6/5/11 Why Meditate?

by Rocío In a world where most of our energy is devoted to external daily activities and in a culture that does not support reflection, introspection, and quietude, "Why Meditate?" is a common question among yoga practitioners and practitioners of other practices that hold and support the experience of looking within.

Recently I had the privilege and honor of teaching a workshop at The Yoga Room titled “Learn to Meditate” to a wonderful group of mostly yoga practitioners. I shared with them that Meditation has been part of many spiritual, mystical and even religious practices throughout history.

Just to give the reader a frame of reference, what we know in the west as Yoga is part of one of the six orthodox schools of Hindu philosophy. Yoga in this sense is related to Rajas Yoga, Ashtanga Yoga or what is known as Patanjali’s Yoga.

Ashtanga means eight limbs and one of the limbs of Yoga is Meditation. One of the simplest and clear definitions of Meditation is that it is an effortless control of the mind that allows the practitioner to:

a. Become aware of the content of the mind. b. Train the mind using concentration and sense withdrawal techniques, both of which are other limbs of Yoga. c. Go deeper into the different levels of the mind in order to have a more expansive concept of the Reality. d. Experience Samadhi, Enlightenment, Nirvana. e. Be more flexible, compassionate and at peace with the universe we are in.

Here are just a few of the benefits of practicing meditation at a physical, psychological and spiritual level: - Decreased heart rate during quiet meditation - Lower blood pressure in normal and moderately hyper tense individuals - Quicker recovery from stress - Increase in alpha rhythms (slow, high amplitude brain waves that correlate with relaxation) - Reductions in both acute and chronic anxiety - Complement to psychotherapy and other approaches in the treatment of addiction - Feeling more centered, grounded, and balanced - Increasing appreciation, gratitude, and love

As for techniques there are many, some of them require commitment in terms of time, resources and it is best if you can have a daily practice. Other techniques are more flexible and can be incorporated in a regular day. I offered some simple techniques to practice concentration and meditation to build a foundation for a longer practice.

Here is a simple technique that you could use to start your meditation practice.

- Sit comfortably for few moments in a quiet place at home or at work if that is possible. - Close your eyes, lengthen your spine and bring your awareness to your breath. - At first don’t try to change the rhythm of your breath. Stay there just observing it for couple of minutes. - Let go of your breath; just rest observing the quality of your mind. Open your eyes take a couple of deep breaths and go back to your daily activities. - If possible repeat this exercise for 3-5 times a day for 30 seconds - 3 minutes.

About the author: Rocío Morales has been practicing yoga since she was a little girl. In 2003, she received her 200h certification from the Temple of Kriya Yoga and in 2009 she became a yogi priest (swami) in the Kriya Yoga Tradition after many year of studying the esoteric aspects of Yoga. She has been teaching in many different settings since 2002 and among her favorite classes to teach are Yoga for People with MS, Prenatal and Postnatal Yoga, Beginners Yoga, etc. Rocío also runs Yoga Sanga, an online Yoga Magazine for Texas. For more information go to www.yogasanga.net