How Yoga Prepares You for Meditation
Yoga is good for a lot of things. It can decrease stress, help combat anxiety and depression, and give you more energy for your day. But historically, the main purpose of yoga poses, or asanas, was to ready the body and mind for meditation.
However, it’s easy to go to a yoga class today and leave as soon as Savasana is finished (or even before). Anytime you complete your asanas and forego meditation, it’s a missed opportunity. Even five minutes of meditation would be beneficial to do directly following a session of yoga. Let’s take a closer look at why this is true:
The Benefits of Yoga and Meditation
To begin, it’s important to note why yoga and meditation are so important in the first place. Yoga is adaptable for people of all ages and abilities, and can be especially effective for seniors who want to increase their balance and flexibility. It helps get energy flowing and loosens parts of the body that are often overlooked.
Meditation can do similar things for the mind, making mindfulness second nature and helping to clear away the mental clutter that often piles up in the brain as we go about our lives. Many people leave a meditation session feeling calm, centered, relaxed and accomplished.
Yoga prepares you for meditation by making your body as stretched, loose, and as comfortable as possible before you take a seat on your meditation mat or cushion. Anyone who has tried to meditate before at least spending a few minutes getting their body comfortable and ready knows how hard it can be to sit.
It’s extremely easy to be fidgety, achy and distracted by small discomforts in the body as you sit. Additionally, sitting at a desk from 9-5, or longer, really stresses and taxes the physical body. Practicing yoga can increase longevity and keep you healthy and happy for as long as possible.
Asanas are not just for your arms, legs, and core: Your eyes can really take a beating throughout the day, especially if you work on computers. Too much screen time can cause blurred vision, dry eyes, and headaches. Your eyes need restoration too, which can be achieved through eye yoga (it’s a real thing, I promise!).
With so much screen time and desk time, it’s often necessary to wind down and recover before it’s possible to truly focus on something else. Asanas help ease the transition from regular daily activities to meditation. They’re like a bridge, offering an easier way to transition from one thing to the next.
Once you finish your asanas, it’s time to move onto breathing techniques. Yogic breathing techniques will help you center yourself before your meditation. Practices like inhaling, holding, and exhaling your breath for a certain number of beats is a great way to get started.
Try to breathe fully and deeply, putting all your energy and focus into noticing your breath go in and out. If it’s helpful to you, you can attach a mantra to each inhale and exhale. So hum is a popular mantra for basic breathing. So is the inhale; hum is the exhale. I like to spend at least 10 minutes on breathing techniques before moving on to my meditation.
After you’ve spent some time on yogic breathing techniques, you’ll be ready to settle into your meditation. You might notice your breaths getting longer and less hurried. This is a sign that your body and mind are coming to a calm and centered space.
If you’re a beginner meditator, it’s best to start with a short period of time and work your way up in small increments. A daily meditation practice can help you stay mindful throughout your day and remain grounded.
Being familiar with the traditional goal and purposes of yoga poses can be helpful in motivating you to add a few minutes of meditation onto your practice. Asanas are the preparation for the real work of meditation. By mindfully practicing asanas, breathing techniques, and meditation, you give yourself a great gift of groundedness and health.
Lettie Stratton is a writer and urban farmer in Boise, ID. A Vermont native, she is a lover of travel, tea, bicycles, plants, cooperative board games, and the outdoors. She’s still waiting for a letter from Hogwarts.