I came to yoga through the usual western way – I was a runner and needed to stretch more.
And I always thought it was so cool that good yogis could do fancy poses and make it look effortless.
I really had no clue what yoga was – really.
Just after I started my meditation practice I enrolled in a 200 hour yoga certification program at my local studio. The 200 hour program was primarily focused on leading a physical asana practice and just briefly touched on the meditation practice and it wasn’t until my 300 hour certification that I became fully aware that yoga is fundamentally about meditation. As I look back now, it is pretty obvious that the universe was bringing me to meditation, anyway it could.
Our culture associates asanas (the physical poses) with yoga almost exclusively. And that is ok. Everyone should have their own relationship with practices, whatever they may be. However, I do want to share how having a deeper understanding of yoga’s ancient philosophies has helped my meditate practice.
Yoga’s definition, according to ancient yoga texts (specifically Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras), yoga is:
“Yogas chitta vritti nirodhah.”
Yoga is the removal of the fluctuations of the mind.
Yoga teaches us how to address the suffering that we experience in our lives through meditation.
As I mentioned above, my 300 hour certification was focused less on the asana practice and primarily on the theory of yoga. The lecture portion of the course was significant and we covered the various components of yoga and meditation in quite a bit of depth. To compliment the lectures, we were also required to read some of the foundational yoga texts such as Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Granda Samhita, Fire & Light and Kundalini Tantra.
When I returned from my 300 hour training and came back to my personal meditation practice, I noticed that my devotion and progress continued to improve even though I was not in such a structured and dedicated environment. (Of course it’s easier to do something hard when you are being instructed and it is all you have to do!)
I realized that understanding how meditation works & how the techniques ‘remove the fluctuations of the mind’ enabled the prioritization of the practice much easier to do.
Setting aside time to sit down and actually meditate is one of the biggest challenges….there always seems to be another task, thing, errand or job that takes precedence. It really does take discipline to actually sit down, close your eyes and meditate. The other challenges is staying in the practice. The mind wanders, the sitting pose becomes uncomfortable and then before you know it, you don’t know what you are supposed to be doing or why you’re sitting there.
Understanding the theory and how the practice works helps one get through these challenges.
I plan on exploring how meditation works in detail on this blog so I’ll end this post with a very brief conceptual overview.
Meditation allows us to practice slowing down the mind. When we slow down the mind, we have more space between our thoughts and this gives us the opportunity to choose our responses as opposed to blindly reacting. We’ve all reacted to quickly and more often in than not, the off-the-cuff reactions aren’t the best.
When we meditate, we are actually practice tapping into slower brain wavelengths and this activates different areas of our brain. These are the areas of creativity, problem solving, attention and higher functioning which (unfortunately) aren’t as accessible or strong as our lower brain which is responsible for fight-or-flight reactions. Meditation not only taps into higher brain function, but it strengthens it.
When we meditate, we are finding space – we are actually looking for a clearing in the forrest of our mind.
There will be more to come in these areas, as this is what this blog is about. Understanding and knowing how meditate works has been a grounding force in my practice, giving me the means to work through the challenging practices where I just want to jump out of my skin. I hope this information helps you too.
Meditate and be well.