The Practice of Meditation

“Yoga Chitta Vritti Nirodha”

Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind

Patanjali, Yoga Sutra 1.2

Around 200 BC Patanjali wrote the Yoga Sutras which are considered to be the foundational text of Yoga.  In the Sutras, Patanjali writes in Sanskrit, “Yoga Chitta Vritti Nirodha.”  This is commonly translated to mean, Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind.  There has been much discourse on how this passage should be translated and what it means.  Some believe that while practicing Asana (yoga poses), one becomes so focused that all the chatter in the mind is silenced.  Others believe that we practice yoga in order to stretch and prepare the body to sit still in mediation.  Everyone agrees, however, that one way or another, the aim of Yoga is to quiet and still the mind.

Our lives are much busier and hectic than those of our ancestors who lived in Patanjali’s time.  More than ever, we crave a break from all the thoughts in our head.  Are you exhausted by the constant checklists you go over in your mind concerning things you need to do for your work and your personal life?  I firmly believe, both from my own experience and from working with yoga students, that the physical practice of Yoga, in any form, will give you a much needed break from your whirling mind.  However, I also believe that a simple meditation practice will enhance the mind-calming effects of yoga. 

People often think that the touted benefits of Yoga and meditation are derived from Yoga folklore, ancient texts, or one’s personal empirical experience, however, there is scientific evidence revealing the positive effects of meditation on the body and the mind.  In the physical body, meditation has been connected to a reduction in tension-related pain including tension headaches, muscle tension, ulcers, and insomnia.  Meditation has also been shown to lower blood pressure and to strengthen the immune system.  The mental benefits of meditation have been linked to decreased anxiety, emotional stability, improved mood and behavior, creativity, happiness, intuition, clarity, and peace of mind. 

Meditation is accessible to anyone anywhere, not just in a controlled group setting.  You can easily incorporate meditation into your daily life.  Start by simply doing a few light stretches.  Find a comfortable and quiet place to sit, even in your office chair.  Try to sit in a place that makes you happy - the beach, your favorite room, but the office can work too.  Carve out just 5 minutes to meditate.  Close your eyes and just focus on your breath.  Your mind may wander.  If so, like an outsider, observe your thoughts.  Then bring your awareness back to your breath.  This process may seem awkward or forced at first, but stick with it.  Meditation is a practice.  Like anything else, over time, you will find meditating easier, and you will begin to reap the benefits.

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