Yesterday I visited a prisoner at Highpoint and he told me he has been practising yoga and meditation in his prison cell -thanks to a book and CD sent to him by the wonderful Phoenix Trust- and finds it helps him feel less stressed and agitated.
He is a committed and practising Catholic who has found his religion a source of great strength, but finds that yoga and meditation can also be a huge support to him, helping him feel less tense and more at peace with himself and his surroundings. As he said, it doesn’t matter what else is going on around him, he can sit in his cell and focus on his breath-all he needs is himself.
In 2012, Oxford University conducted research on the benefits of yoga and meditation for prisoners and found it “decreases psychological distress in a prison population”
In fact meditation, not postures, is the heart of yoga, yet meditation often plays only a minor role or no role at all in western yoga and might be regarded as boring or a complete waste of time.
But often, the more we practise yoga and get to love the physical postures, the more we might feel inspired to go deeper into spirituality and meditation.
There are different meditation techniques and it’s worth presevering to see what works best, but one technique is to concentrate on a single point -the breath, a word, sound/ mantra or an image for example.
In this form of meditation, you simply keep refocussing your awareness on the chosen object of attention, so when your mind wanders off you are aware of it and try to bring the attention back.
There are lots of measurable benefits of meditation such as lower blood pressure, improved blood circulation, less anxiety but not to sound too pompous- the purpose of meditation is not to achieve benefits or aim for a particular goal. It is simply to be present.
A lovely meditation for this time of year is a candle meditation where we sit in a comfortable upright posture on a chair or on the floor and look at the flame of a lighted candle, positioned at eye level, or slightly below-a comfortable distance away.
After up to 20 minutes close your eyes and lie down for a few minutes before returning to your daily life.