In the studio I belong to we practice meditation through-out rigorous physical exercise. My meditation is framed in a way in which I work to fill my consciousness with little to no thought – as if I can only see visions of a blank canvas in my brain.
Through this mindset which takes time and practice to attain, I become present.
One way yoga students work to achieve this thoughtless mindset is through acceptance. You must be very kind towards yourself in the difficult task of meditation (being thoughtless). Often instructors will frame it in which you notice thoughts and emotions which can disrupt your meditation and simply wait for them to pass until you can reconnect with the present.
Yoga studios also use breathing exercises because it is a way to engage with the aliveness of our bodies. Commonly used, voluntary breathing in rhythms help those looking to enter a meditative state by focusing on the most primary needs of the human body, oxygen.
Not only this, connecting to your body through breath reveals the most primary needs we take for granted- acknowledging the work our body does to keep us healthy at all times. It brings awareness to the luxury that is, holding concerns less imminent than survival.
In this rare thoughtless space you will find peace, content, indifference, patience and tolerance.
What you find in a present mind and one of the reasons all meditation derives from the notion of entering the present is a connection to your mind and body that produces a fundamental happiness. A means of sitting in a mental state that cannot be disrupted because it is a self-culminated act.
Through the disconnection of what we are usually connected to, (tasks, work, planning, reflection, analysis, emotion) we arrive at a completely different connection. A simpler, more focused connection with only three things to be aware of. Our body, our mind, and the present moment in front of us.
So, why? Why do we have so many techniques and tools to get to the present state of mind? Why does being present matter so much? Why should I sacrifice my time to meditate when I have such important tasks right in front of me?
The answer is because it will make all those tasks and things you want to accomplish, more effective. According to Alice G. Walton in Forbes, “just a couple of weeks of meditation training helped people’s focus and memory during the verbal reasoning section of the GRE”. She states, “the increase in score was equivalent to 16 percentile points”. Not only this, last week a study from UCLA found that “long-term meditators had better-preserved brains than non-meditators as they aged” ( Walton, 2015). Those who’d been meditating for an average of 20 years were shown to have had more grey matter volume throughout their brain. The decrease in grey matter as we age was partially salvaged in those who practiced regular meditation. The article quotes Florian Kurth in regard to the study he wrote, “We expected rather small and distinct effects located in some of the regions that had previously been associated with meditating.” Continuing, he explained that, “Instead, what we actually observed was a widespread effect of meditation that encompassed regions throughout the entire brain.”
Interestingly, meditation also decreases something called (DMN) Default Mode Network which entails mind-wandering and self-referential thought. Because mind-wandering is associated with being less happy, and worrying about the past and future, it is meditation and yoga’s goal to refrain from entertaining it. Most excitingly, Walton writes, ”Several studies have shown that meditation, through its quieting effect on the DMN, appears to do just this. And even when the mind does start to wander, because of the new connections that form, meditators are better at snapping back out of it”. I can attest this myself as I have seen much more outwords focus since regular meditative yoga. It’s as if looking out into the world and its possibilities with curious eyes versus a senseless analysis of what’s already happened. It’s a frame of mind, and it just takes practice!
Combining this state of mind with rigorous physical activity allows for a great space to become incredibly mentally tough.
Bill Gates, Oprah Whinfrey, Kobe Bryant and many others including the CEO of LinkedIn have described mediation as a daily practice for them. Anderson Cooper, and congressman Tim Ryan, companies like Google and Apple and Target are all integrating meditation into their schedules.
The physical benefits of yoga can help emphasize the mental benefits of meditation when combined. Physically practicing things like tolerance, patience, and endurance throughout an uncomfortable and sometimes heated (100 degrees) yoga practice can simultaneously reinforce these skills outside of meditative yoga. The tangibility of the exercise allows you to practice this mindset and these qualities in theory as well as in action, training your mind to naturally prescribe to being more tolerant to discomfort, more confident, more patient and happy.
THE PHYSICAL ELEMENT OF YOGA:
- Improves posture
- maintaining a balanced metabolism.
- weight reduction.
- cardio and circulatory health.
- improved athletic performance.
- protection from injury.
- increased muscle strength and tone.
- improved respiration, energy and vitality.
THE MENTAL/MEDITATIVE ELEMENT OF YOGA:
- Increases self-esteem.
- Increasing self-awareness.
- improves attention and concentration
- Increased focus on the present.
- Reducing negative emotions.
- Increasing imagination and creativity.
- Increasing patience and tolerance.
- Preserves the aging brain
When combined, meditation and physical exercise work together to practice and strengthen your ability to exude a high self-esteem, a happy mood, tolerance to discomfort, high patience levels and unbreakable mental toughness.
Yoga can induce a self culminated mental and physical well-being that scientifically improves all aspects of life. I would recommend meditative yoga (to any degree) for those I love the most so they can simply thrive internally and succeed everywhere they go.