How Yoga and Meditation Can Help You Attain Good Health and Well-being

Meditation and yoga are often confused to be the same. Only a few understand that yoga is 'Chitta Vriti Nirodhah', promoting the union of body and mind and envisages wellness of human beings both physically and mentally. Further, meditation is a part of yoga, which deals with mental relaxation, re-energizing and concentration. While performing yoga and meditation together, attention is centralized on breath and thoughts. Being aware of the breathing pattern automatically controls the thought process and relaxes the mind completely. This is why yogis have been practicing meditation for millenniums. By practicing yoga you enhance the two most important abilities required to practice meditation, which are concentrating and relaxing. Although you don't need to formally meditate to practice yoga nor is the practice of yoga mandatory in order to meditate, the two practices support each another. Yoga postures are a great way to prepare the body for meditation. Yoga is not only rejuvenating for the body but also the brain. Yoga postures were designed to systematically prepare the body to meditate. Meditation and yoga are interrelated. They are both part of the Eight Limbs of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. They go hand in hand. One cannot be present without the other. We need to be aware of the body in order to forget about it, in order to meditate.

According to Wikipedia Meditation is a practice where an individual uses a technique – such as mindfulness or focusing the mind on a particular object, thought or activity – to train attention and awareness, and achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm and stable state. Meditation is a mental exercise that involves relaxationfocus, and awareness. Meditation is to the mind what physical exercise is to the body. The practice is usually done individually, in a still seated position, and with eyes closed. The Cambridge dictionary defines meditation as “the act of giving your attention to only one thing, either as a religious activity or as a way of becoming calm and relaxed,” or “serious thought or study, or the product of this activity.” So meditation can involve focusing, relaxing, pondering or the expression of these. Meditation is not about becoming a different person, a new person, or even a better person. It is about training in awareness and getting a healthy sense of perspective. You are not trying to turn off your feelings or thoughts. You are learning to accept them without judgment and eventually, you may start to understand and analyze them better.

According to a legend, it is said that there are thousands of yoga asanas but in the present time, we are only acquainted with about three or four hundred asanas. And it is also said that all these asanas exist primarily to help the Yogi develop the strength and flexibility to sit in one of the 4 classic meditative postures. According to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, asanas can be defined as “Sthiram Sukham Asanam”  which translates to “Steady Ease Asana”, meaning that one must be steady/ unmoving and at the same time at ease/ comfortable in Asana.

The most preferred categories of Meditation postures is Sitting Down. Meditators can perform any form of meditation in a crossed-legged sitting position with close attention to the elements like the alignment of the body, relaxation, and stillness.

With all suitable sitting positions for Meditation the meditator must take care of these things:

  • The torso is erect and abdominal muscles are relaxed
  • head, neck, and back are in alignment
  • the eyes are closed
  • the hands rest on the knees
  • the body is motionless during the practice

Some of the commonly practiced meditative asanas are listed below:

1.    Padmasana (Lotus Pose)

The Padma translates to the lotus in English and asana means posture Padmasana is basically a cross-legged yoga asana which helps in deepening a meditative state.

How to do it:

· Sit down on the floor on the yoga mat with both of your legs stretched out in front of you. Your spine should be erect while you sit.

· Gently bend the right knee and use your hands to place it on your left thigh. Your soles must point upward, and the heels must be close to your abdomen.

· Now repeat the same instructions with the other leg.

· Now that both your legs are crossed, and your feet are comfortably placed on the opposite thighs, model your hands into a mudra of your choice and place it in position. Typically, the hands are placed on the knees.

· Hold and continue these steps with slow and long breaths

Benefits: This asana relaxes the mind and calms the brain. Doing this asana regularly helps to preserve all the natural fluids in the body. It also prevents the different abdominal diseases and many female disorders which are concerned with reproductive organs. This asana also treats menstrual and sciatica if practiced regularly. also, Energy levels are restored with the practice of this asana.

2. Sukhasana 

This sitting posture is recommended for those who have difficulty sitting for a long period in Siddhasana, Vajrasana or Padmasana. Sukhasana comes from the Sanskrit word Sukham that means easy, pleasure, comfort, and pleasure. People of all ages can do this asana.

How to do it:

· Sit straight with your legs stretched out in front of your body 

· Bend the left leg and place the left foot beneath the right thigh. Similarly, bend the right leg and place the right foot beneath the left thigh

· Your feet must be relaxed, and the outer edges must rest on the floor while the inner edges must arch on your shins. When you look down on your legs, you must see a triangle formed by your shins that are crossed and both your thighs.

· Either stack your hands in your lap, palms up, or lay your hands on your knees, palms down. Lengthen your tail bone toward the floor, firm your shoulder blades against your back to you're your upper torso, but don't over-arch your lower back and poke your lower front ribs forward.

· Keep the shoulders relaxed and elbows a bit bent.

Benefits: It spreads a sense of calm and peace through your mind and body. and relaxes your brain. The alignment of the body is improved. Practicing this asana helps elongate your spine.back becomes stronger and steadier.

3. Siddhasana 

Siddhasana, also known as the accomplished pose or perfect pose, is a beginner level yoga position. Practicing Siddhasana can improve your posture, lengthen your spine, and open your hips, chest, and shoulders. It is an ideal position for meditating.

How to do it:

  • Sit down on the floor or your yoga mat and keep your legs at a close distance from each other.
  • Bend your left knee and bring your left heel close to your body by your groin area. Bend your right knee and move it toward the front of the left ankle. 
  • Make sure that the knees are in contact with the ground and keep your spine straight.
  • Sit upright with your gaze facing forward. There should be a nice, straight line from the top of your head to the floor.
  • Concentrate on your breathing, and maintain the pose for as long as comfortably possible.

Benefits:

It is one of the best asanas for meditation. It allows a better flow of energy through the body, especially in the spinal region. Practicing Siddhasana regularly helps reduce stress levels and decrease the symptoms associated with anxiety. Plus, sitting in a meditative pose while practicing deep breathing helps to ground you and encourages both physical and mental relief from the daily struggles of life.

Yoga and meditation typically go hand-in-hand and have been around for thousands of years. They have been used as an alternative form of exercise to keep the mind and body healthy and happy. Practicing yoga improves balance, endurance, flexibility, and strength, while meditation helps keep the mind sharp, relieves stress and anxiety, and can strengthen your immune system.

Meditation is relaxation. It is not about concentration, it’s actually about de-concentration. It’s not about focussing one’s thoughts on one thing, but instead on becoming thoughtless. With meditation, physiology undergoes a change and every cell in the body is filled with more energy. This results in joy, peace, enthusiasm as the level of prana in the body increases. Meditation is a habitual process of training your mind to focus and redirect your thoughts.

You can use it to increase awareness of yourself and your surroundings. Many people think of it as a way to reduce stress and develop concentration.

People also use the practice to develop other beneficial habits and feelings, such as a positive mood and outlook, self-discipline, healthy sleep patterns and even increased pain tolerance.

Meditation brings the brainwave pattern into an alpha state that promotes healing. The mind becomes fresh, delicate and beautiful. It cleanses and nourishes you from within and calms you, whenever you feel overwhelmed, unstable, or emotionally shut down.

The meditation techniques incorporated in yoga can lessen chronic pain, such as lower back pain, arthritis, headaches, and carpal tunnel syndrome Yoga can also lower blood pressure and reduce insomnia. Yoga’s incorporation of meditation and breathing can help improve a person’s mental well-being. Regular yoga practice creates mental clarity and calmness; increases body awareness; relieves chronic stress patterns; relaxes the mind; centers attention, and sharpens concentration. Body- and self-awareness is particularly beneficial because they can help with early detection of physical problems and allow for early preventive action.

There are several styles of yoga that merge meditation with the physical routines, which use controlled breathing throughout the poses of yoga. By simply unwinding, clearing the mind and concentrating on controlled breathing, one can meditate without practicing yoga as well. Both yoga and meditation have proven health benefits when practiced regularly. Here are some of the significant benefits of yoga and meditation:

  • Fights migraine

Yoga poses can target tension and stress, which may be contributing to your migraines. Certain poses can help boost circulation and improve blood flow to your brain. This may lessen any pain or throbbing sensations that one has. Asanas like Virasana or Forward Hero Pose, Adho Mukha Svanasana or Downward-Facing Dog Pose, Prasarita Padottanasana or Wide Angle Forward Bend help to combat migraines.

  • Boosts Your Mood

When in meditation, you focus your attention and eliminate the stream of jumbled thoughts that may be crowding your mind and causing stress. This process may result in enhanced physical and emotional well-being.

  • Treats insomnia 

Meditation can be a great tool for those looking who are for an all-natural, medication-free way to treat insomnia. Meditation has even been shown to help reduce the use of sleeping pills. The practice likely improves insomnia symptoms by reducing measures of arousal in the brain. And there are no associated risks or side effects to trying meditation.

  •  Provides Mental Clarity

Inverted Asanas and Forward Bends –

Inverting the body utilizes gravity to promote increased blood flow and oxygen to the brain, which helps with mental efficiency and subsequently fosters mental clarity.

Seated Yoga Poses –

Seated asanas calm the body and soothe the nervous system.

  •  Helps with asthma

Stress can not only trigger an asthma attack, but it also makes it worse when it strikes. As a natural asthma treatment, meditation helps us beat modern-day stress by balancing the body and mind, making us less susceptible to attacks. 

  • Improves digestion 

Yoga not only helps stretch and tone the muscles of the abdomen, but it can also stimulate the endocrine glands to make them work more efficiently. The entire digestive system thus becomes well oiled and functions smoothly to improve digestive health. Yoga helps increase awareness of the body and its ailments.

Where the breath flows, the mind goes. In yoga and meditation, we can raise our consciousness. Yoga helps us to bring the body to a point of stillness by clearing away the restless energy we carry around and prepares us to become fully immersed in deep concentration, meditation. Yoga, like chanting, can help open our hearts and allow the energy to flow upward, to the higher chakras and higher consciousness.