Meditation is an ancient universal system of knowledge. Approach to it varies, but the basic principles remain. This course will present the foundations of meditation from a classical yogic perspective. We will use the breath and mantra as tools to develop concentration.
Asanas and pranayama prepare the body and mind for meditation. Concentration techniques are the fertiliser that allow the experience of meditation to arise.
Yoga is a systematic system and it is the last three steps of the classical eight-limbed yogic system of raja yoga that concern meditation. The steps are dharana (concentration) and dhyana (meditation), which lead to the eighth and final step, samadhi, or super consciousness. The asanas and pranayama practices prime the body and mind ready for these higher rungs of raja yoga. Once you have some mastery of the poses and breathing practices, it is a natural progression to take the first steps in meditation. Meditation is the essence of all yoga practice – in the yoga sutras it is said that yoga is the stilling of the thinking mind (‘yoga chitta vritti nirodha’).
Approaches to meditation vary, but the basic principles remain the same. The fruits of meditation are threefold – physical, mental and spiritual.
Physically, the heart rate and respiratory systems slow down, having a calming effect on the body. Every cell in our bodies is affected by our thoughts and emotions, so through nurturing positive thoughts and feelings in meditation, this has a harmonizing effect both at a cellular and energetic level. With greater mental focus, there is greater clarity. Clarity fosters purpose and direction, which creates emotional wellbeing.
Mentally, meditation asks us to look within, to turn attention to the inner world. For many, the vacillation of thoughts move this way and that, the mind is in a constant state of chatter, liking this, not liking that, grasping at things. This continual movement drains our ability to be still, to be present, to simply Be. The idea behind meditation is to gain control over this internal world, to find balance and peace.
Spiritually, meditation can lead to a greater sense of happiness, which is something everyone wants. If we try to find happiness in the shopping basket, in a relationship or in a certain job, we can be in an endless cycle of desire of if and when. However, with simple yoga and meditation techniques we all have access to the vast peace and happiness that is our true nature and lies within each one of us.