Not all meditators practice yoga, but meditation is a foundational practice in hatha yoga – or yoga, as we simply call it in the west. A robust yoga practice includes regular meditation (dhyana) as well as postures and breathwork. The seminal Yoga Sutras, in fact, lays out the Eight Limbs that form the the yogi’s path toward liberation – and dhyana is the seventh limb.
Western yogis are often drawn to the practice by the physical poses (asana) and breathing techniques (pranayama) that yield an almost immediate positive effect on body and mind. The effects of meditation, though, are subtler, more profound, and cultivated over time. There is no measure of “correctness” or “enough-ness”, unlike the successfully balanced tree pose or the completion of 12 rounds of alternate nostril breathing. That same balance of discipline and non-attachment that we develop in asana and pranayama can be applied to the challenge of meditation.
For the yogi just beginning a sitting practice, here are a few ideas that can help you find your way toward creating a lifelong meditation habit.
- Get instruction. Meditation classes, workshops and group sits are a great way to learn about posture and technique.
- Create your meditation space. Choose an area that is quiet, with minimal disturbances. It’s not possible to completely eliminate distractions, but a peaceful space is particularly helpful for the new meditator.
- Practice at a regular time, for a short amount of time. Try to stick with it, approaching it as a habit – much like brushing your teeth.
- It’s helpful for the wandering mind to have something to come back to – the breath, a mantra, or perhaps a mala (prayer beads).
Above all, don’t be discouraged. Establishing new routines take not only commitment and discipline, but also a gentleness with ourselves when we falter. It has been said that “the only way to begin to meditate is to pretend to meditate.” It is perhaps not far from the truth.
For my Inspire yogis and friends, we’ll delve more into the specifics of finding comfortable posture in an upcoming post. This is unique to each meditator and deserves some special attention!
This post was originally written for the community at a meditation center where I practice. I’ve tailored just a bit for our Inspire community and friends beyond. Hope it’s helpful, and maybe – just maybe – provokes some curiosity in you to come join us for our regular Sunday open meditations!