I recently went to local yoga class where the teacher closed out the class with pranayama breathing and a Namaste inviting folks to ‘zen out’ if they would like. Several students got up immediately, rolled up their mat and left. I suppose that really isn’t any different than students who lie there without really participating. But I couldn’t believe it. I thought to myself, do those students not realize they are missing the best part? What did they come for anyway if they aren’t going to meditate? And why didn’t the instructor teach savasana? I was so perplexed I could hardly begin to still my mind, making my pose even more challenging than normal.
I suppose those students were coming for a workout. The physical aspects of asana practice can certainly be a great workout, but they are really just one step towards stillness. When we unite our mind and breathe with the body and focus inwardly on all of the little sensations of our muscles, we discover new things about ourselves. We are challenged in new ways sometimes triumphantly reaching milestones as we progress in what we are able to do. But yoga without meditation is like playing basketball without a goal. Stillness is the aim. It’s where we win the game! At the end of the class the body naturally becomes so heavy that it wants to do nothing else than surrender, united with the mind, the breath and the spirit. It is really the pinnacle of the whole class.
Meditation combines inner consciousness with higher conscious awareness. It is where we reach God without dogma, without tradition and without doctrine. As we come to know our higher self and cultivate this relationship, we begin to reshape how we think and feel about daily affairs. Your life follows the grooves that you have created in the brain by your thought patterns. Meditation allows for the creation of new patterns giving way to so many new opportunities that you may have never considered possible. We have limitations in the body, yet we have limitless possibilities and potential as we expand our consciousness.
If nothing else, meditation allows us to slow down. In a fast paced world full of appointments, meetings and over-commitments, with information coming in from numerous sources all at once and some not even ignoring them long enough to drive, could we not benefit from just a few minutes of silence? A few minutes of living in the present moment listening to the sound of our own breath – the breath that is always there, often short because we are in too much of a hurry even if it is our own thoughts that are racing – allows us to take control of the autonomic nervous system. Taking just a few short moments for a deep belly inhale breath and to slow down the exhale breath is one of the most powerful techniques our modern day society could learn. It has been estimated that 75-90% of all doctors visits are due to stress related problems. Learning to control the stress response by taking control of the breath and stilling the mind, bringing into unity the mental body, emotional body, physical body and energetic body through meditation, offers tremendous healing and endless possibilities for reaching your highest potential.
With the power that meditation holds and the more that we are learning about its benefits through science, how could you not participate in savasana? At your next yoga class, I invite you to indulge in meditation fully and freely. Discovering stillness may just be what you end up coming for.
Sarah Balmer, BS, RYT-200, Certififed Health Coach
Yoga I.S. Instructor