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Using meditation in yoga effectively

August 13, 2015 by Anne Bridges 

By Anne Bridges It’s well known that yoga and meditation go hand in hand. Yoga isn’t just a workout for your body – increasing flexibility, releasing muscle tension and doing wonders for your internal organs. It’s also a workout for your mind. Whether that’s an increase in coordination skills as you focus on putting your body in various positions, or an exercise that calms your mind. Throughout your yoga session, you’ll move through each sequence of poses with a breath. And it’s this focus on the breath that results in meditating your mind. It results in you being mindful of what your body is doing. So don’t assume that you need to take up mediation and practise lotus sitting positions while chanting alongside your yoga practise – you’ll already be doing meditation without even realising. And the benefits of meditation on the mind are plentiful. What is meditation? When you meditate, you focus the mind on a particular thing. This is usually a chant or a simple count to 10. If you find yourself deviating from your counting or chanting, you simply pull your mind back to the focus point. If it’s counting, for instance, start back at 1. The main thing is to not beat yourself up about letting your mind wander. There’s an old saying that your mind is like a puppy and you need to coax it back to the present. Let your mind wander but the important part is recognising that it has wandered and you’re able to bring it back. If you’re practising something like Buddhist meditation, your focus will be something along the lines of thinking about the goodness in all people. So you might focus on someone you love and how you wish them happiness and wellness. You will then transfer these feelings into someone you don’t know, right the way through to someone you aren’t fond of. Meditation is therefore extremely powerful in not just calming the mind as you focus on one point, but it opens your mind – and your heart – to being a loving, kind person, to everyone. Meditation and yoga Meditation on its own is wonderful, but it can be coupled with yoga for extra effects. Meditation within yoga is pure consciousness. In Sanskrit, it means the art of concentration and leads to enlightenment. When you complete standing poses, like mountain pose at the start of a session, you’re grounded into the earth. This grounding also works mentally, so that you’re able to remain detached but observant. It expands your awareness throughout your session. So during the physical act of yoga, it’s not practical to sit and really focus on the people you love and wish them well. Instead you can use sound, like repeating a mantra as you do your poses to focus your mind. You could use imagery instead, for instance by focusing on a certain point in the room or visualising something calming like the ocean waves on a beach. But the easiest and most natural way to mediate is through concentrating on breathing. Count your breaths as you go through your poses and as mentioned previously; if your mind wanders, simply bring it back to the present and feel the sensations in your body. What part of your body is stretching? How is your balance? Is there any discomfort that you need to rectify? What muscles are releasing tension? Where can I do both? At Samsara Mind and Body where I often go, it’s a philosophy to ensure meditative practises are encompassed in the yoga sessions. They have a particular class called ‘Restorative Yoga and Meditation’, which is fantastic for the health of your mind. The poses they go through invite you to relax, restore and recharge both your body and mind. They also use meditation as a focus in their Vinyasa flow, Dynamic Vinyasa and Hridaya Hatha yoga sessions. Have a look at their class schedule here to see when you can fit meditation and yoga into your life. Remember yoga and meditation will reap rewards in the rest of your life, so it’s well worth finding the time.   Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/balintfoeldesi/11752252314/ Balint Földesi