Meditation is a large portion of the practice of yoga. At first, those new to yoga often try to force meditation, which actually defeats its overall purpose. Sharpening the focus of the mind should be seen as a long term goal that may take years to achieve. If this thought is overwhelming, remember that each time you meditate, your mind, body, and soul benefit a great deal and you are one step closer to reaching full mental clarity. Every single moment spent in meditation is an accomplishment.
Still, many people involved with, or wishing to be involved with yoga, find meditation a difficult concept to grasp. Most are aware that meditation calls for one to clear their mind for a period of time, but the methods in which this can be achieved are completely new ideas. People may wonder if they are actually meditating when they attempt to, how long meditation should be practiced, and what they should be doing during this calm state of mind.
During meditation, different techniques can be used to clear the mind, such as silently repeating a sound in your head (which is called a mantra), quietly focusing on a certain object, either physically or in your mind, or remaining conscious of the sound of your breathing as air flows in and out of your lungs. If one happens to develop a different technique to reach the same goal, this is just as well. Yoga is diverse in its teachings and can be adapted to suit each individual’s specific needs.
There is infinite depth found within the power of meditation. The first stage in this practice can be somewhat chaotic. The mind will race as you try to settle your thoughts, but you must realize this is happening; this way, these thoughts are observed as something controlled by you and you are in charge. This first stage of meditation is called pratyahara which is the ability to draw your focus within.
As you grow more accustomed to recognizing what exactly it is that you are thinking, in time (and with practice) you will be able to tune them out, then let go of them entirely. This is the second stage of meditation, which is the realm of dharana. During and after meditation, your thoughts can and will be controlled by you. This is helpful in eliminating anxious or negative thoughts, which are often followed by actions that reflect the thoughts of this nature.
The next stage in meditation will enable you to become aware of the entire thought process while remaining detached from them. As you continue to meditate, your body and mind remain still and quiet. This part of meditation is called dhyana.
The last stage of the practice of meditation is called samadhi which is interchangeable with “higher awareness”. When a person reaches this stage, they will be able to completely recognize their inner spirit and identify with it. This is the point of mental awareness that all yogi strive for. By identifying your progress with the four stages of meditation (pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, and samadhi), you will know if you are meditating correctly. It is also important to remain very quiet and still during each stage of meditation so that you can enter the next.
The time that one chooses to spend meditating is exactly that – one’s choice. It varies among individuals. Meditation takes time to master and dedication to this practice will allow you maximum benefits. A great deal of emphasis is placed on the fact that every moment spent in meditation is seen as a success and lengthy meditations may not be easy to achieve right away. Be patient and observe the positive and numerous changes that the power of meditation has bestowed upon your life.