“Rounding is a priceless tool that we can use throughout our meditation career to very, very quickly minimize the amount of stress that’s accumulated in the body, to eliminate that, and to arrive into heightened consciousness states.”Thom Knoles
Outside of India, the word yoga has come to mean various forms of dynamic exercises that test your flexibility and strength. Yoga is in fact much more than just these physical exercises, which are more correctly referred to as asanas.
And believe it or not, asanas weren’t created to make us look good in lycra! Asanas were first created to help prepare the body for meditation and union with the Absolute.
In this episode, Thom explains how asanas, pranayama and Vedic Meditation are used in combination, also called ‘vedic rounding,’ to give us ‘industrial-strength meditation’ and to accelerate the benefits we get from ‘standard’ meditation.
He talks about the importance of proper instruction and supervision so we can truly let go and, if necessary, have the support we need if deep stresses are released.
If you haven’t already, talk to your local Vedic Meditation Initiator about learning to round and attending a rounding retreat so you can enjoy some industrial-strength meditation yourself. And if you are fortunate enough to be able to travel to Sedona, Arizona, join us for a rounding retreat this July.
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Asana, Pranayama, Vedic Meditation
Proper Instruction Needed
Round and Round and Round
In the Same Room
Don’t Try This at Home
Heightened Consciousness States
The Going Home Program
Jai Guru Deva
What Is Vedic Rounding?
Asana, Pranayama, Vedic Meditation
A “round”, quotes unquotes, consists of doing a set of Vedic yoga asanas. Asana means physical postures and positions where you bend and stretch gently. And this is not to be confused with the kind of yoga that we see commonly taught in the West. We refer to it as asana because this is more technically the proper name.
[00:01:09] Asana means a seat or a pose, and gentle bending and stretching, which can be done by anybody of any age, irrespective of their level of flexibility. So about 10 minutes of some gentle bending and stretching followed by a few minutes of a gentle alternate nostril breathing technique known as pranayama.
[00:01:32] Prana is the Sanskrit word for the life force in the air and the word yama means to administer something. Pranayama means to administer the breath to yourself in a particular way. And this breathing technique pranayama, which also comes from the same ancient tradition as Vedic Meditation is known to quiet and settle the mind and the body in advance of meditating.
[00:02:01] Now we know as practitioners of Vedic Meditation, that while we’re meditating, as our body rests, deeply, deep-rooted stresses begin to unwind, to release and relieve, our body normalizes and purifies. And this activity of normalization and purification is normal and natural during meditation.
[00:02:23] When our body is active, releasing stress during those moments of the practice, the activity of stress release will stimulate the brain a little and this will cause the mind to begin engaging and a tendency to think while meditating.
[00:02:39] If we can do the asanas and pranayama in advance of the meditation, then many of the stresses that ordinarily would only have a chance to release while meditating will get released during the actual process of doing asanas first for 10 minutes, and then a few minutes of this breathing technique.
[00:02:59] Thus, when we sit to meditate, our meditation technique has less of an unstressing job to do, and our mind is able generally to settle down more deeply and with greater frequency to those less excited states. After doing the meditation, when we’re practicing a round, we’re going to lie down for a few minutes in a comfortable supine pose, meaning lying on the back for a few minutes.
Proper Instruction Needed For Vedic Rounding
[00:03:30] Now, doing that, the physical asana , the pranayama breathing, the meditation for 20 minutes, or for as many minutes as your teacher, qualified teacher, instructs you to do, followed by lying down. This process of doing a round needs properly to be instructed.
[00:03:52] A person can’t just look up any old yoga positions or any old breathing technique, and then meditate in any old way and then lie down at the end and call that doing a round. It needs properly to be learned by someone who has been carefully trained by me or by someone I’ve trained to complete that process.
Round and Round and Round
[00:04:15] When we go away for a weekend retreat, we have an opportunity in those more secluded environments where we have less demand on us, to spend, say a weekend or a few days practicing multiple rounds. And when we do multiple rounds, this has evolved into the word quote, unquote, “rounding.” Rounding then means to do rounds, or multiple rounds, of asanas, pranayama, meditation, and lying down in that very specific art form that we discussed earlier.
[00:04:52] The effect of rounding, that is to say doing multiple rounds, is to systematically lower the body’s excitation level for prolonged periods of time in a way that we wouldn’t be able to do in a domestic environment. And when we’re doing rounding, when we’re doing multiples like that over say a weekend or a few days, under the supervision of a qualified Initiator—Initiator is the name we give to someone who’s been trained and qualified to teach Vedic Meditation—doing rounding under the supervision of an Initiator, we’re able to keep the body’s excitation level low for multiple days.
[00:05:35] And this means that even during the eyes-opened waking state, when we take breaks from rounding, for example, we can’t have lunch and then do rounding while digesting, so while we’re digesting our lunch, we’ll have talks, questions and answers, perhaps thematic questions and answers. Then we get a chance to dive into the knowledge and intellectual understanding and then once food is digested, we go back to the rounding again.
[00:06:03] And in that environment, the body has an opportunity to restore itself, to restore its creative intelligence, to allow deep-rooted stresses that can’t be touched by regular domestic-strength meditation to be released.
[00:06:18] In fact, it’s a kind of industrial-strength meditation program. Now that kind of industrial-strength meditation program should never be attempted on one’s own. Without proper guidance from a qualified teacher who is not rounding, but staying in the regular, logical waking state who is supervising you, it may be that we begin to unlock and release stress at a rate that could make us a little uncomfortable.
[00:06:49] If anything like that begins to show up in a proper residential setting with a qualified teacher supervising, that teacher will know how very gently and how very quickly to restore to you that level of comfort of stress release that will allow you to release the stress very, very comfortably without having to have any kind of rough experiences.
In the Same Room
[00:07:12] And so we reserve rounding, first of all, for learning it properly, from a qualified teacher and secondly, only ever doing it with the proper supervision of that qualified teacher in a setting that is apart from our regular domestic settings.
[00:07:31] The question comes up regularly, whether rounding is recommended in any kind of setting other than having a live human, molecule to molecule, person to person, physiologically in the same room as you, and I put all those qualifications because sometimes people will count FaceTime or count a Zoom meeting as a personal private meeting and I don’t agree with that.
[00:07:59] A teacher has to be able to examine the responses of their student to the effect of rounding in real time in the actual same room as you.
Don’t Try This at Home (Vedic Rounding that is)
[00:08:11] And so rounding shouldn’t be done, I don’t recommend it to be done, by Zoom meetings or via FaceTime, or for people to commence rounding in regular domestic environments at all, because you never know when the plumber’s going to show up and you’d forgotten that you’d schedule that appointment or you’re going to get a visit from your father-in-law. Or you’re going to get some other kind of disruption, your dog ran away and was lost and somebody called you on the phone and you have to go get your dog, and there you are just finished doing six or seven rounds that day.
[00:08:49] The potential for interruption and the potential for disruption of the rounding process in one’s own domestic environment, or even in an environment where you may have set yourself aside, but you don’t have the teacher there to protect you from these invasions of privacy, I really don’t recommend it in the strongest terms.
[00:09:14] Rounding needs to be practiced, and I highly recommend it, in any kind of environment set up by a teacher where it’s a dedicated rounding environment, not your home, not a domestic environment and definitely with a teacher there who’s supervising 24 hours a day.
Heightened Consciousness States
[00:09:32] You wake in the middle of the night and you’re having a little roughness and you need to talk to your teacher about that, there should be a teacher right there with you who can talk to you about how to handle, manage, or mitigate the effect of stress release so that everything is smooth and comfortable.
[00:09:52] We don’t want to have any distasteful experiences while rounding, because it is a priceless tool that we can use throughout our meditation career to very, very quickly minimize the amount of stress that’s accumulated in the body, to eliminate that, and to arrive into heightened consciousness states.
[00:10:14] Also those heightened consciousness states are a regular feature of doing rounds, and to be able to discuss those experiences, you might be having your lunch and be in a heightened consciousness state and if there’s not a teacher right there who can talk to you about why it is that you feel a super-expanded awareness while you’re eating your sandwich, you may not understand what that heightened consciousness state is.
The Going Home Program (after vedic rounding)
[00:10:40] And so again, we have the deep importance of having a qualified teacher and full-time supervision anytime rounding’s going on. Each time we conclude a retreat where rounding has been taught by a teacher then the teacher will have a session at the end before everyone goes home, which we call the ‘going home program.’
[00:11:04] And the going home program may include, depending on the person and depending on their experience, may include a maximum of doing one round in the morning to replace what normally would be one’s meditation session, and the second part of that maximum, to do one round to replace the evening meditation, but no more than that.
[00:11:30] And some people, that’s very time consuming because doing a round takes the better part of an hour and not a lot of people have a full hour, that they could devote to doing one round in the morning instead of a 20 minute meditation and doing one round in the evening instead of a 20 minute meditation, but such things are possible.
[00:11:54] If in fact, the teacher has had a conversation with the particular student and given their approval for that. If someone has had very smooth experiences in a retreat while rounding, they might have in their going home program, as much as one round in the morning, one round in the evening, giving two full rounds in one day. Or one full round in the morning, or one full round in the evening with the other meditation session, simply being a regular 20 minute session.
[00:12:27] Formulas, like that need to be individually prescribed by a teacher at the end of a retreat setting so that students who go home have a very specific given program and they have the opportunity then to report back their experiences to their teacher so that their teacher can reassess if need be, and look at the progress that they’re having at home.
Jai Guru Deva