Out of this practice, an ability to control the mind emerges. We develop the ability to consider our actions before we react. We develop an ability to be discerning. From my own experience, an ability to stand back and view a situation, knowing it is merely a manifestation of a conditioned pattern of behaviour
Practicing yoga mediation takes a lot of practice and study that involves hours of study and engagement. There are no short cuts I’m afraid, if you have trouble with this then it’s not for you. If on the other hand, it’s something you struggle with, and still want to work at then read on.
Let’s talk about posture. In your asana practice your teacher will hopefully remind you of posture, or correct alignment. Seldom do I hear the same for meditation practice. It is as vital to meditation as asana.
The practice of yoga mediation will take a lot of practice hours and study, there are no short cuts but the journey is well worth it. To begin with the body will complain with bogus aches and pains, and then the mind steps in with its constant fluctuations and distractions. We need to train the body and the mind, and this takes time and patience.
Breath bandha and alignment in your asana practice is something your teacher will remind you of constantly, we need to apply the same principles to our meditation practice. Correctly aligned for meditation requires us to sit with a neutral spine. This comes from a neutral pelvis, the two are vital to success. The ability to sit upright with the spine in neutral comes back to our asana practice, a properly aligned seated posture for a meditation practice requires the knees to be below the pelvis. The pelvis needs to tip forward slightly, which means the spine can retain its natural curves.
Laying down, or slumped against a wall won’t do, you will soon fall asleep or get lost in your thoughts. If sitting upright is not possible, then use a prop such as a rolled mat under the back of the pelvis allowing the back of the pelvis to lift and the back to drop. This will cause the knees to drop. One of the main reasons why we won’t be able to sit in an easy pose is because of tight quadriceps, If this is the case then sit in vajrasana (kneeling) with a support between the thighs.
Ideally we will sit in at least easy pose, with one heel pressed against the perineum, and the soles of the feet looking up at you. The palms of the hands will also be facing up, this induces apana to turn up and reduces feelings of drowsiness. The heel into the perineum induces mulha bandha, and the pelvis in its neutral position will naturally bring about uddiyana bandha. Drop the chin towards the sternum for jalandhara bandha, and breath into the back of the neck for ujjayi breath.
Once we have overcome our seated position, we then need to look at the mind. It helps to see the mind as part of the body (prakriti) and consciousness as our real selves (purusha) we can then start to see the mind as a separate entity. We then need to give the mind a task, and keep check it does what we tell it. So this could be a mantra, or tratak (drishti or candle gazing) it doesn’t really matter. The trick is to keep the mind on that practice.
In yoga meditation there are four stages, pratyahara , dharana, dhyana and samadhi.
- Pratyahara is usually described as sense withdrawal, but I prefer to think of it more as detaching ourselves from the outcome of senses.
- The second stage, dharana, is the practice of holding the awareness at a single point. This could be a mantra.
- The third stage, dhyana, is holding the awareness at a single point for extended periods,
- and out of this Samadhi emerges.
Out of this practice, an ability to control the mind emerges. We develop the ability to consider our actions before we react. We develop an ability to be discerning. From my own experience, an ability to stand back and view a situation, knowing it is merely a manifestation of a conditioned pattern of behaviour. Then we can make the changes we truly desire/need, and not based on reactions to external stimuli.
An exercise to start with would be. Every time a desire emerges, maybe the need to eat even though we have just eaten, arises, see that desire coming from the mind and not from you. See yourself as separate from your body and your mind. Start to practice with discernment, step back and view the emotional response this causes. Do this until the desire to eat passes.