Why do we talk about Yoga in meditation? What is the link between the two?
We’re not doing asana postures when meditating so why do some teachers mention Yoga when teaching meditation?
The meaning of Yoga
It all depends on your definition of Yoga. The definition of Yoga according to Patanjali, an Indian sage who wrote the Yoga sutras is: Yoga is that state of mind where the fluctuations of the mind are stilled.
The Bhagavad Gita, another ancient Indian scripture tells us that Yoga is the achievement of a balanced state of mind.
In Buddhism, anyone practicing a spiritual practice is a yogi.
The confusion is understandable as nowadays many people only know the physical aspect of Yoga. It seems that Yoga is all about downward and upward facing dog or standing on your head. Also, being flexible or not so flexible tends to be important these days.
There is hardly any talk, and for sure not too much buzz around meditation. In a general hatha yoga class, there might be a bit of attention to a breathing technique, maybe a very short moment of mindfulness and the occasional chant but it will mostly be about postures.
Yoga is meditation
We talk about Yoga in meditation as Yoga is meditation. We are exploring the mind, stilling the mind, working with the mind. It is all about the mind in this particular definition of Yoga. And, it is not soooo much about the body, for sure not how the body is during the meditation practice. Posture wise, this can be reduced to keeping the body ‘stable and comfortable’. You literally ‘take a seat’ as this is the Sanskrit translation of the word asana/posture.
Let’s dive in just a little bit deeper and find out more about that definition of Yoga.
Patanjali wrote the Yoga sutras. 196 threats of wisdom. A sutra is translated as a threat.
You could see the Yoga sutras as a bad PowerPoint presentation with bullet points…
196 verses of text without too much detail. And we need the You need the commentary to understand more.
Patanjali wrote them, or we assume for now that he did, for an audience of ascetics, dedicating their lives to the spiritual practice of Yoga. This means that they already had some knowledge about the other ancient scriptures and teachings and they were not completely new on the path of yoga.
Patanjali teaches us a path of 8 limbs to reach that state of mind where the fluctuations of the mind are stilled. So, how to get there?
Starting with Yama and Niyama, specific principles we have to live by. The 10 principles I write about in my book, Flex your mind. From active kindness to surrender, from non-attachment to self-inquiry. These principles are still very useful in modern day life.
After the 10 principles, Patanjali talks about asana, posture. And the posture should be stable and comfortable. That is it. 196 bits of text and only 3 verses mention asana.
Limb number 4 is bringing our attention to the importance of managing the breath.
Limb number 5 is all about bringing your full awareness towards the inside. Using your senses to listen to what the mind is telling you for example.
Limb number 6 is all about concentration, then meditation as limb number 7 and limb number 8 is about reaching that stillness of mind.
The Yoga philosophy gives us an idea of where to go. It shows us the way but it stays rather vague on the how. It’s not very practical as such. That’s why there are so many interpretations of the how.
For example, in the yoga sutras 2.33 on practicing Yama and Niyama. ‘When negative thoughts, cultivate the opposite’.
That’s not very clear, is it?
If we turn to Buddhism, this science of the mind, this gives us more tools and techniques to investigate and explore the mind. If you want to get to know something, you need to investigate it. Put it under a microscope! And this is exactly what we do in meditation. Investigating the mind to gain more insight into the mind. We often say: what’s on your mind? In meditation, we step into the role of the observer and start checking what is on our own mind.
Here you go, a couple of reasons of why we talk about Yoga in meditation!
If you would like to read more about the Yoga philosophy of Patanjali, please check out my book, Flex Your Mind, available wherever they sell books.
For the past decade, Rachel is on a mission to support as many people as possible in their journey to less anxiety and more joy. She teaches meditation and Yoga and has been a mindset coach for busy professionals for over 15 years.
With a degree in economics and a past corporate career as a COO in a medical market research company, she knows what stress is and how it impacts our lives. She has hosted over 90 worldwide yoga retreats and will continue to offer retreats with www.revealingvajra.com as soon as travel resumes.
In 2020, she pivoted her retreat business towards offering online meditations. In the last year, over 800 people have followed her online meditations, classes and coachings to increase their mental resilience and overall happiness.