The evolation yoga teacher training includes, and places some emphasis on, meditation exercises. I took one meditation class many years ago. As I remember it, though it was in my days of ignorance and my recollection is probably colored with the skepticism I felt at the time, the major objective seemed to be to breathe alternately out of each nostril. I did not, at that time, see the attraction in that nor any life-altering benefit. However, when asked on my evolation application if I meditated I said that I had come to recognize that yoga, after many years of practice, put me into a deep meditative state and that that increased powers of focus, concentration, and calmness were an even greater effect of yoga than its extraordinary physical effects. I was to learn a short time later in training that I had simply restated Patanjali’s sutra: “The restraint of the modifications of the mind-stuff is Yoga.”
We’ve had several 15 minute meditations after 60 minute hot hatha yoga classes. Skeptic no more, I have been astonished at the deepness of these meditations, and the length of time afterward that I feel a profound “modification of the mind-stuff”. It is as if the meditation super-charges the effects of the yoga. Or, perhaps I have had it entirely wrong, maybe the yoga itself does nothing other than what, traditionally, it is supposed to do, calm the body in preparation for meditation. Have the mental benefits I have experienced come from the few minutes of savasana that conclude every yoga class? Too bad I developed the habit of ignoring the teacher’s suggestion to stay in savasana as long as possible and was always the first to jump off my mat and run for the showers as soon as the teacher was out the door!
I have been surprised to find that I, a 53-year old man with one knee surgery and no prior experience in it, can sit in lotus pose. In Advanced Series practice lotus got uncomfortable after a few minutes and I would have to stretch my legs out, but in post-yoga meditation I have remained in lotus for the 15 minutes without any problem. I focus briefly on the discomfort in the beginning, relax the muscles, the pain goes away, and I find I can go from that point into a deep meditation.
Meditation for me, right now, seems to involve losing awareness of my physical surroundings and gradually slowing my thoughts until I completely lose consciousness of consciousness, entirely blanking out, returning to conscious consciousness, thoughts slowly fluttering back into my mind and returning to full awareness of my surroundings. This might repeat once or twice during the meditation. I feel completely refreshed, like one would after a good night’s sleep, and my thought process seems sharper, almost as though I can etch my thoughts into my mind’s eye and examine them at leisure. This feeling will be strong for a couple hours and can be felt throughout the rest of the day.
We also did a guided meditation, outdoors, in somewhat noisy surroundings. We had done a three hour Advanced Series class earlier in the day, so I think we were still operating on the principle that our bodies were prepared by yoga for the mediation. We were told that the meditation had lasted 45 minutes; for me, it felt like less than 5. The street noise, wind, and trees rustling felt more like mental caresses than distractions.
I could say that I came out of this meditation feeling like I had slept 100 years. It was difficult for me to quickly adjust back to the world, with my fellow students happily chattering about how they experienced that mediation, the events of the day, and their lives. It seemed very loud, boisterous. I was offered a ride home but I chose to walk, taking a half hour to readjust gradually to the world and joyfully rejoined my teacher training roommates.
I have already gained some immediate, practical benefits from my short experience with meditation. One is that I have been able to function well on much less sleep than I am accustomed to and this has made the rigors of yoga teacher training much more bearable. If only I had had my practice when I was a working single father and university student! I have been thinking about my life, about my period of transition, and the paths I may take. I feel meditation has helped me to work on this with much greater clarity and also to calm some fears that might have led me astray. In fact, I think I now know what to do.
I am very grateful to evolation for integrating meditation into yoga teacher training. It has truly been a revelation to me. Like so many things in just two short, long weeks. I cannot imagine yoga without meditation now. No more jumping up from the yoga mat to be the first to the showers!