How to Integrate Yoga and Meditation into a Single Practice
I’m not sure how one could think that a yoga practice and a meditation practice are separate. Maybe It is because people were trying to speak specifically to the physical exercise aspect of yoga. Yet, without the meditation component incorporated into the asana (physical yoga), the asana is not asana or physical yoga practice. Yoga and meditation go hand in hand. Asana which is a Sanskrit name given to physical yoga practice literally means “to sit still” or “quietly”. This stillness which is the essence of meditation is the foundation that asana grows from.
So, let’s take the title of this blog a bit further: Rather than simply, how yoga and meditation go hand in hand, let’s realize that yoga and meditation are one. The heightened state of awareness created by a directed gaze (meditation) allows the yoga practitioner more intimacy with the experience. This is when the yoga pose can contribute most optimally to our wellbeing, and this is when a yoga pose becomes healing!
Basically, this is when a yoga pose fulfills its objective. Consider this: The only way in the whole world to care for someone or something is to touch it gently. Gentle is neither passive or aggressive, nor is it static. Gentle means the multiplicity of conditions affecting the situation is considered as one determines where one belongs within these yoga poses.
This type of intimacy not only optimizes the yoga pose, but it also is a healing tonic for our brains (and minds). This is because when our gaze is directed, our minds empty out or quiets down. The great seer Pantanjali called this emptiness the goal of yoga when he said Chitta Vritti Nirodha. This quietness is what allows for greater intimacy. This allows us to gain greater value from experiences. Quieting our minds allows for a very deep relaxation which may be most optimal for our health and wellbeing. Quieting our mind through a directed gaze also allows us to step outside of our normal thought patterns, helping us disempower unwanted thoughts.
Our brains spend much of their time recycling the same thoughts and themes. Not only is much of our time here unnecessary and wasteful, but most of these thoughts and themes are also negative and lead to stress. Yet, we have become a comfortable dwelling in our thought patterns even though they can be harmful. I like the analogy of the cigarette smoker who finds it pleasurable and comfortable to smoke even though they're poisoning themselves. Very much like the cigarette smoker who is addicted to smoking we have become addicted to our own mental habits. We all know how hard it is to break addictions! Passing through the sickness of withdrawals from addiction is incredibly difficult. Maybe this is why some people tried to separate the poses from meditation. Maybe these people didn’t want to deal with the withdrawal symptoms that would surely arise when dealing with their own toxic mind.
This is what I call Fitness 201. No longer feeding mental energy and unconscious loyalty to malevolent thought patterns that poison our bodies. This is when we start to challenge our brains to focus our minds. When we start to bring yoga back into physical exercise making it again Yoga Asana!