the art of meditation + mindfulness

Discover a different class style with us each week as part of the ‘everyone try yoga‘ campaign. This week, we explore meditation and mindfulness, with this latest blog post by leading meditation and mindfulness teacher Yogi Ashokananda.

Start by asking yourself a few questions:

–  what is meditation?
–  what is mindfulness?
–  why are you meditating?
–  are you meditating to control your mind? Or resist or run away from something?

When you sit in silence and try to meditate or try to stop the mind from thinking or wandering, you may find it difficult to stay with the stillness or with the chattering of the mind. We are naturally drawn inwards by an inherent urge to come back to our centre and rediscover what is there deep down, as this is where your true power sits.

There are many ideas and concepts, beliefs and preconceived ideas and huge expectations as to what you may want to experience when you meditate. Meditation can conjure up a number of ideas, experiences and concepts.

why meditate?

Meditation is not a way to remove elements of yourself, it is the exact opposite. It is a way to accept all of yourself and transform those aspects of you which are meant to be transformed. The body is a vast complex system of science and wonderment, why should we deny it? Understanding the body, the mind and the breath can enlighten, when you realise how everything is interconnected.

The physical and psychological benefits of meditation and releasing of the samsakaras (cellular memory of experiences) were expressed by Swami Satyananda Saraswati in what is considered to be the most comprehensive guide to yoga ever written, “Yoga and Kriya” that by “holding tension (and hanging onto old patterns) the whole endocrine system is forced to operate at a high level to cope with the level of body functioning which eventually leads to organic malfunction and inefficiency which the cause of many modern ailments”.

how to get started

Establish correct posture
Ensure the correct posture throughout the practice as it is essential to the meditation, allowing the energy to flow more freely up and down the spine, from the tailbone to the centre of the brain.

–  sit on the floor cross-legged or in vajrasana. If this is too uncomfortable, try using a chair. If you are seated cross-legged, raise your hips a little higher than your knees to maintain good blood circulation.
–  do not slouch (support your back if you need to). Your spine should be aligned, with a slight sense of elevation from your pelvis through the front, back and side muscles of your torso.
–  ensure that your spine is not compressed, to allow the flow of energy through to your head. Even if you are lying down, align your spine and be aware of your body fanning out from the spinal column.
–  gently release your shoulders down your back and relax your diaphragm.
–  relax the muscles of your head, especially in your face, forehead and jaw.
–  close your eyes and allow your eyeballs to soften behind your eyelids.
–  you should not feel any light-headedness or strain in your sinuses.

The path to stillness
–  approach each meditation practice as a new experience.
–  have no expectations throughout the practice or with the outcome.
–  do not project any ideas or thoughts.
–  do not allow the mind to control or engage in any distractions, either thoughts, sounds or physically, internally or externally.

Meditation practice may bring up feelings of discomfort, resistance, irritation or unease.  This is usually the result of deep-rooted emotions, which are coming up to the surface to be released either physically or emotionally. The release may take place after a few days of practising and is completely normal.  ou may find that you go through three stages in your journey:

–  senses: your mind becomes aware of a sense of non-attachment to certain things to which it was previously attached or desired or thought it needed.
 subtle body and psychology: you awaken to chitta (consciousness) vitta (disturbances, emotions and tendencies of your mind that were preventing you from realising your consciousness. In other words, you have developed the ability see what was keeping you from yourself.
–  pure consciousness/spirit/soul: you have the memory of conscious witnessing in this state you can plant the seed for swadharma (self-religion). This is your true existence.

Yogi was raised in India and has been practising yoga since early childhood when his Grandfather was his first teacher. Over many years Yogi has been fortunate to develop his teaching, experience and education of yoga under some of the great remote, Indian masters. He has taught the teachings of the Bihar School of Yoga, the Sivananda Ashram and the Shri Ved Niketan Ashram. Now as a Yoga and Meditation Master, he teaches a number of his own profound teachings, insights and disciplines which have their roots in ancient, sacred Indian tradition.

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