Meditation and Pranayama

Meditation has many benefits, not the least of which lowers stress. When done regularly, meditation cultivates awareness to improve concentration and develop sensitivity to the body. Where yoga poses (asana) develop the body, meditation and pranayama develop the mind. Ultimately, we do yoga poses to be able to sit comfortable in meditation. This doesn’t mean sit in Full Lotus. As long as you can stay conscious, you can sit in any comfortable position, even lie on your mat, cover up to stay warm and place your hands loosly at your side. You can stay on your mat as long as your intention is to stay conscious and practice concentration. If you do fall asleep, there’s always tomorrow’s practice. Or, Yoga Nidra (yogic sleep) may be the practice for you if you are sleep deprived. I was extremely sleep deprived, but yoga nidra solved that problem. Meditation makes it okay to be healthy and rested in a busy world.

The articles on this page go into detail, but not enough to replace a teacher. As you gain understanding, more questions may arise. I loved this part of my practice because I’m a visual artist and I like to observe, but if you were raised to ‘not stare or point’ as I was, then your natural tendancy to desire understanding may have become unconscious, making drama and overinformation more exciting to the mind. In a conscious state, the mind is seen for what it is – constant waves which can be louder than any rock concert, some repeated over and over again. Meditation calms the waves using concentration on one object and the opportunity to observe thoughts and breath in elegant ways. There are levels of meditation and some teachers say that the highest aim is to end human suffering and move into more ‘joy, ease and wonder’ (Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh).

Directing the breath to perform certain techniques is called Pranayama which can be read in two ways:

PRANA  means vital life / YAMA means restraint
PRAN means life / AYAMA means expansion.
Therefore, pranayama means ‘the restraint of life force energy brings the expansion of life force energy’ and uses the breath to accomplish this. Awareness of the breath for this purpose increases internal awareness and calms the mind.

‘Prana is said to be the Sun that imparts life and light to all and dwells within the heart as the Self of all creatures. Prana in us makes us live and allows us to act. It is not the puny little ego, ascribing Prana’s effects to its own power, that really does anything. We must learn to be open to and welcome this greater force of Prana and seek to bring it into our life and action. This is one of the great secrets of Yoga.’ (full article) Yoga is based in natural law. It has a spiritual, physical and mental component, yet Yoga enhances any spiritual practice we choose to follow.

The articles in this section cover simple techniques, stories and additional benefits. I compiled these articles over the years and have found them to be a useful resource, reminder and concise companion at any level of practice.

Any practice requires self-effort to progress. This phrase I heard in a class once a long time ago has stuck with me because it inspired me to return to my practice each day: ‘May the high point of today’s practice be the low point of tomorrow’s practice.’

Enjoy reading and drop me a line if you have any questions!

At the end of each article is an option to download. More articles will be uploaded soon.

Pranayama-Intro
This article includes a simple meditation.