Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Yoga and Meditation -- Part 3

When we talk about Yoga and Meditation, many people consider them to be different although compatible practices.   We often think of Yoga as the physical practice of poses, and Meditation as sitting in contemplation.

The full practice of yoga, though, includes more than just the practice of poses.   It also includes meditation.

The eight limbs of Yoga are:
  • Yama --  ethical practices toward society
  • Niyama -- ethical practices towards yourself
  • Asana -- practice of poses 
  • Pranayama -- breathing exercises
  • Pratyahara -- withdrawal of the senses
  • Dharana -- concentration
  • Dhyana -- meditation
  • Samadhi -- enlightenment, being one with the universe
We can embody all of these limbs of yoga within the practice of asana (and in some later posting I may discuss these more fully).    Very briefly, the practice of Pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses; looking inward) leads to Dharana (concentration), which leads to Dhyana (a more profound concentration -- or meditation), which leads to Samadhi (being at one with God or with the universe).

Many people have described the practice of yoga asanas as a physical meditation or a meditation in movement.    To practice well, to do the poses as a meditation, we have to turn our awareness inward while practicing the pose.  We learn to discriminate between the different movements of the body, we  learn to develop more of an awareness of our full self, as we move deeper into the practice of the pose, an awareness not just of the physical body, but also the physiological, mental, emotional, and spiritual layers of ourselves.

B.K.S. Iyengar writes in "The Tree of Yoga", "We must learn in our performance of asanas to express the outer form and beauty of the pose without losing our inner attention."  He talks about reflecting in the pose, judging whether we are doing it correctly -- where it is wrong, and where it is right.  He continues, "You have judged.  You have reached a state of balance, so there is oneness.   There is awareness through your whole being from the skin to the self and from the self to the skin.  Then you know how to see outside and how to see inside.  There is fullness inside and fullness outside."   Later, " Can I extend my awareness of my self and bring it to each and every part of my body without any variation...[...] ...I learn to how to be at one with my body, my brain, my mind, my intelligence, my consciousness and my soul without any divisions at all.   That is how I practice.  That is why for me there is no difference between asana and dhyana."

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