I won’t lie about it, I find meditation tricky. The sitting still thing is hard enough for me, let alone trying to focus on a single thing or on my breath…
Mind you, over the last decade or so, I’ve worked out that I love what I think of as ‘doing’ meditations. To me, ‘doing’ meditations fill my mind with focussed thought and my body with action so that my mind can calm. My daily practice has always been Ashtanga Yoga, which is definitely a ‘doing’ meditation. I love meditating with Mala beads and I love the Four Heads of Brahma meditation. All beautifully easy ‘doing’ meditations.
The Four Heads of Brahma is a very slow moving meditation which simply involves a very slow head turn and eye gaze points. Like all things that are simple, it can be incredibly difficult to embrace that simplicity.
The reason why Brahma has four heads varies according to what you read. Some say it is the four states of consciousness, some write about the four dimensions of the universe and some that each head created one of the Vedas.
I’m a lover of a good story though, so I’m most drawn to the story where Brahma created Shatarupa, a daughter, to help him create and run the universe. She was very beautiful and Brahma was so infatuated with her that he couldn’t take his eyes off her, so much so that everywhere Shatarupa went another head popped out of Brahma. Shatarupa was so incredibly frustrated with his infatuation that she jumped in the air and a fifth head popped out of the top of Brahma’s four other heads.
Eventually, Brahma went to Shiva saying that he wanted to mate with Shatarupa. Shiva was angry with Brahma’s unholy behaviour and chopped off his fifth head.
The Four Heads of Brahma meditation is nothing this dramatic! But the very slow movement of it soothes a place at the base of your brain called the Medulla Oblongata. The functions of the Medulla Oblongata are involuntary and include regulating blood pressure, digestion and breathing – so pretty important stuff! The Medulla Oblongata is also part of the brain stem, so it helps to transfer messages from the brain to the spinal cord.
When I was taught this meditation, I was taught that the slow movement would soothe the Medulla Oblongata and thereby regulate all the jobs that the Medulla Oblongata is known for. I always feel much calmer after a round or two of this meditation and although I was taught to do 3-5 rounds as a minimum, I find that if I only have time for one round, I still feel the benefits.
Here’s how to try it for yourself:
Find a comfortable place to sit, making sure you’ll be warm enough as you relax.
You can do this with your eyes open or closed (I prefer closed), but before you start, take a moment for a lovely deep inhale and exhale, relaxing your shoulders and your jaw as you do so.
Then start turning your head very slowing and gently towards your right shoulder. When your head is about half way towards your right shoulder, start looking with your eyes over your right shoulder and off into the distance (even if your eyes are closed.)
Once your head has turned as far as it possibly can, relax your eyes back to their centre and slowly start turning your head back to its centre.
Then start turning your head slowly and gently towards your left shoulder. Once your head is about half way there, start looking with your eyes over your left shoulder and off into the distance.
Once your head has turned as far as it can towards your left shoulder, relax your gaze back to the centre and start bringing your head back to its centre.
Next, you’re going to engage your neck muscles to lift your head up and relax it back. When you feel your head is about half way up and back, look down with your gaze to the tip of your nose. When your head is comfortably all the way back, relax your gaze back to the centre and once again engage your neck muscles back to bring your head back to its centre.
Finally, relax your neck muscles and allow your head to slowly and gently drop towards your chest. When your head is about half way there, look with your eyes up towards your third eye point (in between your eyebrows). When your head is as close to your chest as it can comfortably go, relax your gaze back to the centre and gently bring your head back to its centre.
Basically, you just need to remember that your head movement is right, left, up and down to do this meditation. But the key here is slowly. One round of this lovely soothing meditation should take around five minutes.
You’ll also notice over time that not only will you feel much calmer but your neck flexibility will improve. Keep in mind that you need to be kind to yourself as a priority with any meditation or movement and if you experience any discomfort, you need to stop and seek medical advice.