the mind is kept active by being given a simple task, to remain focused on, while the practitioner enters deeper and deeper levels of meditation.
Mantra, japa, prayer, koan, or affirmation, are different methods that stop the mind from wandering. The result is a focus on a singular thought or feeling. Each of these five methods is unique. Of the five, mantra is the easiest because it may be one syllable, instead of a sentence. However, each method can help the mind focus and remain in the moment, without sleeping. One anchor is no better than another. It’s all about finding what method works best for the individual.
Choose an Upright Seated Posture (asana)
Another helpful method is to sit in postures with the spine straight. A reclining position is easier to fall asleep in than Sukasana (easy posture) or a straight-backed Padmasana (lotus position). The body’s instinct is to keep itself from falling over. Thus, engaging in seated postures uses this unconscious instinct to the advantage.
Meditating, at the time when you are most alert, is another way to stave off sleep. Although it is challenging, walking while meditating will keep you alert and in the moment. Consider practicing meditation sessions directly following more rigorous physical Yoga activities, such as Sun Salutations or Moon Salutations. Getting the blood and energy flowing with the Yoga asana session, and then carrying that over to meditation, can help a lot.
Above all, do not stress too much if you do happen to fall asleep. Getting angry at one’s self over anything is not helpful at all and runs counter to Yoga training. If falling asleep during meditating could lead to missed appointments later in the day, consider setting an emergency alarm for yourself as a backup, and then do not worry about it anymore. If you continue to work through it, and apply the techniques outlined here, sooner or later – you will achieve a deep meditative state without falling asleep.
© Copyright 2011 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
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