Meditation is a very powerful practice. Raja Yoga, or the Yoga of Control consists of 8 limbs out of which Meditation (Dhyana) is the second last one. Practicing those 8 limbs of Raja Yoga will eventually lead to Liberation. Those who are able to do meditation, or Dhyana, have mastered the previous stage of Concentration, Dharana, where you focus all your senses on 1 object, and you are able to find and connect to the real Self. However this state of Meditation is very difficult to obtain. In common language, when we talk about meditation, we actually talk about Dharana or Concentration. Since meditation is such a commonly used concept, also in this article we will use this term, knowing that per definition, it is actually Concentration.
During our classes and teacher training courses we get a lot of questions about meditation practice. Below you can find 4 of the most commonly asked questions which might help you also in your own meditation practice.
Regular practice of meditation can be very beneficial, both physically and mentally. The list of benefits is tremendous. Some have been confirmed by medical studies, such as increased concentration capacity and improved immune system. Other benefits have not been confirmed by science but by a wide range of meditation practitioners. To sum up the most common benefits we can say that regular meditation practice:
There are a lot of possible sitting positions for meditation according to your own body type. Most commonly people sit in Vajrasana (Diamond Pose) or in Sukhasana (cross-legged). You can also sit on a chair or use a meditation bench. The thumb rule for a proper meditation posture is that the spine should be straight and the knees should be below the hips. If the knees are higher than the hips, which is the case with many people when they sit cross-legged, you will naturally shift from your sitting bones to your tailbone. As a consequence, your back will be rounded, and very soon you will develop tensions in your back, knees and hips and you will not be able to sit still for very long. However when your knees are lower than your hips, e.g. when sitting in Diamond Pose or when sitting on a cushion, you will be able to sit firmly on your sitting bones and your spine will be straight. This allows you to sit still and comfortably for a longer period of time. Whatever sitting posture you chose for, keep these two points in mind. In order to be able to meditate, you should be able to let go of your physical body. This is only possible when your body is completely comfortable and still. Even the slightest movement brings your attention back to your body and disturbs your meditation practice.
This mostly depends on your own possibilities and time schedule. Every day practice is of course ideal, but for many people this is not easy to fit in their schedule. Therefore it is good to aim for a minimum of 3-4 times per week. It is better to set a realistic aim so you will be able to stick to it comfortably. A meditation practice should last at least 20 minutes. Less than 20 minutes is a very short time to obtain some proper effect. It is possible that in the first week of practice you will not notice any result or difference. After 2-3 weeks of regular practice you will feel more concentrated and you might notice more and more improvement. Meditation is for many people very challenging and practitioners often get frustrated and tend to give up before they have experienced its powerful benefits. Be cautious not to expect quick results and to get frustrated. Meditation only works when you practice it with patience and without expectation.
When you start practicing meditation, one of the biggest challenges is to control your mind and your thoughts. It is very natural to keep having other thoughts while you are trying to practice meditation. The best way to deal with those thoughts is to accept their presence, to gently allow them come into your mind and softly push them out again. The goal is to not get carried away with your thoughts. With an endless patience, keep pushing out your thoughts and keep bringing your focus to your practice. In the beginning it is advisable to try visualisation techniques such as Chakra Meditation, So-Ham meditation, etc. These visualisations help to keep your mind focussed and avoid distractions. Most importantly, avoid getting frustrated but stay patient. It takes a lot of discipline and patience to learn how to control your mind, but the result is definitely worth it!