Inside Yoga 315 (19/2/2021)
When practising yoga asanas (exercises) it might not feel like a meditation, because for many people it is done to get more flexibility and physical stretch, and on the surface, watching someone practice, it can look like a bunch of exercises, but yoga is essentially a meditation, when practised correctly.
So, why all the exercise one may ask, or not? See the exercises (asanas) as part of the meditation, because although we are being physical, and really feeling the physicality at times, we are meant to be using the body as a point of focus for our meditation throughout, as a way of holding our attention, and thereby, reducing distractions of the mind and body.
Meditation is an exercise of concentration and focus on an object, the body in this case.
Yoga in its simplest definition means union: we seek the union of body, mind and breathing, through a series of physical exercises which bring us to a point of union or yoga.
To achieve this, when holding a yoga asana we concentrate on the anatomy of the asana, checking, improving the alignments and efficiency of the posture. A yoga posture is, therefore, more than just a physical exercise because it is the anatomy of a position which holds our attention, as a meditation exercise is meant to do.
So when practising yoga asanas we are meant to bringing all our attention and focus to the anatomy of the position, for example, when holding Warrior 2 (pictured above), we check the arms, we check legs, back, hips, our rate of breath, and every detail of our anatomy, and correcting alignment and other details of the positions. And we keep checking while in the posture. This way, we make it more efficient as a posture, and at the same time, establish a stronger meditational awareness.
We do this with each position, and we do it with the intention of not looking for anything else, whether it is random thoughts, or questions asking for a deeper more profound meaning than “where do I need to move my foot to improve this position”.
And when completely focused and absorbed in our posture, we attain Samadhi, the 8th limb of yoga. Not permanently though, a moment later our mind would have been distracted and lost its focus! Hence, the continuous training of our body and mind through our practice.
A yoga asana (posture) practice is not just about one position, but a sequence of asanas, so we aim to maintain our meditational awareness throughout, during and between yoga postures, as we progress through our practice.
Yoga practice is a process which contains postures (asanas). The process which aims to bring us to a more balanced state of being, and perhaps Samadhi, perhaps not, but nearer to it, than further away through repeated practice.
Practice is therefore a journey as well as a process. It is continuous and repetitive with reason. Life is always changing as nothing remains the same, so we keep revisiting practice to reset ourselves, to rebalance how we feel, and to help us respond to the next moment.
Hence, this is why it is often said about practice that the journey is more important than reaching an imagined end point, goal or destination.
There is an allegorical saying which said: “before enlightenment I chopped wood, after enlightenment I chopped wood.”
Or another, “when you get to the top of a mountain keep on climbing”.
Yoga is more than the individual parts, but paradoxically, our practice teaches to focus on the individual parts during our journey. Hence why we often hear “focus on the present” because this is where we really are, each and every moment.
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