Do I have to sit still to do meditation??
When you think about meditation, you mostly think about people sitting silently in a lotus posture. The main aim of meditation is to become more aware of your inner world (read more about meditation in my previous post). This means observing your thoughts, feelings, emotions, intuition and bodily sensations. But is sitting silently the only way of exploring your inner world?
Definitely not! The body and mind (thoughts and emotions) are not separate entities and that's why specific expressions of the body trigger specific thoughts and emotions. So with different meditations, you might be able to observe different responses of the bodymind. Not only when sitting in silence, but also while dancing, shaking, jumping or screaming!
Structural tension in the body
We incorporate active meditation in our meditation trainings to awaken or activate the body. One of the most characteristic features of a human being, is it’s habits. Our daily life consists of mostly habitual activities, which require specific regular body movements and involve only specific muscle groups.
Also, we have stressful encounters in traffic or relationships, which again activate a specific set of muscles. When these stressful experiences become structural and the tension cannot be released, the tensions are 'stored' in the body. You can find structural tension in the muscles, but also in other tissues. Try to feel the skin of different people; feel if the flexibility of the (deeper) tissue. Is there a difference between stressed and relaxed people?
Sympathetic nervous system
How do we accumulate stress in our body? Looking at our nervous system from a functional point of view, scientists divide it in two divisions: the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system is best known for mediating the neuronal and hormonal stress response commonly known as the
fight-or-flight response. The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for preparing the body for action, especially in situations threatening survival. The parasympathetic nervous system is complementary to the sympathetic nervous system and works to promote maintenance of the body at rest. It is responsible for regulating the body's unconscious actions such as digestion and sexual arousal through independent reflex activity.
When the body is structurally exposed to stress, the sympathetic nervous system is permanently activated. This keeps your body in a state of action, which basically means: tensed muscles. These muscles could simple relax when not used. Permanently living in stress prevents the body to rest and recover from daily activities.
Irregular body movement
Active meditations are a perfect tool to reset the stressed body. Different from most sports, active meditations involves engaging in irregular body movement. All muscles, myofascia and tissues are involved. The active meditations are breaking the patterns of holding tension. By stretching, loosening and opening the body, stored tensions get released and therefore body circulation and relaxation can occur.
The active meditations not only break the systematic patterns of holding tensions. They also open up and liquify the myofascia. The systematic patterns of holding and its regular body movements make your myofascia tissue less flexible and responsive. Let’s talk a bit more about these myofascia, since they are key in opening up the ‘bodymind’.
Myofascia shape the body
Myofascia are connective tissue which surround the muscles, bones, nerves and blood vessels. Scientists increasingly discover it’s various functions in the body. Mostly it attaches, stabilizes, encloses, and separates muscles and other internal organs. You can compare it with the fabric of a tent; the canvas is covering, connecting and supporting the poles (bones) and lines (muscles). Myofacia consist of closely packed bundles of collagen and elastine fibers, which makes it strong and flexible at the same time. The fascia interconnect the whole body, from your toe to the top of your head. For instance, if somebody pulls your toe, you can feel a tension under the surface of your skin in your back and neck. Try it!
The fascia connect body parts and shape your body in a specific way. When people are dealing with many tensions in life, they literally tense up in the body. Because of a selective use and range of movement, fascial tissue fails to differentiate it’s structures effectively. The myofascia get less elastic and less liquified, it dries out. Because of this, the body more and more grows into a specific shape of holding tension. So emotional patterns are not only directly related to patterns of tension in the body, they actually shape the body! Because of the interrelatedness of the body and the mind, it is often referred to as the ‘bodymind’.
Finally, active meditations are an important tool for emotional expression through creative body movement. The spoken word is the most common way of expressing our emotions in our culture. Also writing, painting and playing music are universal ways of expression. Often a conversation doesn’t really satisfy you in expressing the way you feel. You might be better able to channel your enjoyment through a dance. Or release your frustration by the practice of some good shaking.
Active meditations include various ways of expression with which (stored) emotions can be moved and released. This is bringing emotions back to what they suppose to be… The word ‘emotion’ comes from the Latin ‘e’ which means ‘out’ and the Latin ‘movere’, which means ‘move’!
Find a meditation that resonates with you!
Your exploration can only be beneficial if you do what you like to do. Everybody has it’s own preferred creative expression. Find a meditation that really suits you, where you can let yourself completely go. Only then you can experience the depth of your being in meditation and can you make your life exploration effortless and fun!
In our meditation trainings we will introduce several active meditations. We will give you the opportunity to experience the benefits of these meditations and to find out which meditation resonates with you. Click here to read more about trainings of the Institute for Meditation.