Year : 2022 | Volume
: 54 | Issue : 2 | Page : 47--50
Meditational processes in the context of mental health
Ranjeet Singh Bhogal
Joint Director of Research, Kaivalyadhama, Lonavla, Maharashtra, India
Ranjeet Singh Bhogal
Joint Director of Research, Kaivalyadhama, Lonavla, Maharashtra
|How to cite this article:|
Bhogal RS. Meditational processes in the context of mental health.Yoga Mimamsa 2022;54:47-50
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Bhogal RS. Meditational processes in the context of mental health. Yoga Mimamsa [serial online] 2022 [cited 2023 Feb 6 ];54:47-50
Available from: https://www.ym-kdham.in/text.asp?2022/54/2/47/363808
There has been a renewed interest in Mental Health in the context of yoga, post COVID-19 pandemic. Different traditional yogic approaches are being tried in tackling the complex Mental Health issues, necessitating a relook at the very concept of Mental Health in the modern as well as in the yogic sense of the term. Mental Health, in the yogic context, is psychophysiological in nature while its modern approach is considered, predominantly, a psychosocial phenomenon, reflected in its definitions as follows: “Mental Health is an ability to face and solve problems and select correct alternatives that result in the feeling of contentment and happiness” and “A state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”
However, as per Yoga Vasishtha, “Yoga is the means to calming down the manas.” Yoga has been found to be all important in achieving holistic health, while the term Mental Health is a misnomer in the yogic context. As per Samkhya, manas is considered a matter and also held as one of the senses. Manas, being the cause of emotions, has psychophysiological and psychosocial bases. Therefore, we need a holistic approach to tackling emotional disorders, often denoted by the term “mental ill-health.” It should be noted that manas is considered one of the three constituents (manas, buddhi, and ahamkar) of Citta. It should be noted that Citta is often termed as the mind stuff.
Yoga, being psychophysiological essentially, may prove to be one of the most appropriate disciplines in protecting, preserving, and promoting Mental Health issues. Yoga is Samadhi, as per the Samkhya system. Therefore, one can summarize the above argument by stating, safely, that meditational practices are a best means for restoring Mental Health in human beings.
Standpoints of Modern Psychology and Yoga on Mental Health
The modern concept orients itself to achieving a phenomenal success in life and living, through bettering one's problem-solving, decision-making, and mental and psychomotor abilities toward achieving Mental Health. It is plausible to state the modern concept may make man dependent on worldly success. Such a success may not be possible after a certain age, when all biological faculties slow down and one may experience a vacuum in life. This is not the case with the yogic context of Mental Health.
Yogic approach to Mental Health encompasses transcending Citta vrittis (redundant mental functions), Kleshas (inborn afflictions), Antarayas (obstacles in achieving psychophysiologically balanced state), and Vikshepa sahabhuvah (concomitants of Antarayas), through pure experiencing, non-reaction, and Drashta Bhava (the seer principle), leading to comprehensive awareness and comprehensive freedom which, in turn, are known to lead us to creativity, Absolute Joy (Prasada), and intuition powers in solving all our existential problems most natural ways. Absolute Joy frees us from all existential disorders and endows us with an enduring peace and harmony (B.G.II: 65). Since this joy, being self-existent and objectless and also not being dependent on anything worldly, endows us with enduring mental health. Therefore, it endows us with an enduring Mental Health independent on worldly successes and joys. The yogic approach also gears us on the path of Samadhi, the state of perfect psychophysiological balance.
Interestingly, both the sciences speak of reality perception and advocate to free oneself from nervous and defensive automatism that renders one slave to impulsions and emotions. Both of them have the thesis that ills of humanity lie in ignorance and the ways to address the same are through knowing one's inner self. However, yoga alone has a varied range of practices to correct, preserve, and strengthen one's psychosomatic domain, apart from the metaphysical reasoning about the very purpose and meaning of individual life and living.
Preparatory Practices of Dhyana (Yoga Meditation) for Mental Health
After sufficiently tranquilizing the nervous system through Sattvika mitahara (ideal quality and quantity of food), the cleansing processes of yoga are resorted to. These trigger an ideal Citta-Prana (mind–body) interaction, leading to a better sensory feedback culminating into a better mind-brain behavior. Trataka carries out cleansing on the psychological level, helpful in getting rid of samskars (steadfast impressions) and unburdening our awareness further. Yamas and Niyamas are known to carry out sublimation of baser feelings and urges, freeing our psyche toward tranquility and creativity. Asanas and Pranayamas further strengthen our psychophysiological health, evident in yoga research. Pratyahara practices disengage us from vagaries of senses and have a calming effect on our senses making the Citta calmer in the process and thus prepare one for Samapatti, Dharana, and Dhyana, leading to an ideal Citta-Prana interaction. It culminates into a sound psychophysiological health, a forerunner to a sound Mental Health.
Plausible Mechanism of Meditational Processes in the Context of Mental Health
Yoga meditation (Dhyana) is the very process of a comprehensive healing, happening due to comprehensive awareness getting pervasive, even to the cellular and the neuronal levels, culminating into realizing all human possibilities, here and nowYoga practices try to bring the internal sensations to the field of our comprehensive awareness, sufficiently. The ensuing sensory feedback phenomenon brings a conscious control on all our internal activities and thus comprehensive healing takes place, rendering the mind calm, composed and tranquilNeutral State of Attention, indicated by Abstract Awareness (Amoorta bhava), is the bedrock of Samapattis, Dharana, and Dhyana. In the process, Citta-Prana interaction is restored to its best, resulting in sensory feedback and the consequent psychophysiological healingSlower metabolic activity due to meditation results in minimum production of carbon dioxide in the body. Consequently, the activity of the lungs also gets reduced which, in turn, reduces the cardiac activity. This leads to a slow abdominal breathing. As a result, the mental activity of the practitioner ceases almost completely. Yet, the comprehensive awareness gets ensued culminating into transcendental statesFrequent experience of Absolute Joy, through traditional Dhyana techniques, cleanses our samskaras, freeing us from many a complex, an easy way, coupled with an enhanced general awareness and perceptual claritySupine meditation in Shiva samhita (V: 70-71), when practiced in a nonreactive “feeling mode,” has been found to be greatly useful in managing mental disturbances, instantlyYoga meditation cleanses samskars (i.e., deep-rooted psychic impressions), before endowing us with Absolute Joy, in a threefold manner, as follows:
Bahyakasha (Outer Sky): Many a Samskara is embedded in the sensory–motor levels for cleansing of which the ancient sages have discovered Pratyahara techniques that use exteroceptive, proprioceptive, interoceptive, and vestibular impulsesAntarakasha (Inner Sky): Many a Dharana technique requires us to feel nonmuscular impulses within the body, through Mantras, Bija mantras, Bandhas, and Mudras, as well as through the experiential breathing awareness techniques, pressure changes within the body, and such other processes. This level is the very interlink between Bahyakasha and CidakashaCidakasha (the Sky of the Consciousness): Subtler subjective impulses, independent of breathing, exteroception, interoception, and vestibular domains, resulting in a deep sense of inward and ecstatic experience of fulfillment, are experienced through subtler stages of Dhyana, culminating into Absolute Joy.
As per Kathopanishad (II.4.1.), “Our consciousness, i.e., the Self, has turned our senses outwards. Therefore, human being looks always at external objects and not the inner Self. Only some wise persons of a rare patience, aspiring for liberation, see the consciousness, with eyes turned inwards.”
One can infer, safely, that the consciousness is always connected with senses. Antarakasha, being an interlink between the consciousness and the senses, may be adequately stimulated through yoga practices so that the senses turn inward from the external objects, toward the consciousness so as to evidence comprehensive freedom, leading to creativity and intuitive abilities, helpful even in worldly affairs!
Science Studies “Meditation in Relevance to Mental Health:” Trigant Burrow (Lyfwynn Foundation, Connecticut) tested his hypothesis, with a scientific experiment, that deviant behavior of man can be attributed to some deviant changes taking place in human species during its phylogenetic development. He found that when a subject was asked to look at a curtain of uniformed blackness, firstly socially related tensions were dissipated, and when the attention on the uniformed surface continued for sufficient time duration, a state of balance was noted indicative through a reduced RR, a reduced volume of inspired air, and reduced eye movements.
The results of Dr. Burrow's experiments have significance in understanding the fundamental processes involved in meditation practice.
During the primary stages of meditation, often mental catharsis/purification is evidenced, followed by the state of choice-less awareness, i.e., a neutral state of attention, whereby our attention goes beyond all dichotomous constructs such as doing or non-doing, good or bad, desirable or undesirable, superior and inferior, and so on. Such a deeper state of awareness, which is bereft all emotional bondages, may make us transcend our phylogenetic roots of deviant thoughts and actions, giving way to deeper states of relaxation and consequently an enduring Mental Health, as well as Holistic Personality Development. Dave and Bhole (1989) have found adaptation responses with emergence of psychophysiological discomfiture, during the initial phases of Kriya Yoga that slowly gave way to inward peace and harmony. Tejobindu Upanishad (I: 41) speaks of many such discomforts getting manifested during the meditative sadhana.
The yoga practitioners may choose to go beyond the sound Mental Health, into altered states of consciousness, so as to develop intuitive powers in their journey toward absoluteness or completeness, often referred to as Kaivalya or Self-Realization.
Sure Meditational Process for Mental Health
For the men of average health, the meditative process may be based on Shraddha (steadfast devotional conviction), Virya (perseverance), Smriti (memory), Prajna (insightful intelligence), and Samadhi. A simple process of meditation is being proposed here for achieving Mental Health:
With eyes effortlessly closed, Just re-live some meditative experience with a devotional conviction (Shraddha) you had any time in the past (Smriti) and remain with this abstract experience, as far as easily possible for you (Virya), keeping a feeling of the Tattva (the supreme principle) at heartContinue to feel everything, agreeable or otherwise, that may be happening in the entire body as a whole frame, in a subjectively abstract way, before you feel a kind of soothing effect (Prajna)Just continue to feel the soothing effect, as above, emerging at the given moment, in a nonattached way. Continue to feel the same until it gives way to meditative experience which may be continued effortlessly and passively (Samadhi) before you feel “an ecstatic Ananda (inwardly joyful state)”In case of any difficulties stop for a while and then resume the process.
Mohit Nirwan, in his letter to the Editor, “Common Errors While Working On Yoga Intervention Randomized Controlled Trials,” laments that the integration of yoga into mainstream modern medicine may remain a distant goal unless we improve the quality trials in yoga research. The author recommends addressing some significant vital issues toward improving randomized controlled trials in yoga research.
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“Effectiveness of spiritual augmented psychotherapy on resilience and conscience on juvenile delinquents” by Pragya Sahare and Anuradha Kotnala, has investigated scientifically the effect of cognitive behavioral therapy along with gayatri mantra lekhan on resilience and conscience of offenders. The study revealed that spiritually augmented psychotherapy was found significantly associated with increasing the level of resilience and conscience in the study sample.
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“Effect of structured supervised yoga on stress, anxiety, depression during COVID-19 pandemic situation among adult population of an urban resettlement colony of Delhi: A quasi-experimental study” by Drs. Suprakash Mandal, Punit Misra, Shashi Kant, Meenu Sangral, and Priyanka Kardam, found a significant reduction in the proportion of participants with headache and persistent tiredness apart from a significant reduction in stress and cortisol among all participants.
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The article, “Yoga as a complementary and alternative therapy for cardiopulmonary functions: A Review” by Drs. Vipin Rathore and Nidheesh Yadav, concludes that although numerous researchers have reported the clinical benefits of yoga in reducing cardiopulmonary-related events, morbidity, and mortality, evidence supporting these conclusions is somewhat limited, thereby stressing the requirement for large, well-designed randomized trials that limit bias and methodological drawbacks.
In their literary study, “General features, techniques and benefits of Pranayamas mentioned in traditional Hatha Yoga texts: A review on Pranayama chapters” Drs. Dipak Chetry, Prerna, Dilip Kumar Rajak, Kanchan Yadav, and Archana Chhetri have reviewed Hatha Pradipika and Gheranda Samhita for studying general features, types of techniques, benefits, safety guidelines, and adverse effects related to Pranayama, as mentioned in these two texts.
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