Yoga is Meditation
Sunday, September 13th, 2015
In recent years, there has been a significant paradigm shift with more people than ever doing yoga and meditation. Naturally, most people start with the physical part of yoga, but yoga is far more than just a physical workout. If we look at the health literature, meditation—a focus of attention that is intention—is actually considered a form of yoga, as it shares many of the same components:
- Postures (asanas)
- Hand gestures (mudras)
- Sound (mantras) – basic vibratory sound
- Breathing (pranayama) – passive or active
- Focus (drishti) – position/focus of eyes
Why do meditation?
To understand the clues our bodies give us we first have to learn to listen to our bodies, including our thoughts. Meditation can be a powerful technique in becoming aware of your own self-talk. When we meditate we don’t stop our thinking, nor do our thoughts disappear. Instead, we simply observe them and do not dwell upon them. Meditation is about redirecting our attention to our breath, a visual point and/or a sound once we become aware of our thoughts. As author Sara Avant Stover shares, “meditation teaches us that we are not our thoughts, they are just one dimension of each of us [and] help us to better acquaint each of us with our inner dialogue.”
An approach of compassion and curiosity towards our thoughts helps to us neutrally observe where our mind likes to go. When I was teaching college students, we employed the practice of using a meditation journal at the end of each meditation practice to note down where the mind went: “was it about fantasizing about the future or rehashing a painful situation again?” This type of journaling is a great practice, particularly when you are first starting out with meditation.
How do you get started with mediation?
As with any activity that is initially challenging, starting with a bite-sized amount is key. Particularly if you want to practice meditation every day, you need to choose an amount of time you can never say no to. For me, that is just 3 minutes. I know that no matter what, I always have 3 minutes for meditation and an equal amount of time for savasana. And even that small amount every day can be life changing.
Here are a few more tips for starting your meditation practice with ease:
- Stretch or do a few yoga poses to prepare for a seated meditation.
- Consider sitting on the edge of a folded towel or yoga blanket to make the hips higher than the knees. The position of your spine relative to your pelvis helps with alignment and is also paramount in determining how your energy will or will not flow.
- Keep your shoulders dropped away from your ears.
- Pick a mantra – a sound or a word that allows for that beautiful focus.
- Start with your breath – an active breath with conscious control over the inhalation and exhalation. A 4-second inhale and 4-second exhale is a great place to start.
- Begin incrementally with 3 minutes of seated deep breathing and meditation as you focus on your breath, and instill the energy of a mountain as you ground yourself.
- Keep a meditation journal to observe where your mind goes.
- Consider continuing this for a 40-day or 90-day practice.
I believe most of us intuitively sense that there is a more proactive way to live a life of wellness and health than constant multi-tasking, fragmented attention and always being on the go. Meditation is a technique to help each of us move towards a slightly healthier lifestyle, and in doing so, we take on responsibility for our personal wellness.