There are three practices happening simultaneously throughout your life, whether we're aware of it or not- practice with the body, practice with the breath, practice with the mind. In most yoga classes, physical poses are the focus, with occasional mention of breath here and there. You're lucky if you find a class in NYC that adds in meditation at all. What's backwards about this? Meditation is the whole point.
My practice started as a kid. While learning Hap Ki Do, before we focused on kicks, self-defense moves, and sparring, we sat and meditated. I had no idea what I was doing. The only coaching given was to let go of everything that had come before practice, and prepare for the present. When it was time to move- breath was primary, movement was secondary. We first learned to yell (ki-yai) at the execution of a technique to drive more energy through the body by engaging the core muscles. Only after we could yell properly did we learn the physical movement. The practice ended every evening with a brief meditation.
In yoga class, the purpose of pose practice is to learn how to keep your spine straight so you can sit in meditation for longer. The purpose of breath practice is to learn how to control your breath so you can sit in meditation for longer. The purpose of meditation? Manifold. No matter which of the many ways to or idea-sets you choose for meditation, it always ends up with one blanket benefit - the ability to focus on one thing only. This is the skill before all other skills - the big poppa.
Now that you know what us yoga teachers are really preparing you for, we can let you in on the real secret. Whether class is specifically devoted to meditation or not, you can choose to be meditating all the time. Difficult transition from crow pose to headstand? Meditate, recording all sensation as information. Person next to you is totally cute / smells funny / making up their own class? Meditate, and choose what you're focusing on in this moment. After all, life is just a collection of moments. Wouldn't you rather choose who are you are and what you're doing in all of them?
If you needed even more evidence, just read what these guys have to say:
Wikipedia: Research on Meditation
Huffington Post - Meditation Benefits
NY Times - How Meditation Changes the Brain
Do you meditate? What benefits do you find from your practice?
Written by Corey Loftus
Founder / Visionary : constantly quotable
Corey is a voiceover artist, yogi, and father to a fur-child named Eddy.
He'll work for almond butter.