The Gong Show

Meditation is an important part of most yoga practices. Just as the asanas help us achieve physical equilibrium, meditation eases our minds into a state of calm balance. Studies show that meditation carries numerous physical, mental and emotional benefits, including:

•    Improving concentration and mental acuity
•    Increasing blood flow and improving blood pressure
•    Reducing depression and anxiety by boosting serotonin
•    Helping with headaches, muscle aches and other pains
•    Curbing the effects of PMS
•    Boosting the immune system; reducing activity of viruses

With all these great bennies, it’s a shame so many of us have trouble getting into the groove of meditation. I, for one, often find my mind wandering as I lay in Savasana; instead of clearing my mind per my yoga teacher’s instructions, I will compose mental grocery lists or obsess over the work I need to return to once class is over. And just as lying awake in bed is detrimental to insomniacs, my failure to achieve a successful meditation only fuels the fire, and I get more and more tense, frustrated and distracted.

For people like me, Gong Yoga may be the answer to a more complete and rewarding meditation. Using musical instruments like gongs, chimes, or cymbals, this type of yoga involves the use of sound to “control” the wavelengths of a room, helping enhance any meditation or pose. On, Gong Yoga guru and teacher Mehtab Benton explains how the sound of the gong “facilitates the movement of prana (vital life energy) through the body for healing and to awaken the consciousness for transformation.”. His classes employ traditional asanas and flow sequences as well as deep meditations enhanced by the deep intonations of a gong:

“While in the relaxed and meditative state, the gong is played to cleanse the subconscious and awaken the practitioner to a transcendent state of awareness. Gong Yoga is a perfect union of intentional consciousness and applied sound.”

In an online video made for a local news affiliate in Benton’s hometown of Austin, Texas, he suggests that viewers close their eyes as he demonstrates the power of the gong. For the sake of experimentation, I did as he advised.

Oddly enough, despite the fact that I was watching the video as research for work; despite the fact that I was sitting on my couch with my laptop humming noisily next to me; despite my lack of a yoga mat, yoga instructor, or proper meditative posture; despite all of these opposing factors, I found myself immediately focusing and relaxing to the sound coming from my computer. Somehow, the soundwaves resonated deeply inside of me, cleansing my mind and soothing my soul.

I don’t know if Gong Yoga is available where I live, but it has given me food for thought. Perhaps I’ll download some gong music and attempt a musically-guided meditation. If it allows me to quiet my mind, I’m willing to try anything!

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