More Than One Way to Meditate
This past weekend I attended a workshop given by Rama Jyoti Vernon. She has been practicing yoga for over 50 years and was instrumental in facilitating the yoga movement in the U.S. She has also been teaching yoga for decades and has led worldwide peace missions. She recently published a book, Yoga: The Practice of Myth & Sacred Geometry and I was attending her book signing. What she said about asana as meditation really resonated with me.
Asanas are the postures done during a yoga practice. I have often heard it said that asanas prepare the body for seated breathing, which prepares the body for meditation.
In this country, many people think of yoga as exercise done via the asanas and don’t even consider seated breathing or seated meditation. Thankfully, that attitude is changing.
Rama explained that asanas are so much more than preparation for seated meditation or just exercise. And, to not think about asanas more deeply is to miss a major part of yoga. I’ve felt for some time that asanas are so much more than preparation or exercise. And, of course, it’s always lovely to have someone like Rama confirm one’s thinking.
Asana As Meditation
The goal of yoga is to still the mind; to quiet all the chattering thoughts. The classic picture is of someone sitting cross-legged on the floor or in a chair in meditation. And, absolutely, this is a very effective way to meditate with the goal of stilling one’s mind.
It is also possible to still the mind while doing the postures. (Rama calls it inaction within action.) Here are 5 steps to follow:
- Bring your attention inside your body, i.e. focus inwardly
- Initiate the movement with your breath. For example, postures like backbends usually begin on inhale while others like forward bend begin on exhale.
- Feel yourself moving with the breath and being moved by the breath.
- Have some breath remaining at the end of the movement so you’re not running out breath. If you find yourself running out of breath, move a little faster.
- Your breath connects your mind and body and allows the asanas to become a meditation. Continue to focus on your breath and the movement throughout the practice.
Just as your mind can wander during seated meditation, your mind may have a tendency to wander away during asana practice. If it does, gently bring your attention inward – without judgment – focus on your breath and continue your practice.
Here are a couple of things I do to refocus my attention and bring it inward.
- Ask yourself questions such as:
- Where is my breath located in my body?
- Is my breath smooth or choppy?
- Where do I feel the posture?
- How do I feel emotionally about this posture?
- Count as you go in and out of the posture. One count is about one second.
You’ll eventually release the thinking.
All of yoga is a meditation and the common element is the breath. The breath joins and brings together. The breath is yoga.
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