Yoga teacher Rod Styker says "Meditation Matters Most" and he makes a strong argument. An argument that I've grown to understand more deeply as I increase my understanding of yoga.
It really wasn't until my teacher training with SRI Yoga in early 2013 that I was made blatantly clear that meditation was an essential part of yoga. I had felt the strong ability to reside quietly inside my body/mind following a great yoga class, but I had not connected this to a meditation practice. It turns out that one of the main points of yoga (asana) is to make our body limber and comfortable enough to reside in meditation. It is also beneficial to do a physical yoga practice (asana) ahead of meditation so that the mind has time to slow down and transition into stillness.
I have been a seeker my entire life, but never had the courage to meditate. I bought books and researched a million ways to meditate - stare at a flame, continually remove thoughts from your mind, focus on your breath - but they always left me frustrated for some reason, I'm not sure why. It was probably my inner voice telling me I was doing it wrong and I needed the confidence of a teacher and my inner self to jump in and just try it. I was an avid runner for a period of my life and I believe this was my form of meditation. But, it's best to do a seated a meditation according to my teachers, so that the mind can reach deep calm. It really wasn't until I had a consistent yoga practice that I was able to sit and meditate. The practice of "Japa" that Rod mentions in his piece has been taught to me by my teachers and it is the most consistent meditation that I have ever practiced. It involves the repetition of a mantra and mala beads can be used to facilitate focus.
What I appreciate about "Japa" meditation is the situation that often arises when reading a book. Upon repeating the healing words of my mantra thoughts start to arise in the background. However, I continue to focus on my mantra and the thoughts come in waves and I can see them passing. The point of meditation is to calm the waves of the mind and this practice for long periods of time brings me insight and steadiness.
I love what Rod Stryker says in his article about the inner comfort that is found in a meditation practice: "With my surroundings constantly changing, it’s vital to my teaching and my well-being that I am able to access a place that feels like home."
How profound it is to turn inward and find comfort. The potential to feel renewed power, grace and mindfulness is huge. But the most important part of meditation is consistency. We might not have the most profound meditation session or we might not always feel great afterward, but it is this commitment to the process to the unfolding that true wisdom will result. I'm still working on the consistency part!
Read more of Rod Stryker's article at Yoga International: