Yoga and Meditation: tools for an enlightened mind

An enlightened mind can free oneself from the materialistic world and help realize the true potential of oneself. Undoubtedly, a calm and composed mind helps surf through the ebbs and tides of life with utmost equanimity. An equanimous mind helps in having a clear vision, one that is not obscured by wavering thoughts. Yoga and Meditation are two different tools to attain spiritual freedom.

To the uninitiated, Yoga is akin to yogic postures. But Yoga, in real sense, goes beyond the postures. The discipline of Yoga is meant to master the mind and not just the body. Patanjali, known as the father of Modern Yoga and the author of Yoga Sutra, a classical guide of verses, defines Yoga as a practice that helps still the fluctuations of mind, enabling the practitioner to rest in a state of essential true nature.

Most people take to Yogasana practice because they are drawn (until they realize the other aspect) to its physical benefits. Several studies and scientific researches indicate that Yogasanas improves flexibility, sense of balance, strength and endurance. It also brings down stress and stress-induced negative impacts on the body.

Asana (yogic posture) is defined in Yoga Sutra as Sukhamsthiramasanam, a posture which is stable and at ease. Sukha means a sense of sweet comfort and sthira means firm and unwavering.

When a posture is held with awareness for an extended period of time one can easily develop strength and steadiness. Its regular practice will gradually strengthen the muscles that are engaged in the process. The breath tends to be even, smooth and rhythmic when the effort is minimal.

As one begins to cultivate this inner connection between the body and the breath, asana practice can be an extraordinary discipline to bring oneself back to the natural stillness which the ancient yogis so extolled.

Meditation too is in continuum with the internal journey but the emphasis is directly on controlling the mind. Meditation helps to explore truth, distinguish false impressions from real ones and see things for what they really are.

“When meditation is mastered, the mind is unwavering like the flame of a candle in a windless place.”– Bhagavad Gita

The usual nature of the mind is to wander, to be caught up in all sensory inputs. During meditation, the mind drifts but one can gently guide the awareness back to the object of meditation. Awareness is the richest part of such a practice. Through training, one can strengthen the ability to detach from distractions and abide in the present. As the meditation practice deepens it enables an inner unfolding, where one’s awareness begins to expand from conscious state to super-consciousness and ultimately remain in a state of pure joy and serenity.

There are several meditation techniques taught by different schools of spiritual practice. These could be mindfulness breathing, chanting of the mantra or focusing on an object of meditation, all meant to train the mind to settle into stillness.

The goal of both, Yogic posture and Meditation, is to stabilize the mind and find oneness with the divine. It is inappropriate to separate both the practices. Asanas form the preliminary level to get started and progress towards Meditation. The basic difference lies in the method of the practice. Yogic postures involve movement of the body aligned with a particular breathing pattern.

In Meditation, one just sits over for an extended period of time mindfully focusing on the object of meditation. When the Meditation intensifies it enables one to enter a state of consciousness that expands into a thoughtless awareness. The beauty of regular practice of Meditation, even if for just a few minutes daily, is on how its effect percolates into each and every aspect of day-to-day living. It builds a commendable emotional resilience by being open to new perspective on stressful situations, superior patience and tolerance, increased self-awareness and focus besides inspiring creativity.

 (The author is Dr Sumitra Bentur, BAMS, Diploma in Yoga Therapy)

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