Bodily Aids

THERE are many very excellent exercises for the purpose of keeping the body fit. Some of them are positively necessary for the student who is inclined to be sedentary. The effect of the mind on the bodily functions cannot safely be ignored by anyone who takes up mental training. In concentration of mind, for example, there is a tendency to halt the breath outside the body; I know one student who was occasionally recalled to the fact that he had forgotten to breathe in by suddenly choking. So a few suitable breathing exercises will not be out of place in this book.

On the other hand, the restlessness of the body sometimes spoils our mental work. So for the successful practice of concentration it is desirable to train the body to remain quiet.

People who are mentally disposed are often inclined to be somewhat nervous. Therefore a little attention in this connexion may also be in place here. And finally, control of the senses, so that you can curb their restlessness and turn your attention away from their messages at will, is also a useful accomplishment.

I will therefore offer the student a few exercises along these lines.

Stillness. Perhaps you have never sat for a few minutes without moving. Try it now. Try to sit quite still for five or ten minutes, without supporting the back above the waist, with the eyes closed, without feeling either restless or sleepy.

You will probably be surprised to find in what a variety of ways your body will rebel, and in how many parts of it there will be strange creeping and twitching feelings. As a remedy for this I recommend the following standing exercise:

Go into a room where you will not be disturbed, and stand erect, preferably before a long mirror, with a clock or watch in sight. Stand perfectly still for five minutes. The eyes may blink; no attention need be paid to them. The body must not be allowed to sway, nor the fingers to twitch; and no notice must be taken of any slight sensations. The mind may occupy itself in thinking in turn of the different parts of the body, and seeing that they are still. Probably the little fingers, or the shoulders, or some other part of the body will ache, but no attention need be paid to them. Practise this for about five minutes daily.

Relaxation. That exercise should be supplemented by the practice of relaxation, intended to relieve tension in the body. To get the feeling of relaxation try the following experiment:

With the right hand hold a book firmly in front of the chest. Raise the left elbow almost as high as the shoulder, and let the left hand and wrist rest on the book, so that the left forearm is about horizontal. By imagination or thought slowly withdraw the energy of the left arm till you feel that there is no life in it, that it is quite relaxed. Then suddenly drop the book. If the left arm falls as though lifeless, you have succeeded in relaxing. This experiment will be better done if someone else holds the book for you, and removes it without warning.

Another way of performing this experiment is to stand close to a chest of drawers or other similar object on which you can comfortably rest your arm and hand, from elbow to finger tips. Relax the arm and then step back smartly. If you have relaxed properly the arm will fall inert, by its own weight.

Having thus learned what relaxation feels like, you need not repeat the experiment, but proceed as follows: Lie down flat on your back on the floor or on a board (not on a bed or conch) and try to sink into it, as if it were soft. This will give you a luxurious feeling of relaxation of the whole body. It is a good plan to stretch the body, then the neck, then let it go loose and relax the body part by part, beginning at the feet and going up to the head. To relax the eyes—an important matter—imagine black. It is good to relax in this manner at night, before going to sleep.

As an extreme measure, if necessary, one may learn relaxation by sleeping for a few nights on a table, with only a sheet between the body and the board, that is, with nothing to soften the surface. It is possible to go to sleep in a soft bed without being relaxed, but it is not so easy to do so on a board. On the hard surface you must relax in order to be comfortable. Then, when you know what the mood of relaxation is like, and you can do it at will, it will be permissible to revert to the soft bed.

Stretching and Bending Exercises. To the standing and relaxing exercises the following stretching and bending exercises may be added, for general health—

Stand with the heels together; raise the hands above the head; bend forward to touch the toes without bending the knees; return to the upright position, reaching as high as possible, standing on the toes.

Stand with the hands at the sides, palms inwards; lean over slowly to one side until the hand sinks below the knee, while the other hand is curled up under the armpit; slowly swing back to the opposite side, stretching the body all the time.

Perform these exercises with an even movement and concentrated thought, for about one minute each. Finally stand, raise one foot from the floor by bending the knee; now raise the other and lower the first, and thus run for one minute, without moving along.

Nerve Exercises. Let us now turn to the nerve exercises. These are done either by holding a part of the body still and preventing it from trembling or by moving it very slowly and evenly. Hold out the hand with the fingers a little apart and watch them intently. They move a little, and you begin to feel a kind of creaking inside the joints. Try to keep them perfectly still by an effort of the will. After a few minutes they begin to tingle, and you may feel a leakage at the ends, as though something were going off. Send this back up the arm and into the body by the will.

Next, stand before a large mirror, and move the arm by imperceptible degrees from the side into a horizontal position in front. It should move without any jerking and so slowly that you can scarcely see it moving.

Again, sit with your back to the light, facing a large object, such as a bookcase. Without moving your head, start at one corner of the object and let your eyes move, without jumping, very slowly round the outline of it and along its prominent lines, back to the original point. These three exercises may take about five minutes each, and should be done on successive days.

Breathing Exercises. I do not recommend elaborate breathing exercises, such as that of breathing in at one nostril and out at the other. Our object is only to learn regular breathing with the full use of the lungs, so that there may be a good habit during study or concentration. So I suggest only the following simple practices:

Draw the breath in slowly and evenly, through both nostrils, while mentally counting eight, or for five seconds; hold it in while counting eight; and breathe out slowly and evenly while counting eight. Repeat this eight times.

While the breath is in the body it should not be held with the throat muscles, but by holding the chest muscles out and the diaphragm down by an act of will. To cork the breath in at the throat is injurious. The whole process should be easy, pleasant and natural.

Gently draw the lungs full of air, and then, holding the breath as before, press the breath down as low as possible in the body by sinking the diaphragm. Then press the air up into the chest (without raising or moving the shoulders) so that the abdomen goes in. Thus press the air up and down, slowly and deliberately, five or six times, and then slowly and gently breathe out.

Inhale the breath as before, press it down as low as possible, and draw in more air, so that both the lower and the upper parts of the lungs are filled tight. Then suck in and swallow more air through the mouth until you feel slight muscular discomfort. Release the air slowly, from the chest first.

These breathing exercises help to make the body bright and cheerful, and to counteract the natural suspension of breath outside the body which often occurs during strong concentration of mind, as distinguished from the suspension of breath inside the body which accompanies physical effort.

If carried on for too long at one time they tend to inhibit its sensibility.

Pratyahara. I will conclude these exercises by mention of the practice of inattention, known among Indian yogis as pratyahara. It is well known that often when we are reading a book, or listening to music, or looking at a beautiful object, we become inattentive to all but that in which we are interested. In all such cases many things are battering on the senses, a person may enter the room and go out again, a tram-car may go howling and screeching and thundering past, but you have not seen or heard. Vibrations from these things entered the eye and ear, and the messages travelled along the nerves to the appropriate centres in the brain, but you did not see or hear because your attention was turned away.

How vibrations of matter in the brain are converted into sense-perceptions in consciousness has always been a mystery to the psychologist, but the theory of knowledge does not concern us at present.

Relaxation Audio Sounds Lazy Summer Day

Relaxation Audio Sounds Lazy Summer Day

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