If you’re like most, you’re used to grabbing your designer yoga gear, heading down to the local yoga studio, and doing your 90 minutes of back bends, down dogs, and the like before heading off feeling refreshed and satisfied. And while most would argue that a yoga practice is indeed a challenging workout, when it comes to the actual practice, it hopefully isn’t just the physical workout that’s got you spent.
In this recent Yoga Journal post, Alan Reder takes a look at meditation and its place within American yoga culture. According to Reder, whereas traditional yoga’s purpose was the cultivation of meditation, yoga in the West tends to fall short of this ideal. That said, Reder offers some spot on information as to meditation’s roots and the different styles of meditation to help one choose just how deep you want to go.
The success of yoga in the West may have come at a heavy price. Many teachers worry that something special has been lost in yoga American-style, and that something is meditation. Meditation, not postures, is the heart of yoga, they point out. In Patanjali’s India, yoga and meditation were nearly synonymous, yet meditation plays only a minor role in many American yoga courses. In others, it is not taught at all.
“Many important yogic scriptures say that hatha yoga should be practiced in the context of raja yoga (the yoga of meditation),” says Stephen Cope, author of Yoga and the Quest for the True Self (Bantam, 1999), who has joined a growing chorus calling for American yoga to remember its heritage.
Some yoga students regard meditation as boring cultural baggage and appreciate learning postures without it. But what if your experience with yoga has inspired you to go deeper, into yogic spirituality? If your yoga teacher doesn’t offer meditation guidance, how should you begin? Since yoga comes from India, should your meditation technique be Hindu or Buddhist? Is Zen Buddhist okay? Does the inner peace you already feel in yoga class count?
Read more from Reder on bringing meditation back to your yoga practice here.