Meditation, Your Brain on Yoga


by Juan Villegas, E-RYT® 500

There is a scene in the movie Eat Pray Love where Liz sits in the beautiful meditation room at the Ashram. She closes her eyes to meditate and immediately thoughts about her house, job and life start stampeding through her head. Anyone new to this practice can empathize; those first few times we meditate can seem like a battle with our thoughts. Sitting in stillness is a skill we find challenging, but with simple regular practice with no expectation an entirely new world can open up. Positively effecting our asana practice, relationships and health.

Meditation is part of the wheel of yoga. In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras the second sutra states “yogash chitta-vritti-nirodhah” which can be translated as “yoga is an absence of fluctuations of the mind”. This lack of fluctuations of the mind can be achieved through preparation of the body (asana) and meditation. The two work seamlessly together. Much like that sense of stillness one finds in savasana, asana practice can prepare us for an incredible experience.

The physiological and psychological benefits are enormous. A recent study conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital showed that new meditators who practiced for an average of 27 minutes a day for eight weeks showed changes in the areas of the brain related to stress, memory, well-being and empathy, it can actually change your brain for the better!

There are many styles of meditation. The above study used a mindfulness based program, however there are mantra based, walking, and even driving meditations!

Finding the time to fit mindfulness into our days can be difficult.The buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh says that meditation can be anything done mindfully, for example, washing dishes, cleaning, eating. Anything can be a meditation if you are mindful and present while doing it.

I have a friend who hikes up a mountain alone everyday. At the top she sits and looks at the view and breathes. She doesn’t call this meditation but it contains all the same elements and it’s built into her daily schedule.

If you choose seated meditation then starting with a manageable few minutes with no pressure or expectation can put you on the path to develop a regular practice of inner stillness.

Do you have a mindfulness based practice in your life already?

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