What does meditation mean to us?
When we think of meditation, it conjures up images of ourselves sitting in “Padmasana” (Lotus pose) or cross-legged with our eyes closed, the thought-flow of the mind gently slowing down, the breath falling into a soft subtle rhythm, all of this in a peaceful setting.
So many of us attempt this and try to reach this place of stillness, but then all too suddenly, we snap out of it saying, “I am way too busy for this!” or “I have my whole life to practice this, let me get on with my postures and strengthen my physical body first.”
Are we really so busy?
Or is it that deep down we don’t truly believe that posture practice requires meditation?
Today, as the practice of yoga evolves, many of us have begun to separate the practice of meditation and asanas. There is a distinct group of people who love the physical workouts they get via asanas, but are least interested in sitting still and exploring the wonders of meditation.
They do not realize that this kind of a separation can hamper a person’s mind from completely grasping the power and joy of doing asanas. This prevents them from enjoying an integrated practice which unites the body, mind, and spirit. Additionally, deprived of the meditation training of the mind, they remain limited from being fully tuned into their physical sensations, thoughts, feelings and emotions while doing the postures. Essentially, in the process, they are hindering the path of receiving the complete benefits of physical and emotional health and well-being.
Conversely, there are those who willingly meditate for long stretches of time. However, these people are opposed to the thought of physical exercise.
We must continually remind ourselves that yoga is as much about stretching our body as it is about disciplining our mind. In our physically oriented culture, yoga asanas or postures, vinyasas, or sequences, and routines seem more alluring and accessible avenues. This is why, we prefer to start with practicing only asanas while thinking at the back of our minds, “ I will practice meditation later, maybe when I am older.”
But my advice as an experienced yoga practitioner is that both these practices are incomplete without the other. They need to be developed together because of the beautiful balance that they provide each other.
Asanas assist in making the physical body strong so that sitting in a meditative posture for long stretches of time does not cause a person any discomfort. The physical body becomes very strong, so one can move beyond the weakness and frailties of the physical structure and focus on deeper awareness. Similarly, meditation trains the mind to be very focused and one pointed and this helps us to be acutely aware of all sensations during the practice of the physical postures. When both are developed together, we are able to carry out our yoga practices with greater depth and clarity. We are able to understand and connect body, mind, breath, and soul with deeper intuitive understanding and the performance of physical postures becomes a magical journey.
When we generously sprinkle some mindfulness into our posture practice we enrich the experience. Our body becomes richer from the moment we anchor meditation into it.
We are more than eager to return to our yoga mats regularly and observe how every level of our being has started to work in a synchronized manner. Our entire practice and approach become nothing short of transformative and this is deeply soul satisfying.