Meditation. Yoga. The two go together like Batman & Robin (but with fewer capes… usually).
As spiritual health practices that have both found their popularity in the West over the past 50 years, we tend to associate yoga with meditation. Whenever we read one, the other is usually not far behind. And when we shop for yoga pants, it's no surprise to see a meditation mala nearby.
Yet despite the obvious correlation between yoga and meditation, there are still countless people who do one or the other and not both.
Yoga makes you better at meditation because it creates a relaxed body conducive to a relaxed mind. Not to mention, it's also much easier to get into the lotus position without feeling like your legs are going to snap in half. And meditation makes us better at yoga in five key ways. We will take a look.
How meditation makes us better at yoga
1. Meditation helps us focus on the asanas
When we practice yoga, of course we are exercising the body. But we have to exercise the mind at the same time.
Whenever we place the body in an asana (pose), we should focus on that pose. By focusing the mind on the body during a pose, we experience the asana in its entirety. Yoga asanas offer many benefits for mental health, but in order to reap them, we need to focus on what we are doing.
Unfortunately, many people don't leave their thoughts and distractions at the door of the yoga studio. And so they can't focus on yoga.
Meditation is well known to improve focus and focus. And for this reason, it is easier to focus the mind on the body when we go into a yoga pose. The result is a complete mind-body immersion in the asana.
2. Meditation reduces oxygen consumption
One of the lesser-known benefits of meditation is that it changes the way the body uses oxygen.
Scientific research shows that meditation reduces the rate of oxygen consumption by 10%. This means that we are more able to control breathing during and after meditation. It is a game changer for anyone who is breathless while practicing yoga. If this is you, try meditating before doing yoga, and during your yoga session take a few moments here and there to practice mindful breathing. This will help regulate breathing.
Not only does it help us practice yoga for longer, but it also gives us more control over pranayama.
3. Meditation helps you discover the philosophical aspects of yoga
While most yoga studios these days are more concerned with exercise than philosophy, historically yoga has been both.
If you really want to embrace the yogic lifestyle, you have to get in touch with the philosophical side. Meditation can help.
The yogic system itself includes many meditations, such as Trataka (Still Gazing), chakra meditations, mantrasand sound meditations (Nada Yoga). Not only do these meditation techniques help train the mind, but they also prepare the mind-body for more advanced stages of yoga. After all, it's hard to really experience Pungu Mayurasana (Injured Peacock Pose) while you worry about this business meeting.
4. Do you sweat too much while doing hot yoga? Meditation will help
Anyone who practices Bikram (hot yoga) knows what it's like to sweat a little too much. But meditation can change that.
We sweat when our body temperature rises. But meditation reduces heart rate and blood pressure, which cools the body and thus reduces sweating.
So if you're worried about getting a little hot, sweaty, and yes, smelly when doing hot yoga, try meditating.
5. Meditation improves balance
Do you feel a bit wobbly in Warrior III? Meditation will change that, at least according to a scientific study.
Ying Kee, PhD, and his colleagues at the National Institute of Education at Nanyang Technological University took 32 men and divided them into two groups. Kee made the two groups stand on one leg while holding a basin of water. While they were doing this, Kee asked one group to pay attention to his hands, while the other group was allowed to think whatever they wanted. Kee then tested the balance of members of the two groups.
The results showed that paying attention to your body increases your balance, while thinking about something other than what you are doing will actually lower your balance.
So if you want to stay longer in an asana, pay attention to your body while you are in the pose.
Anyone who is serious about improving themselves in yoga should embrace both physical and mental exercise. And of the latter, meditation is the most important.
By practicing meditation, not only do we embrace the yogic lifestyle more, but we also prepare the mind for success in the yoga studio.
The benefits of meditation are important and invaluable in improving our yoga practice.
If you've been practicing the physical side of yoga without practicing meditation, maybe it's time for a change.
Editor's Note: This is a guest post from Paul Harrison, meditation teacher based in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. He has 20 years of experience and has spent over 2000 hours meditating. He also works as a freelance journalist.
Everyone seems to be a yogi these days, from your BFF to your co-worker to your aunt—heck, even dogs and goats are getting their zen on. But if you have yet to attempt Warrior II or Mountain Pose, taking your first yoga class can be a little intimidating. What if your hands sweat and you fall off the mat ? What if you hate it ? What if you can’t do a single. damn. pose ?
Okay, rewind a second—there’s a reason so many people have hopped on a mat over the past few years. ' Yoga is a non-judgmental practice, ' says Claire Ewing, certified yoga instructor and studio digital directeur for CorePower Yoga. It’s is a totally accessible way to unwind and break a sweat, so there’s nothing to worry about before checking out a class.
But to help you feel a little more comfortable before you say your first ' om ' or ' namaste, ' Ewing has some yoga tips to answer all those questions floating around your head.
When in doubt, Ewing says opt for a vinyasa flow class, ' where you have the opportunity to explore the postures and fundamental principles of yoga. ' These are the variétés of classes most of your friends probably do, and it’s a great form of yoga for beginners. But évidemment, it never hurts to check out a couple different variétés of classes to see what feels best to you.
' Definitely go for something breathable and easy to move in, ' says Ewing. ' You will work up a sweat, so consider wearing something with moisture-wicking abilities. ' Oh and FYI : Yoga is a no-shoes kind of workout, so don’t worry about sporting your best sneakers to class.
Like with any workout, it’s totally a personal preference how much you mazout pre-yoga. But Ewing points out that yoga is a pretty soutenu workout, and fueling your body properly will help you get the most out of your practice. Keep it light, though, ' I usually start with a protein shake or bar knowing that the classes can physically take you in dynamic directions, ' says Ewing. ( A. k. a. don’t down that massive avo toast right before chic. ) If you’re just having a small pre-workout snack, you can probably do that about 30 minutes beforehand; but wait a full one to two hours before sérieux out after a meal.
She adds that hydrating beforehand is also key, especially if you ever do attempt a heated flow. ' Drink a full glass of water about two hours before class—that way you have something to sweat out and you will feel better during chic. '
' Absolutely ! ' says Ewing. ' A regular yoga practice increases flexibility and strength in your groupes de muscles. It has you work your full range of motion in every joint of your body and build strong and long muscles. ' ( In fact, vinyasa yoga even made this list of the top calorie-burning workouts. )
This depends on the type of yoga class you take—for example, a slow flow or hatha chic may require you to hold a pose for an extended period of time. But in vinyasa, ' it comes down to the intention of how the position was designed, ' says Ewing. ' For example, balancing poses are held longer to benefit concentration and focus, while transition postures build strength while teaching fluidity in movement. '
For the most part, though, poses are held for three to five breaths during the first round to help them sink into your memory. Then they’re held for a single breath when you repeat the pose, to help amp up the cardio component of yoga.
Don’t stress ! No one expects you to master every pose your first go-round ( or really, ever—it’s a constant learning process ). Your yoga instructor should offer possibilités for pose modifications, especially for the more challenging ones. ' Your breath is key in yoga, if you are losing sight of this, you may want to consider modifying or completely backing off, ' says Ewing. And don’t be afraid to ask your instructor for assistance.
Also, try to avoid comparing yourself to the other yogis in the room—all bodies are unique, and have varied strengths and challenges. Plus, every time you step on the mat, it’s going to feel a little different, ' for both your body and your mind, ' says Ewing. ' If there is one thing you can take away from the classroom, it is learning how to modify and create a practice that is fit for you. '