“Prayer is you speaking to God. Meditation is allowing the spirit to speak to you.”
The goal of Yoga is to establish a union with the true self. A regular practice of meditation is one of the most direct and intimate tools we have to understand the mind, cultivate self-awareness to transcend attachment to the constant stream of thoughts, feelings, and sensations, to establish an inner sense of peace.
In this article we will outline the understanding of the mind in Yogic Philosophy, from there we will explore the benefits of sustained practice and how practices of yoga and meditation can be utilized to cultivate a sense of inner peace and well-being.
In this content you will learn about:
Relationship between Yoga and Meditation
Generally speaking, most of us spend the majority of our time living within the stories of our mind, we create our reality and our mind is wholly responsible for how we think, feel, act, and show up in our day-to-day lives.
Yoga is a systematic practice that invites us to go beyond the mind, beyond the ego and the stories of life to settle into a state of pure awareness—one of the most intimate tools we have to be able to do this.
Meditation is an ongoing practice of attention and acceptance of the inner workings of the mind. It is also a direct means of self-development.
Meditation is what is known as a Kriya (cleansing practice). As we journey into a space of observing the mind, we become aware of the:
- Thought patterns
- Habitual ways of thinking
- Limiting beliefs
- And self-doubts that are weighing on us or bringing us down
The practice of meditation thereby invites us to sit with these fluctuations to shift through them and establish an inner sense of stillness.
Benefits of yoga and meditation
The advantages of combining the practice of yoga with meditation are very positive for your mind:
✅ The Transformative Effects of Consistent Practice
Over time and sustained practice in yoga and meditation, one begins to notice more subtle changes within the mind.
This might include the recurrence of certain thoughts or an understanding of how daily interactions influence the mind’s state.
Recognizing these patterns without imposing restrictions allows for a deeper self-awareness and mental tranquility.
✅ The Path to Inner Quietude and Clarity
As one’s meditation practice deepens, the mind begins to quiet.
It becomes easier to let thoughts pass, much like clouds moving across a clear blue sky, allowing the mind’s natural calmness and clarity to resurface.
This process is akin to returning to a state of intrinsic stillness, where one can glimpse the truth of their nature.
✅ Realizing the Power of Meditation and Yoga
Meditation serves as an intimate guide to understanding and harnessing the power of the mind, teaching us that we are more than our thoughts.
✅ Enhancing Mental Health and Emotional Well-being
Meditation and yoga are not only practices for physical flexibility and relaxation but also powerful tools for improving mental health.
Regular engagement in these practices has been shown to reduce:
- And depression,
promoting a more positive mood and emotional resilience.
By fostering a sense of inner peace and improving cognitive functions, such as attention and concentration, yoga and meditation can significantly enhance one’s overall mental well-being.
It is from this profound self-awareness that the holistic benefits of meditation and yoga truly manifest, impacting one’s overall well-being and perspective on life.
The 4 Minds of Yogic Philosophy
In Yogic philosophy, there are 4 understandings of the functions of the mind that work together to process thoughts, emotions, and experiences.
These aspects of the mind are collectively known as the “Antahkarana,” which translates to the inner instrument or inner realm.
The four main components of the mind in yoga philosophy are:
▶️ Manas (Sensory Mind)
Manas is the aspect of the mind that processes sensory information. It’s the part responsible for:
- And emotions.
Manas is in constant flux, creating a continuous stream of perceptions and responses.
▶️ Buddhi (Intellect)
Buddhi represents the discriminative and decision-making aspect of the mind. It’s associated with:
- And decision-making.
Buddhi helps differentiate between right and wrong, truth and falsehood and guides actions based on higher understanding.
▶️ Chitta (Memory Store)
Chitta is the storehouse of memories, impressions, and subconscious experiences.
It contains the total of:
- All past experiences
- And impressions,
influencing how we perceive and react to the world. Chitta acts as the background against which our conscious thoughts and actions unfold.
▶️ Ahamkara (Ego)
Ahamkara is the aspect of the mind that creates a sense of individuality or identity. It’s responsible for the sense of self.
Ahamkara is linked to our:
- And personal identity,
often leading to a sense of separateness from others.
The mind can be understood from this perspective as a dynamic and constantly active aspect of our being, producing an almost continuous stream of thoughts from many different levels.
Meditation teaches us to view the thinking mind and find the stillness beyond. Practices such as meditation and mindfulness utilize the power of the mind to gain a higher awareness of being.
5 Ways to stay focused while meditating
Meditation calls us to a space of observance of the mind. For many of us, this observance can be uncomfortable.
There are many tools to help us maintain focus in meditation, including breath focus, mantra, visualization, and body awareness.
The very first pillar of meditation is to establish your seat.
1. How to sit in meditation
It is preferable to sit in meditation as this sustains a state of awareness in the body, it also allows for the proper functioning of the diaphragm and breathing muscles as well as supporting the energetic alignment within the subtle body.
Step 1: Choose Your Seat
Find a comfortable spot to sit, such as a cushion, yoga block, or even a chair. Ensure that you can maintain an upright spine.
Step 2: Align Your Posture
Sit up straight, allowing your spine to elongate upwards as if a string is gently pulling from the top of your head.
Step 3: Soften Your Gaze
Close your eyes or softly focus on a point in front of you to minimize external distractions.
Step 4: Observe Your Breath
Take a moment to notice your breath, feeling its natural rhythm without trying to alter it.
Step 5: Maintain Stillness
Remain as still as possible, observing any sensations or thoughts that arise without judgment or attachment. If you need to move, do so mindfully and return to stillness as soon as you can.
This is a foundational meditation practice that brings us to sitting with the mind and sensation, from which deeper tools of meditation can be established.
Below we have outlined some meditation techniques. Whether you’re just beginning your meditation practice or looking to delve a little deeper, these tools can help you find new levels of self-awareness practice.
2. Breath Focus Meditation
The breath is a readily available tool that can deepen our meditation practice for a few reasons. In the first instance, the breath can be a useful focus point to maintain during meditation.
With focused awareness of the quality of the breath, the parasympathetic nervous system becomes engaged, and the body and mind more easily drop into a space of deep relaxation.
From your comfortable seat, settle your focus on the breath. Invite longer and deeper inhalations and exhalations. As you progress, you may wish to bring a breathing practice such as sama vritti (equal part breath).
- From this space set the intention to stay with the breath.
- Acknowledge thoughts, sensations, or sounds that arise without judgment or attachment and allow them to move through the mind.
- Gently guide your attention back to the breath or the chosen focal point whenever your mind wanders.
- Start with 5-10 minutes and extend the duration as you become more comfortable.
Focus on keeping the breath calm, steady and elongated throughout the whole practice.
Visualization meditations are a powerful tool that invites the mind to stay engaged in a calm and focused way.
- Establish your comfortable seat, and let your eyes close.
- Take a few moments to settle into the body and breathe.
- Allow the screen behind the eyes to become blank.
- Then let an image feel the screen behind the eyes. This could be a calming scene such as a beach, forest, or peaceful garden.
- Engage all your senses in the visualization, imagining the sights, sounds, scents, and sensations.
- As the mind wanders, let all aspects of the image draw you back.
- Remain in this mental space for 5-10 minutes before slowly opening your eyes.
Guided meditations can be practiced in many ways, and they are a great way to engage with the subconscious and find the answer to questions. We recommend using apps such as Insight Timer to find a guided meditation that works for you.
4. Body Scan Meditation
Body scan meditations can be a powerful tool for deep relaxation, as well as establishing reconnection to the body.
- Lie down or sit comfortably with your eyes closed.
- Begin by settling your focus on the big toe of your left foot, move through each of the toes, then over the sole to the top of the foot, then feel the whole foot. Move through the body in this way, letting your attention settle on each part of the body for 2-3 seconds before moving on.
- Notice as you move through the body any tension or sensations. As you breathe, consciously release tension in each body part.
- In this practice, it’s important to move slowly and mindfully, keeping the brain engaged and aware.
- Gradually move through each side of the legs to the torso, arms, neck, and head.
- As you come to the head, allow yourself to feel the body in its entirety let the body completely relax into the earth, and let the mind release the focus and settle into stillness.
- As you prepare to exit this practice, bring awareness back into the physical body and breath.
5. Mantra Meditation
Mantra meditation is a form of meditation that involves repeating a specific word, phrase, or sound. This practice allows the mind to cultivate a state of concentration, tranquility, and mindfulness.
A mantra can be a word, phrase, or sound that holds significance or resonance for the practitioner. Traditional mantras are often in Sanskrit, and they work on a vibrational frequency to engage with the energetic principles of the given phrase.
- Establish your comfortable seated position, and let the eyes close or the gaze become soft.
- Find a steady, easy, and rhythmic breath.
- Bring your chosen mantra to life, you can choose to repeat the mantra either silently or aloud. Repeating the mantra aloud can be therapeutic for those who struggle with voice activation, speaking their truth, or feeling heard.
- Let the mantra flow naturally, syncing it with your breath or heartbeat. If you started aloud, perhaps over time, the mantra becomes silently repeated in the mind.
- As you continue repeating the mantra, try to maintain concentration. If your mind wanders or you become distracted, gently guide your attention back to the mantra without judgment.
- Engage fully with the sound and vibration of the mantra, feeling its resonance within you. Allow the mantra to become the center of your awareness, and let go of other thoughts.
- After a designated time, gradually let the repetition of the mantra go and come to sit in silence, to a close. Allow the effects of the practice to settle, and slowly transition back to your regular state of mind.
Over time and with consistent practice, mantra meditation can deepen spiritual experiences, heighten self-awareness, and aid in transcending the mind’s fluctuations.
How to meditate on your own while doing yoga step by step
Consistency and patience are key to reaping the benefits of meditation. So when beginning on the meditation journey, there are some things we can do to ensure consistent dedication to the practice is maintained.
Here’s our simple 3 step guide to establish a regular practice:
Step 1: Set your Place
Create a space that is solely yours for your meditation. Set this space up with sacred intention. Bring any candles or incense that you enjoy to set the space.
You can also set up an altar space with crystals, pictures of your teachers, and statues of deities. Bring any support in the form of cushions and bolsters you may need.
Ideally, this space is a dedicated area that you can reserve for meditation.
Step 2: Set the time
In many traditions, meditation is practiced at sunrise or sunset. This time is known in some lineages as the ‘thining viel,’ a time when it is easier to connect with the deeper parts of intuition and being.
Meditation first thing in the morning when one has just woken up can be a great kick-start to routine and set the tone for a mindful day.
Step 3: Create the Habit
Create the habit, now you have the place set up, and the time you can create the habit.
It’s said that it takes 66 days to create a habit.
Set yourself the challenge to show up in the same place, at the same time, with the same meditation practice for 66 days, and see how the mind and body respond!
Meditation and Yoga, the ultimate way to connect mind and body
The goal of meditation is to establish a deeper connection with yourself. Do not stride for any perceived outcome of a daily meditation. Rather enter each day with curiosity into the aliveness of your being.
With consistent practice, you will notice the benefits of meditation with subtle changes in how you respond to your thoughts, feelings, and emotions.
As well as how you deal with everyday stressors and anxieties. Meditation will build your self-awareness and, thereby, your self-reliance and confidence in yourself.
Meditation is ultimately your tool to recognize and show up to a more aligned way of being.